I’m not sure what it is about the high desert mountain environment that beckons me, but I love this geographical area. I’m sure that I must have something in my DNA that attracts me to this harsh yet hauntingly beautiful landscape. Driving into the Oh! Ridge Campground in June Lake, CA for our first “workamping” experience was thrilling for me as I contemplated a whole summer spent exploring this unique place. I came upon a John Muir quote that seems appropriate for my summer adventure: “Wander a whole summer if you can…. time will not be taken from the sum of your life. Instead of shortening, it will definitely lengthen it and make you truly immortal.”
We arrived at the campground on June 29th, found our site supervisors and were guided to the spot we would call home for the summer. Since they were desperately awaiting our arrival due to shortages in staff, they *encouraged* us to start work the next day. After close to three weeks on the road, we were ready to get started working and that night set our alarm for the first time in three weeks!
My position in the campground is to help out in the kiosk registering campers. I work with one other person which means that on her days off I am the sole person staffing the kiosk.
My first day on the job was definitely what you would call *hands-on* training. My priority that day was mastering the online system we use to check in/out campers and manage the campsite reservations. Since I consider myself fairly technology literate, I did not think this would be a huge challenge and it proved even easier than I’d imagined. I love learning new systems and was quickly on board with this one. There were several other daily tasks that needed to be completed each day. These tasks included sending daily reports to the district manager regarding on-site reservations and doing preparation work for the camp hosts. The hosts stop in each morning to pick up the list of in-coming and out-going campers and the daily plastic reservation signs for each site generated by the kiosk staff.
Aside from these regular everyday jobs, I quickly realized that our campers and the June Lake beach day use guests believe us to be an on-site visitor center and information resource for literally everything. Where’s the closest laundromat? Is gas cheaper at June Lake Junction, or should I travel to Lee Vining? Can you recommend a hike that would be suitable for small children? Is June Lake a man-made lake or natural lake? What sites do you recommend we visit in Yosemite? How long will it take us to drive to Yosemite Valley from here? Do you have an update on the Clark Wildfire happening down the road? We have only one day to spend in this area, what should we do? What is the best way to travel from here to Mammoth on the OHV trails? We forgot to pack pillows, is there a place close by that sells pillows?!
You get the picture! These are all exact questions I have fielded over the past week alone. My librarian training and natural curiosity serves me well here. I set about happily spending my free time in the kiosk surfing the web for information on the area to aid me in answering all the questions coming my way. In addition, Jim and I are spending our days off exploring the area. After just a couple of weeks, and day trips to both the Mammoth Forest Service Visitor Center and the Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center, I had an arsenal of information at my fingertips. I thoroughly enjoy my daily interactions with campers and day use visitors. It has been a great experience so far.
Jim is working in the maintenance department directly with the maintenance supervisor. When I started searching for workamping positions, Jim had one main requirement– he would not under any circumstances clean bathrooms! In maintenance, you do not clean bathrooms – so an ideal position for him. He’s making the adjustment to working with someone else on a daily basis. It is a much harder transition for him. Being self-employed all your life gives you a perspective and approach to work that is often at odds with those who have spent their entire lives working for companies. Now, I’m not making any kind of statement regarding the value of being self-employed vs. working for someone else.
It’s all about what you have adapted to, and how you approach problems, issues and solutions – just sayin’! So, it has been more difficult for him but he is managing and tries to keep an open mind – most of the time! At the very least, his stories about some of his co-workers are entertaining. He does really like the guy he works with directly every day and that helps.
We have a campsite that is actually two sites together with a three-sided wind shelter in between that we use to store the bikes, and various other things that we do not want to haul around in the truck. Of course, we cannot put anything in there that is attractive to bears as it is open on one side. We also are fortunate to have some larger Jeffrey Pine trees on our site that provide us some shade part of the day.
We are located on one of the loops furthest from the beach access. That means during the week the campsites adjacent to us are often empty and we have a nice private location (except for weekends when the campground fills up). Our site offers a view of the mountains, and we move our chairs and picnic table around to different spots depending on time of day – to get shade or to avoid the winds that can kick up in the afternoon. As an employee site, we have full hook-ups, although the sewer hook-up is not standard and we have to use a macerator. Interesting little gadget, but it does work!
We have our Airstream chairs as our only *patio* furniture at the moment. I’m hoping to find some comfortable lounge chairs that offer lumbar support somewhere in our journey but still looking for just the perfect chair. On a rare trip through Gardnerville, NV, we stopped at a Walmart and picked up a cute little aluminum (what else?) table and a really nice indoor/outdoor carpet. The carpet lives just outside the door to the trailer and has helped keep the sand build up inside the trailer to a minimum. We do not have a shortage of volcanic pumice sand!
The one slight issue we have discovered with our location has to do with the resident rodent population – namely, the chipmunks that abound in and around the campground. Apparently, they have no predators and we have officially waged war on these pesky little creatures. I have affectionately dubbed this the “Summer of the Chipmunk Wars”. We realized that the rodent situation had escalated when the truck would not start one morning about two weeks after we had arrived. Since this is our only mode of transportation, we were not happy. Upon investigation, Jim discovered a chipmunk nest under the hood in the compartment that houses a substantial wiring harness that regulates the gauges on the dashboard.
And these darn little varmints were wrecking our truck. Several of the wires had been chewed causing the truck to immediately shut down once started. Now, these are extremely tiny wires with about 20 to a bundle.
Jim is a fairly resourceful person but fixing this was going to take some extraordinary ingenuity. I admired his tenacity to just get to work and find a solution to the problem. He exhibited excellent anger management skills! He decided the best temporary fix was to try and splice the broken wires together, and in order to do this, he needed some very small pieces of wire. I went looking for something that might work, and came up with an old set of earplugs that I never use. He examined the wire and declared it might just suit.
Now, in situations like this, the best thing to do is give Jim some space. I handed him the wire, and immediately occupied myself with other things and left him to concentrate on the minute task of splicing these teensy wires together. A while later, the sound of the truck starting up was music to my ears. I will not go in to detail as to how we have reduced the rodent population – use your imagination on this one. But, our chipmunk war is on-going and we are to date winning the battle!
It’s August now – actually almost the end of August. Hard to believe! I will be starting to post some of our day-off adventures from the summer and organizing them around themes. Stay tuned!!