We arrived at Hickory Hills shortly after noon on May 18th, and set up camp in the Camp Host site. Al Funke, the park ranger stopped by shortly after we arrived to give us the keys, along with change we would need for selling wood; he couldn’t stay very long but left camp host instructions and told us he would be back later to further explain our duties. He was true to his word and returned that evening. We enjoyed visiting with him, and learning about the camp host responsibilities.
The first few days we hosted at Hickory Hills were quiet. Several campers pulled in, their owners filled out the registration envelope and paid for their campsite and then left to go back to work until the start of the Memorial Day weekend. All of the reserved sites were taken months before, so all that remained were the “first come, first served” sites. By Tuesday evening many of the non-reservable sites were occupied, and by Thursday evening only a few campsites were left. The hill across from the cabins was dotted with tents, with more tents perched behind RV’s and next to cabins. People who had brought in campers earlier in the week returned to the campground in droves, and by Friday night the campground was filled with happy campers.
At first, our job as camp hosts was easy; Tuesday night Dave sold a few armloads of wood. We cleaned the bathrooms on Wednesday morning and again on Thursday morning. By Thursday evening Dave was selling wood by the wheelbarrow full, and we were making frequent trips to clean and restock the bathrooms and showers in the bath house. Friday and Saturday became very hectic; we were thinking that maybe we made a mistake in volunteering for weeks which included a holiday weekend. People had lots of questions about registration, some of the rules, and some needed help figuring out the whole process being new to camping. We went to bed very late, and got up early in order to keep up with everything we needed to do.
But by noon on Sunday, most of the campers were gone. “Tent Hill” was bare, with only a few smoldering fires in the fire rings. A lone flip flop and a few pop cans were all that remained to indicate that hundreds of people had been in the campground over the weekend. We made a final cleanup in the bathrooms and showers; scrubbed everything down, and disposed of the trash. We collapsed in a heap afterwards, and got some much needed rest in our lounge chairs. After we felt a little better, it was time to get the “gator” from the ranger and collect all the reserved and reservation slips, leaving those on the posts of the campsite which were still occupied; only a few campers remained. We made a quick pass through the park, collecting any trash left behind; there was less than half a bag which we thought was remarkable considering how many people had been there-some for almost a week.
Although we had both felt somewhat overwhelmed with our camp host duties over Memorial Day weekend, we had to admit that in general the campers were very well behaved and didn’t make that much of a mess in the bathrooms and showers. Considering how many people used the facilities, it could have been much worse. So many campers thanked us for helping them, for answering questions, and everyone seemed to be having a great time. It made us both feel much appreciated, and it did our hearts good to see how happy people were to be enjoying the warm and sunny weekend; especially the children.
Smoke did a great job as Camp Host Cat. We set up his tent under the awning of the motorhome. He stayed outside with us many hours each day, while Dave was selling wood, and Joan helped people with registering. We found that it worked better if we sat outside where people could see us. Our campsite was close enough to the registration booth that we could greet people as they came in and answer any questions they had. Many people were intrigued by Smoke, none had ever seen a cat in a tent before and he was definitely an added attraction at Hickory Hills. Each time Joan took him for a walk around the park, people would stop to see the cat on a leash, would want to know how he was trained to walk like that, and the children especially enjoyed getting close up with such a friendly cat. Smoke received much petting and attention during our stay at Hickory Hills.
We will be returning to Hickory Hills as camp hosts for two more weeks in August. Both of us really enjoyed our first experience of volunteer work at a campground; it is definitely something we will do again as long as we are able to handle the work.