Adventures in Campground Hosting v.4

Hi Everyone,

Welcome back to Traveling With Tom. A big thanks for all the kind comments on last week’s Independence Day post and photos. Hope you had a relaxing and fun weekend. We ended the day with the awesome fireworks display in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. We sat on the shore of the Shipping Canal and watched from a distance over the water. No photos this time, just enjoyed the show.

This month we are serving as campground hosts at Potawatomi State Park in Door County.

I’ve written about our previous three experiences at Pot Park, as the locals call it! This time The Eldest and The Son-in-Law spent several days with us and helped us keep the campground tidy. Every time is different, and this year is no exception. So far, during our time here, we’ve had to call the DNR hotline to report a negligent camper and dealt with a toilet paper shortage. More about those later. On the other hand, we’ve met and talked to some really nice people. More about a couple of them later in the post. Campers reside in modest tents all the way to large motorhomes, we accommodate them all.

Our job as campground hosts falls into two main categories: customer service and campground tidiness. I should mention here that this is a volunteer gig, our compensation is free camping for the duration of our tour. This allows us to spend quality time in the great outdoors in a scenic part of the world (Door County, the Cape Cod of the Midwest according to National Geographic) and help others who are interested in the same. It can’t get much better than that.

While we spend less time on customer service, it’s a critical aspect of our work. We have our eyes open and ears to the ground on what’s happening in the campground. The camp staff are busy with many other tasks in the park so depend on us to monitor the campground. We are available to answer questions such as where to get water, buy firewood, and find the hiking trails. We also assist campers that are having a bit of a problem backing their campers into their site, usually first timers. Our overall goal is to do our very best to help campers and park users have a positive and rewarding camping experience.

We do occasionally field complaints. Shortly after we arrived, a woman who had been camping here for a few days, complained as she was leaving about the spiders in one of the women’s vault toilets. Upon inspection by my Traveling Partner, there was no evidence of the masses of spiders she described. All I can say is ‘we are camping in the natural environment and encroaching on their space.’

One day this week, my Traveling Partner fielded complaints about the lack of toilet paper in the women’s shower room. Unfortunately, the supply closet was empty, so I immediately made a call to the office for the delivery of more supplies. This took me back to the beginning of the pandemic when toilet paper was hard to find. Just in time, before the riot broke out, the maintenance guys arrived with a fresh supply. (Please note – the impending riot part of this story is slightly embellished!)

We did deal with a young fella and his companion for playing loud music in his campsite. He claimed that he paid for the site and could do anything he wanted. Factually, not true. After I told him to turn it down, he proceeded to far exceed the speed limit in the park and drove the wrong way on the one-way road. After a couple of credible reports of his behavior, I called the DNR Hotline which granted this fella a phone call from law enforcement. He was given a stern talking to and a warning of action if he didn’t shape up. That got his attention, and he was more compliant. This incident made for an exciting evening.

We spend most of our time on campground cleanliness. Every morning, we drop by the office to chat with Ally, Erin, Jerry, or Curtis. They supply us with lists of the campsites that are being vacated that day. This informs us which campsites need cleaning that day. Some days the list is short and on others like July 5th, the list is long. Very long! With lists in hand, we climb aboard “The Milk Truck” an EV (electric vehicle) to make our rounds. It’s somewhat similar to a golf cart with a bed to carry buckets, shovels, a rake, other assorted tools for the job.

I would say that about 97% of campers leave their sites like they found them, clean and tidy. The other 3% must think their mother is going to pick up after them. While I dig the ashes out of the firepits, my Traveling Partner picks up any debris left behind. The most common items are the ends of Hersey wrappers (Smores), twist ties, bottle caps both plastic and metal, and the wrappers from juice box straws. One group of campers left their site like this:

My pet peeve is when campers toss their cigarette butts into the fire ring or on the ground. This tells me they were never in the Army. It was pounded into our heads to field strip our cigarettes and put the filters in our pocket. If you’ve ever done butt patrol on the parade ground as punishment, you’ll know what I mean!

Sometimes campers leave behind some of their treasures like this purple dinosaur and blue elephant. There are a couple of kids in this world crying for their lost toys!

Campers have until 3 PM on their day of departure to vacate their site. Check-in time is also 3 PM so we are scrambling on the busiest days to clean all the sites before they are occupied. This is complicated when campers leave fires burning or a hot bed of coals. This means we douse the fire with water then come back when the coals have cooled. For safety reasons, the roads in the campground are one-way so there it a lot of travel time involved when we have to come back to a site.

In addition, we are responsible to clean the four group camp sites. They are located a couple of miles from the regular campgrounds. They are occupied mostly on weekends. We also check the picnic areas and picnic shelter a couple of times a week to clean fire grates and pick up trash.

Like I mentioned earlier, we’ve met some real nice people while camp hosting. We had a short but pleasant visit with Mark from Idaho. He told us about his travels around the country while waiting for the house he purchased back in Idaho is vacated in two months. A super nice guy with a friendly dog companion.

We met Rocky from Milwaukee (say that a couple of times, it rhymes!) at one of the group camp sites. He and ten of his friends were spending the weekend hiking and seeing the sites here in Door County. Rocky from Milwaukee was excited to be out of the city and back to nature. After our short visit, we shook hands, he had a big smile on his face and grip like a vise. A super nice guy.

On rainy days, we read, write, and rest, looking longingly out the window of the camper, wishing to be outside.

If you find yourself in Door County during the month of July, stop by the Daisy Field Campground. The host site is right at the entrance to the campground. You can’t miss the Red Rover, our tow vehicle, and Minnie, the travel trailer. If the Milk Truck is gone that means we are out and about taking care of the campground.

Until next week, happy travels!