I have thoroughly enjoyed my first stint at being a camp host here in Wisconsin. I will be back for the month of September after a few weeks doing other traveling! It has been an illuminating 2 months in the forest, listening, watching, and enjoying being out and about. The woods are enchanting, mysterious, cooling, and harbor many creatures from deer and bear to tiny caterpillars that repel from the trees on their string of silk landing on the ground. I marveled at the nightly firefly show and am convinced they are the woodland faeries of legend. There are a couple of feral cats in the park and one has 3 kittens. They come play in my yard on some days. They are very cute.
In a previous post I outlined all the mechanics and people pleasing that goes along with being a camp host. I learned a few things while here.
- Many people enjoy chatting and swapping stories about where you’re from, where you’re going, what you did for a living before retirement. I’ve met fellow writers, Floridians, wanderers, outdoorsy people, and many weekend warriors who come here to get away from whatever daily grind they are on.
- Not everyone who camps here is enjoying a vacation or the nomad lifestyle. Some are barely holding on and stay as long as park rules allow. They are actually local to the area and have no permanent place to stay.
- Some people come in their big coaches, turn on the A/C and are never seen while here. I’m not sure why they come to the woods, except it’s shady, or are RVing, except maybe they went full time and treat it like a house, or they’ve tired of the great outdoors and found it less than desirable. The mosquitoes have been fierce lately.
- Plastic is the bane of our existence. I find bits of plastic on campsites everywhere – wrappers, juice lids, straw wrappers, tags, and corners ripped off from bags of snack foods. If the planet is here 200 years from now, they’ll be finding plastic in the woods.
Most importantly, though, I learned that service can be very rewarding. One Sunday after a weekend with the park being completely full and lots of kids in tow, I was hot, tired, back hurt, picking up trash and clearing sites after everyone left. It’s my job and I’m not complaining, but I was completely not interested in doing it, wondered if I could do a little less, and thinking why did I decide this was a good position? Then I recalled some training I got with Landmark. The training was in preparing the space for guests who would be undertaking their Landmark Forum in the room – at a Landmark Center, at a hotel ballroom, at a community center – wherever 200 people can fit comfortably for a weekend. I was on a team of people who made sure the room was perfectly organized. Why? Because a perfectly organized space means no distractions and whoever is there can focus completely on what they’re doing. So I thought about the campers who are coming here for all the reasons they come here. They don’t want to have to think about anything but their good time, or sitting reading their book, or having a place for their children to play, or the campfire they’ll build. Trash is a distraction – even the smallest piece. So I clear a campsite down to the last bit of plastic, leaving only nature’s ground cover for the guests. I get great satisfaction in knowing I’m making a difference for the guests to have an extraordinary experience on their site. My back still hurts, but I can bear it.
Nature is worth protecting. I’m sickened at the thought of weakening the Endangered Species Act, rolling back Clean Water regulations, allowing wild animals to be killed with cyanide bombs. Nature is precious. It is restorative. It is life giving. I have learned its extensive value for the first time. The serenity of these woods has given more to me than I could to it, or so it seems. I hope my presence has and will make a contribution.
Be a camp host. Volunteer at a state or national park or federal lands. Don’t let nature get displaced, and fill yourself up by immersing yourself in it.
Next Up: Lake Superior, a National Forest, and some Harvest Host spots as I wend my way through Wisconsin and back to Chicago for a flight to Florida!