A few years back I wrote about my experience in Wisconsin as a camp host. It was an idyllic setting in a forest near a small town and about 30 minutes from “civilization” retail. I embarked this summer on another camp host experience, this time for Washington State Parks. I started in late June at Larrabee State Park and then moved to Birch Bay State Park for the month of July. I’m about 10 miles from the Canadian border on the Pacific Coast. For me, it doesn’t get any better than this location! Mountains and sea with tall trees and a million shades of green and blue.
Larrabee State Park sits on the side of Chuckanut Mountain which runs down to the sea. It is rugged terrain and the dense forest has a lot of old-growth trees. Trails climb into the mountain where you’ll reach freshwater lakes or take a steep walk down through a ravine to get to the beach in a cove. The scenery is breathtaking. I was the alternate host and did not have a space in the campground, but had a full hookup site in the maintenance yard which sits next to a trailhead up into the mountain. The terrain at Larrabee is so challenging I bought hiking poles. The campground has a pitch to it, uphill and then downhill and the tent campsites have some rugged elements – like enormous tree roots, which I caught my foot on one day and took a face plant into the ground. All in a day’s work.
There was an emergency need for a host at Birch Bay and they asked me to take it. I have a lovely spot for the month of July inside the camping loop with 74 campsites to maintain. Across the park road, there are another 93 sites with a second host. The bayfront is beautiful and the beach is huge and easily accessible. Old growth trees fill the park and the setting is tranquil and blessedly flat!
There’s a lot of physical work to do here. I started walking in March – June knowing that I had to improve my stamina and my muscle tone to get into camp host shape. That helped quite a bit. As CH I walk at least 2 miles a day – even with an electric cart. I fetch, load, store, and sell bundles of firewood. I sold 28 bundles on Sunday. I pick up trash, and clean fire pits and charcoal grills at campsites and the beach. I’m feeling aches and pains in muscles I had long since forgotten I even had. I get two days off a week which affords me time to sit here at Starbucks and use real wi-fi. I have to drive about 30 minutes on my day off to go grocery shopping. Luckily there’s a laundry just outside the park.
Through all the aches and effort, I remember I get to live in a forest and go to the beach every day. Who doesn’t want this life? I’ve had a few wildlife sightings. A bald eagle flew right in front of me at the beach on my first day. This weekend a big owl perched him/herself on a post and drew a crowd of onlookers – people and other birds that wanted that owl to leave! There are raccoons and bunnies as well as seagulls and great blue herons that I see at the beach. There are lots of other little birds in the park and they are delightful as they titter and chirp producing a mellifluous soundtrack to the campground.
I remind myself that it is a privilege to be a person who cleans the earth. Thousands of tiny bits of plastic, cellophane, bottle caps, and other odds and ends dot the landscape. I get to scoop them up and put them in the trash and away from marine life, bird life, and mammals. Every camper gets to come into their site with a clean slate. There are no distractions of trash standing between them and the experience they are creating for themselves. That is seva – Sanskrit for service; a selfless devotion to others that I make willingly. My reward is viewing awesome sunsets over the Pacific Ocean. A great tradeoff in my book!
I make time to do the things I love – be in nature for inspiration, be physically active, write, communicate with friends, and plan my next adventures. Sometimes I fritter my time with mindless entertainment, but every day I do at least one thing outside of my “job” that I am committed to doing. I’m finding this is a particularly good key to a satisfying retirement. My life is not as intense and busy as it used to be and I am blessed to fill it with all the things that make me happy.
I recently started listening to Blinkist – the modern-day Reader’s Digest that is an audio app. I got a condensed version of several books by Brene Brown who is a stellar speaker and writer. Catch her on YouTube if you don’t know her work. She cuts to the chase about our emotions, living life fully, leadership, empathy, and so much more.
I also have taken up a daily practice of gratitude and reflection to start my day. I use a wonderful app called Insight Timer (and it’s free!). It has thousands of guided meditations to fit whatever you need in the moment. It’s been very helpful for me. I also write down three things I’m grateful for every morning. I’ve never done a gratitude journal before as I didn’t really see the point. Here’s the point: practicing gratitude will bring you more gratitude and that brings joy. It’s not about manifesting a new car. It’s about reflecting on whatever is in your life that makes you feel something – joy, happiness, caring, love, – there’s no right or wrong here. It’s all about you. Give yourself 60 seconds with your coffee to jot down three things and see if makes a difference over time.
I’d love to stay and chat but I have a novel to finish and firewood to sell. Catch you on the next installment. Here’s a preview: in August I will be visiting North Cascades NP, Mt. Rainier NP, and Olympic NP. Wow!