Friday, May 31, 2013

Zen and the Art of Campground Maintenance

When we interviewed for our job here at Warm River, we were told that this campground was the showplace of the Ashton/Island Park Ranger District’s campgrounds.  Our new management has exacting standards on how our campground should appear and how we need to maintain it.
ATVs are not allowed in this campground.  Period.  So this year we are driving around in a green and beige golf cart which we've dubbed “The Maserati.”  This year we do our daily work in two “shifts.” We clean the restrooms first, and then we do our site preparation.

We have 10 vault toilets in the campground – twice as many as last year.  The cleaning procedure hasn't changed.  I’ll spare you the details.  We expect the cleaning frequency to increase on the weekends when the campground is full.

All our sites are very well manicured.  Our maintenance couple mows the lawn and trims the edges – including around the large rocks that frame the RV sites.  It’s our job to ensure that the picnic tables, grills and fire pits are kept clean. 

We have 22 of our own personal, life-size Zen gardens, aka tent pads. 
We regularly rake the tent pads and sweep the borders.  No weeds are allowed in the tent pads.  The weeds, unfortunately, have not been given this information.  That or they've chosen to ignore it.  They continue to ignore the “no weed” rule at the house as well.  It’s a conspiracy!  That said, I have become quite proficient with a hoe.

We get a regular afternoon wind in our little “bowl.”  Trees plus wind equals leaves, branches, and those obnoxious little seed pods in the campsites.  This is not allowed.  We have a gas-powered leaf-blower to help us keep the campsites free of debris – even if it’s natural.

After spending last summer in the wilderness, it almost feels like we’re working in a city park rather than a campground.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Welcome to Ashton, Idaho

The Warm River Campground sits nine miles from Ashton, Idaho, population 1,211.  At least, that’s what the sign says.  This small town, situated between two scenic byways (the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway and the Teton Scenic Byway), caters to tourists, locals, and of course, the campers that visit our site and the other campgrounds in the Island Park area. 

The local grocery store, Dave’s Jubilee, offers grocery and sundry items, has a deli and a really great produce department.  Dave’s Jubilee is affiliated with Associated Foods, so we’re finding all the products we’re accustomed to buying.  It also has a decent selection of beer and wine.  We introduced ourselves on an early morning visit and they were happy to open their safe to make change for our petty cash fund. This was nice since the nearest Wells Fargo bank is in Rexburg, 28 miles away.

We've found three restaurants so far.  El Rincon, the Mexican restaurant, was quite authentic.  Of course, you know a Mexican restaurant is authentic when everyone is speaking Spanish but you.  511 Main has a classic soda fountain feel and features pizza, sandwiches and soups.  We haven’t tried their pizza yet but the soups and sandwiches are quite good.

Our company orientation was held at the Trails End Restaurant.  The interior is designed to resemble a hunting lodge, complete with the heads of animals on the far wall.  They have a white buffalo head.  I understand that Native Americans considered the white buffalo sacred, so I really hope it is a fake.  But back to the food – we’ll have to reserve judgment as it is pretty tough to mess up turkey and cheese on white bread with lettuce and tomato, potato chips, and Chips Ahoy cookies.

For those of you who don’t camp, Ashton has two motels, a combined motel/RV park, and log cabin rentals. 

We found a small liquor store on inside of Lenz Electronics on Main Street.  The store owner was sitting on a lawn chair in front of the store, and as we approached he followed us in and directed us past the clothing and electronics to the liquor section.  The store reminds me of the small general stores we saw in movies and on TV. 

Ashton has two hardware stores, one of which sells fishing licenses.  We’re still talking ourselves into buying the high-priced out-of-state fishing licenses, so we haven’t been there yet. 

The library at Ashton charged us a mere $10 for a library card.  We couldn't get our money out fast enough.  It’s a small library, but it has everything we’re looking for – books, movies, and internet service, just in case our DSL decides to take a long vacation.

There are five churches here in Ashton.  We had a very pleasant encounter with the Ashton Christian Fellowship when the pastor visited with us to arrange for baptisms in the Warm River.  The baptisms happened last Sunday at site 13; the small group who had gathered to welcome three new believers also welcomed us to participate in the service.  It was inspiring. 

A bit of interesting trivia:  Ashton hosts the American Dog Derby, which is the oldest dog sled race in the lower 48 states.  This historic dog sled race runs from Ashton to Cascade Corner of Yellowstone Park.  If you’re interested in watching the 97th running, it will be held February 13 – 15, 2014.

I think we’re going to enjoy being part of the extended community of Ashton. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Lap of Luxury

Our last camp hosting assignment was, well, primitive.  We were in a wilderness area accessed via a 12 mile dirt road just outside of Lonetree, Wyoming.  We had no electricity.  We had no cell service.  We had no internet service.  Our site was also a dirt “pull through”, complete with a large rock that trapped the truck as we tried to pull into it. Our contact with civilization came through our campers and through our weekly trips down the mountain.

Don’t get me wrong.  We loved it at Hoop Lake.  But in comparison, the assignment here at Warm River is truly living in the lap of luxury.  We are parked on a flat, gravel surface with a concrete patio where our picnic table sits.  Our front lawn is just down a few steps.  Up a few steps and we’re at the main signpost where we can greet our incoming campers.

We have full hookups – water, sewer and electricity.  We have a land line and DSL service.  The DSL seems to be intermittent, but it has worked at least part of every day since we’ve had it hooked up.  Our cell phones get very limited service here, but we are able to receive and send text messages and emails.

I have hot water on demand!  We chose not to run the water heater constantly last year to conserve propane, so we would have to turn it on and then wait ½ hour to shower.  I heated water on the stove to do dishes.  But with electricity and a new water heater, I turn the faucet and just like magic, hot water comes out.  On a personal note, Paul’s brother Jon helped him wire the water heater five days before he died unexpectedly.  We miss you, Jon.

Electricity allows us a few more luxuries.  I can use my percolator – no more “camp coffee” cooked on the stovetop.  Well, I kind of miss that a little.  We have a television and can play movies by connecting the laptop.  I don’t have to turn on a generator to use the vacuum.

The final luxury is our proximity to a real town – with a grocery store, a gas station, restaurants, and get this – a Redbox!  More about Ashton,  Idaho, in my next post.  

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Welcome to Warm River

Greetings from the Warm River Campground!  Our new home-away-from-home sits about nine miles east of Ashton, Idaho, in the beautiful Caribou/Targhee National Forest.  We’re about 30 miles from Mack’s Inn in Island Park, and about 45 miles from the West entrance to Yellowstone Park.

The campground sits in an ancient caldera, about 1200 feet lower in elevation than any of our “sister” campgrounds.  This allows us to open earliest and close latest.  We arrived on May 3. The official opening day was May 5.

The campground, named for the Warm River that runs through it, features 15 RV sites and 13 tent sites. 
Every site is walking distance to the river, although some of the sites have longer walks than others. The roads are all paved, the RVs pads are paved, and the tent sites have sand.  The picnic tables are mostly new.  Two of our sites have electricity (sites 12 and 13).

Our site is the first site you’ll see as you come into the campground.  We have space for tents on the lawn in front of our trailer.  We’re told this is a very busy campground that will always fill up, so if you want your own space, you may want to make a reservation at or at 877-444-6777.

Yes, we have lawns!  The grounds are maintained by our new friends Jim and Debra, who will be our partners in camp hosting this year.  They live across the road from us in a trailer owned by a large, long-haired Siamese cat named John Wayne.  So far John and Ty have not met.  My money would be on the cat.

We’re gearing up for the busy season that should begin on Memorial Day weekend, but so far it’s been pretty quiet.  Lots of fishermen walk into the campground.  Now that we’re here we have to charge them to park.  They hate that.  They tell us that fishing is good.  We’ll have to find out how to get an Idaho fishing license – very soon.