From an Instructor: Back away from the edge


At the end of March, our family moved what we could into a 26 foot camper, and embarked on a 3 month experience as campground hosts in a remote part of Utah/Wyoming.  My son, husband, dog, 18 year old cat, 2 goldfish and a shamrock plant plunged head first into an adventure that would provide writing material (at least) and mosquito bites with a side of survival skills.  The result?  I'm still synthesizing the details, but overall, a good compliment to a life as ski instructors.


Some lessons learned:


My family moves in a radius of approximately 4 feet-still.

Before we left on this adventure, I joked that we should be fine, since it seemed like at least two members of my family were underfoot at any given time, despite living in a fairly large two bed/two bath home. 

I secretly pictured those family members romping around on the campground, using the playground or doing outside projects, and the wide open spaces of our location as motivation to spread out and explore, only returning to close quarters for an evening campfire.  After S'mores (only 10% of visiting campers knew what they were, by the way), some family members would decide that it was such a beautiful night that they would sleep under the stars.  It didn't work out that way.

The weather was to blame for the first few weeks (that was about 2 ½ weeks longer than I had "rainy day" activities prepared for).  Sometime during the third week, I began growling things like "why did we get a camper this big anyway?" and "nobody is using their designated area" and "everyone is in my way" even when I was alone.

Even our tiny-but-efficient airplane style bathroom seemed to be the most popular location when I visited it.  The dog was usually the first to push open the door, followed by the kid with questions, then the husband looking for the kid.  Then the cat, of course, since cats are known to be curious.  I waited for the goldfish to join in, but they were the only family members that seemed to respect personal space. 

We had the room, but we still didn't use it.  Must be our magnetic personalities.


Dogs can eat almost anything

This was an unintentional science experiment that we had tried at home previously when the dog decided to eat an entire fruit cake that was cooling on the counter while we went caroling.  OK, that might be a bit of an exaggeration.  We've never gone caroling (it was probably a trip to the grocery store). 

When we came back, the only sign of the fruitcake was the delicious smell, and the large, brick-like shape outlined in my dog's side as he lay panting, tail wagging, but unable to get up to greet us.  He survived, without stomach pumping, and was back to begging for crumbs in a day or so. 

That experiment was checked for accuracy during our camp-host time just last month with some corn muffins and muffin liners.  A friend came to visit our campground and I decided to actually fix some food in our camper's kitchen.  Images of cooking over an open fire had been thrown away in the weeks prior due to torrential rain, consistent wind speeds of 50 miles per hour (gusts of 80 MPH), snow, hail and the odd mountain lion/stray dog warning.  So the camper's oven capabilities got a work out with a couple of box-mix corn muffin attempts, and we invited some fellow campers over.  My guests did their best to humor me by eating one apiece.  This left about 15 dry, but attractive muffins with liners in a pretty red bowl, at doggie level.  Realistically, it was a camper-everything was at doggie level.  A couple of hours later, returning from my shift at the campground desk, I saw the empty bowl and hoped that our guests had taken and/or eaten the rest of the muffins.  I looked for the liners in the trash, but didn't see them, and giving my family and our guests the benefit of the doubt that they knew better than to eat the whole thing, I looked to the dog.  He wasn't feeling well. 

It takes about three days to see muffin liners pass through your dog, and yes, they were intact.


This is why there will be snow on July 4th

I know I'll get in trouble for this one, but for me, the next ski season starts only a few weeks after the resorts close.  Usually something simple, like thoughts of new gear, hopes for a safe summer (no injuries, no injuries, no whammies, go!) and check-ins with ski school private lesson clients on their summer adventures get me in the ski season mood.  One memorable conversation last month was with a client via computer chat that included a Where -on-earth-ARE-you?  game.  I tried to describe our very remote location on the 91 mile reservoir on the borders of Utah and Wyoming, my client tried to relate with the statement, "So it's kind of like the Hamptons".  Umm, yeah.  Kinda.

My attempt to give fellow camp workers an idea of what Vail is like missed the mark by an equal amount, and describing our snowy life had the same effect on me as grocery shopping when you're hungry. 


Top ten complaints 

I have a bunch written down, I'll have to follow this line in another article, but one stands out.  A group demanded their park fee back due to ants in their campground.  Hate to have ants when you're camping!  I didn't mention the mosquitoes that had yet to appear that day....


And finally:


Stuff expands. 

While preparing to move my family of one 6 year old, a husband, one dog, one cat, two goldfish and a shamrock plant into a 26 foot long camper for a 3 month stint as campground hosts in a really remote location, I took a sick level of satisfaction of paring down to just the basics, shouting:  Simplify, Simplify!  Look, a place for everything!  Never again will we have to wonder where something is, every thing has a designated space! 

I should have been an RV salesperson.

At any rate, no matter how messy things got in the camper, the concept remained that it couldn't be that bad, because we didn't have that much to look after in a tiny camper.  Following that train of thought, it wouldn't be hard to move back home, right?  And think of all of the space we'll have now that we've pared down to the bare minimum!  We'll be organized with lots of storage available, right?

Frighteningly enough, that is not the case.  In fact, our food cupboards at home hold less than I brought home in our camper's pantry.  I'm pretty sure we towed much, much more weight in that little travel trailer than the manufacturer ever recommended.  Like hotdogs, sometimes you just don't want to know what's inside.


Would I do it again?  Maybe.  Give it a couple of weeks, and when I'm done fantasizing about next ski season, you'll probably find me checking out "workamper" positions open for next summer...

Operations Shots