Wednesday, October 25, 2023

An Unexpected Summer In Idaho

 We're back on the Oregon Coast after an interesting summer back at Farragut State Park in Idaho - an unexpected trip that we hadn't expected to make.  

We were sitting around, enjoying the park in our favorite Oregon Coast town of Bandon when I saw a Facebook post for Farragut asking for volunteers, that two couples (that we knew) had cancelled at the last minute.  We called Errin, the volunteer coordinator that we worked for from 2017 to 2020, who sounded a bit desperate for help.  Since we didn't have any plans for summer, we agreed to help out and planned to be there by the end of May.  About 20 minutes after hanging up, I received an email from Dawn, our US F&W volunteer coordinator.  The couple slated to volunteer at Harris Beach SP in Brookings, OR (where we volunteered last year) had a terrible accident - their motor home caught on fire on their way to Harris Beach and was completely destroyed - could we fill that slot?  We called her explained that she was 20 minutes too late but after chatting for a while we agreed to take the slot for 2024.  So in just a short time we had finalized our plans for the next two years!  

So off to Farragut we    went, along our usual    route of Springfield,      over the pass to            Redmond, then north  on US97 to I84.  Then north again through the Tri Cities up to Spokane, then I-90 to Coeur d'alene and north on US95 to Athol and Farragut.  We've driven this route and shown pictures many times and nothing much has changed.  Arriving at Farragut, we were given a site in the new area of "volunteer lane", which was expanded since our last time here.  Our site was huge, with a large grassy area separating us from our neighbor.  The only problem was the lack of shade.  Fortunately, the temperature at the park was always lower than the surrounding area due to the proximity of Lake Pend Oreille.  At our end of the lake, the depth is well over 1000', and the water stays cold year around.

For the three years we were here before, we were the "program hosts", conducting evening programs in the amphitheater and "Junior Ranger" programs on the weekend.  This year there were no program hosts, but because of the shortage of campground hosts, we were asked if we would like to be "relief hosts".  As relief hosts, we worked three days a week filling in for the normal campground hosts at one of the four campgrounds.  We started around 9:30-10:00 by preparing sites vacated that morning. 

We cleaned fire pits, scrubbed the metal picnic tables, picked up any litter, and raked the sites.  Each site took 10-15 minutes to prepare for the next camper.  The workload varied each day, but normally we were done by 1:00, the checkout time for campers.  We had our own electric cart with supplies which made things easier.  The nice part is that when we were done, we were done for the day - no campers knocking on the door for firewood or dealing with late night quiet time offenders. 

We were fine with this for June and most of July, but then the hot weather arrived.  Cleaning sites in the sun with 90 degree temps, and being hindered by my AFIB and a bad back eventually became too much.  The volunteer coordinator (Errin - an amazing person) offered us the chance to go back to being the program hosts or "interpretive hosts" for the remainder of our stay.  We gladly accepted, and once again conducted evening programs and held Junior Ranger programs.  Our first love has always been working with children, and we truly enjoyed teaching them the hand movements of "leave no trace" or how to make an "owl bag" or "bat hat".  As the kids worked on the project, we'd talk about the subject, including teaching them the Barred Owl's hoot that sounds like "who cooks for you?".  

Farragut is a great place for kids to camp.  There's a Junior Ranger "station" that's staffed by volunteers with teaching experience, a swimming area and beach with a concession stand, a kid's disk golf course, the "Tree to Tree Adventure", and of course, Silverwood Theme Park down the road.  But most of all, there's marshmallows to roast, trails to hike and ride, and family memories to be made.

Although wildfires raged all over the northwest, we were relatively fire free.  We had a few smoky days from the Canadian fires, and one large fire southeast of us that never got too close thanks to hundreds of firefighters who were housed on Farragut in a "fire camp", a large area of tents, temporary buildings, and vehicles that shuttled men and equipment to the fire.  

We'll miss the the volunteer community here at Farragut. It is one of the largest of any state park with the number fluctuating between 50 and 60.  Most volunteers stay the entire year, and many return each year.  One volunteer has been coming back for over 19 years!  But like most parks, volunteers are getting a bit harder to recruit as many grow older (like us).  If you're interested, there are many different volunteer positions; besides traditional camp hosts and relief hosts, there are
"kiosk hosts" that staff
 the two entry points, shop (maintenance) hosts, cabin hosts, trail hosts, and interpretive hosts.  Hours vary depending on position, but all are reasonable.  The host RV sites are all superior - paved with full hookups.  The volunteer coordinator is a ranger who works hard to make everyone welcome and happy.  And ah, the potlucks!  With volunteers and staff, four or five banquet tables are filled with everyone's specialty.  If interested, contact ranger Errin Bair (

We left Farragut in early October and had an uneventful trip back to the coast, where we once again settled into a lakefront spot at Osprey Point RV Point.  We'll be here until late November when we head south once again for Arizona.

This November will mark our 18th year on the road!  When we started back in 2005 we had no end date in sight, but at the time spending 18+ years would have seemed outrageous.  And yet it doesn't seem to be so many years until we start reliving the memories -memories of places and experiences, but mostly people.  When we started back in 2005 I began writing campground reviews on (now  This year I passed the 500 reviews milestone.  This graphic of our reviews is descriptive: 

You'll notice that reviews in the Southeast are visibly absent.  Having lived in that part of the country during our Air Force days we have no desire to again visit that area again.

Every year our medicine cabinet grows more crowded with pills, every morning reveals a new ache, but every morning holds the promise of a new adventure.  In spite of our age, we're not ready to quit the road yet, and we're already looking forward to next summer as we again volunteer for US Fish & Wildlife.  So check back every once in a while and see how year19 is going!