Category Archives: Work camping

Prineville Reservoir State Park

As stated in our previous post, we are currently the interpretive hosts at Prineville Reservoir State Park, 17 miles south of Prineville, Oregon.  This is a high desert climate, with sage and juniper dominating the land.  Afternoons can get blazing hot and nights chilly, and the humidity is next to nothing. The Crooked River was contained by the Bowman Dam in the late 1950’s to create a 3000 acre lake that sits 3200 feet above sea level.  Quite a difference from our last location on the Pacific coast!

Our campsite is one of the nicest host sites we have ever seen.  We sit at the highest point in the tent loop, and we have a view of the lake from our patio.  The juniper trees provide us with plenty of shade most of the day, so the 100+ degree mid-day temperatures are not an issue.  

The Eagle’s Nest Amplitheater and Discovery Center complex is one of the two areas of the park where we help out.

We take care of a few critters in the Discovery Center, including a smallmouth bass, a gopher snake, and two fence lizards…one of which is seen here.

We assist the Interpretive Ranger Mariah with her educational programs.  She is enthusiastic and enjoys sharing her wealth of knowledge about Oregon’s natural resources.  It’s fun to watch her interact with park visitors!

Diana is enjoying helping with the park’s Junior Ranger program.  Here she is administering the oath to a new group of Junior Rangers!

We also run the star gazing programs at the observatory next to the beach.

This is the park’s 16″ deep space telescope.  It resembles a circus cannon!  We can easily see the bands on Jupiter with this.  We had 62 people attend a sky viewing on Saturday night!

We also have a 6″ Orion tracking telescope at our disposal.  We are going to be learning how to use the tracking feature sometime this week.

We’ve also met a lot of new people and learned a lot of new things!

Here we are with a woodland firefighter and Smokey Bear!  We’ve also met a pair of search and rescue specialists and we are going to go on a hike with a geologist this weekend.  

All in all, it promises to be a great couple of months here in Central Oregon!  Stay tuned to see what new vistas we find to explore!

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Smokey Bear gear and other great things on Amazon!
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A Memorable Month at Heceta Head

June 29th brought an end to our time on the Oregon coast and Heceta Head Lighthouse.  Never in our wildest dreams did we expect our time there to be as great as it was!  To give our personal history of this lighthouse, we have to go back to 1996. We were camped in Florence at the time, and Diana saw a flyer on a bulliten board in a grocery store for a special night tour of the beacon being offered by a graduate student that same night.  We took the tour, walking up the 1/2 mile path with flashlights in the fog to the building.  We all climbed the tower and when we came back down, the fog had lifted.  We could see the beams pinwheel 21 miles out to the horizon.  Having worked so hard for the previous 4 years to get Old Mackinac Point in Michigan reopened (which was still a long 8 years in the future), the sight of a working first order lens moved me to tears.  Yes, this job this summer meant a lot to us.

Right off the bat after our arrival on May 24, things clicked.  As I was setting up camp, a fellow host named Rick stopped by with his dog.  I caught that his name was Rick and that he was from Wisconsin…and that his dog’s name was Maxine.  I was a tad preoccupied, so it never clicked with me that I had seen his face before.  He thought he recognized me also, but didn’t mention it at the time.  As I tell this, keep in mind that none of us had cell or data signals at the campground.  Our mutual friend Tracy figured it out from her campground in northern Oregon and sent us both texts, but neither of us got them until we were in town the next day!  It turns out that Rick had attended the spring 2014 RV-Dreams rally and we had attended the fall rally later that year.  I had put in a friend request to him on Facebook a month before, as I had seen that we had 11 friends in common.  My first thought upon seeing that was ‘I need to get to know this guy’.  Well, as luck would have it, we now know him very well and are proud to call him a very good friend!

One of the benefits of Rick and us coming in before Memorial Day is that we got to meet the previous month’s hosts.

As you can see, we all hit it off right away.  😊. Thanks to Cary and Rick for this photo!  Five of the people in this image, including us, stayed on through June.  Not all of us were interpretive hosts at the lighthouse; some were campground hosts at Carl Washburne State Park.  Michael (in the blue hat) volunteered for U.S. Fish and Wildlife, using a scope and binoculars at the lighthouse to show visitors the various wildlife along the shore.

Along came June…and with it came several new folks.  Rick, Cary and Michael stayed on, and we added John & Linda as camp hosts, along with Neil, Beverly, and Lisa as lighthouse hosts.  A special shout out to the wonderful rangers at Washburne…especially Ben and Deb, as we worked closest with them. We really had fun with this crew!

We also were visited by our friends Jodee and Bill, who were camped in Florence for a few weeks.

Man, it was good to see them again! Here we are at dinner in Florence with (right to left) Rick, Jodee, Bill and (under the table) Tessa.  We had a couple of meals with them, including a fabulous lunch at a place Jodee suggested, Maple Street Grille in Florence. They also came up to Heceta and took one of my lighthouse tours.  Jodee, Bill and Fluffy Dog are simply wonderful to be with.  😀

We also spent a few days with our friends Tracy and Lee when they came to visit!

Here we are on a visit to the beach at Washburne.

And here is Tracy signing Rick’s copy of her new book, RV Living Cookbook.  We had bought the Kindle version, so we couldn’t get ours signed!

The last evening they were here, we all made the trek up to the lighthouse at night.  It is darn near impossible to photograph the beams of light coming from the sentinel, but it was pure magic to see Heceta’s lens doing its job again.  It took me right back to 1996.  Lee commented that it was one of the coolest thing he had seen since going on the road!  We had such a marvelous time with Tracy and Lee, and we plan on seeing them again this summer!

Beyond our friends and coworkers, we also became familiar with the towns of Yachats and Florence.  Not having phone or Internet at Washburne, we ended up using the libraries in both places….especially Florence.  We purchased a three month pass to their branch of the Siuslaw Library System for $15, which includes access to their online books.  We also were frequent visitors to the local Fred Meyer, to a point that we knew where most things were in the store.  We really enjoy this part of our lifestyle, as we get to experience how others live, whether good or bad.  We would rate life on the Oregon coast as very good, although the dampness and cloudiness would wear on us over a longer period.  Still, we thoroughly enjoyed our time there and we are glad we did it!

On our last day of work, we had one of the visitor’s snap this photo of Lisa, Rick and us.  We sure are going to miss working with them! With June in the books, we have now moved east across the Cascade Mountains to Prineville Reservoir State Park near Prineville, Oregon. As far as climate goes, we’ve done a 180 degree turn.  Temperatures have been near or just over 100 degrees, and it is sunny and dry!  We are working here as interpretive hosts, helping the interpretive ranger with her duties. This includes assisting with the Junior Ranger Program and the observatory.  The park is home to some of Oregon’s darkest skies, and we have a 16″ and 6″ set of telescopes at our disposal.  Talk about exploring vistas!   We will be here through Labor Day, so that puts us here through the total eclipse.  Be sure to stay tuned for more on that…it should be fun!  🌙

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A link to our favorite litter stick from the lighthouse, plus other amazing things on Amazon!
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explorRVistas is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon .com. Shopping through our link does not add anything to your cost, but it does help support this blog. Thank you for shopping through exploRVistas!
 

Heceta Head Lighthouse

As stated in our last post, we are spending the month of June volunteering for Oregon State Parks as interpretive hosts at Heceta Head Lighthouse.  Located between Florence and Yachats, this sentinel has been guiding mariners since it was first lit on March 30, 1894. 

 

Standing at just 56 feet high, the building’s stature could be considered somewhat short. 

It is the commanding position on the headland that gives the lighthouse the height it needs to send its beam out 21 miles to sea.  The curvature of the earth is the only thing that limits it from projecting further. The focal plane of the bullseye on the lens above mean (average) sea level is a whopping 210 feet!

Back in 1775, a Portuguese explorer named Don Bruno de Heceta was sent by Spain on a mission to chart the waters from San Diego north to the Arctic Circle.  When he reached the waters off of the headland where the lighthouse sits today, he noticed that there was a large shallow area several miles from the shore.  That ridge of seabed became known over time as Heceta Bank, and is actually a raised area on the edge of the North American Plate.  Subsequently, the headland itself became known as Heceta Head.

Fast forward 75 years to the Westward Expansion and the California Gold Rush.  With the surge in ship traffic up and down the coast, there was a need for reliable navigational aids.  The U.S. Lighthouse Service received congressional appropriations for lighthouses in California and Washington, but it took longer to fill in the dark voids along the Oregon shore.  The last area to be lit was from present day Newport down to Winchester Bay.  Three locations were chosen:  Yaquina Head Light at Newport, Umpqua River Light at Winchester Bay and Heceta Head Light, halfway between the other two. Construction on Heceta Head began in 1892.  Considering the rocky coast and the fact there was only a rough wagon road over the headlands to the site, the project was a formidable challenge.  Some of the materials were brought in by ship and unloaded into smaller surf boats and rowed ashore.  Others were brought around the headlands to the south at low tide on calm days.  Still others were brought over the wagon road. Considering those challenges, it is quite amazing to note that the lighthouse, the two oil houses, the keepers house and the assistant keepers duplex were all completed by 1894.  On March 30 of that year, the first keeper lit the kerosene lamp in the first order Fresnel lens and Heceta Head Lighthouse was officially in service.

The Fresnel lens that was used at the lighthouse was made by Chance Brothers in England.  Most lighthouse lenses in the United States came from France and were made out of silica based glass, which had a greenish tint to it.  Chance used a sulpher based glass which gave the optic a slight yellowish hue.  It was found that the Chance Brothers lenses actually had a higher candlepower, due to that color difference. At the time that Heceta Head used a kerosene lamp, the output of the lens was rated at 80,000 candlepower.  

The current 1000 watt bulb increases the output to 2.5 million candlepower, a full 500,000 units brighter than a comparable silica glass lens!  As a result, Heceta’s light is the brightest on the west coast.

When the lighthouse was first opened, the 4000 pound lens rotated one revolution every 8 minutes.  There are 8 separate panels of prisms, each radiating from a bullseye in the center of each panel.  As each bullseye would align between the light source and the mariner’s eyes, the entire panel would flash.  As a result, Heceta’s signature was one white flash every minute.  Each lighthouse has its own unique signature, so mariners are able to tell where they are at by timing the flashes.  When Heceta changed from a hand wound clockwork mechanism to an electric motor, the lens speed was increased to one flash every 10 seconds.

Touching on the original clockwork at the lighthouse, it was powered by a 200 pound weight that would descend from the lens to the watchroom floor.  That took 39 minutes to go that distance, and resulted in the keepers having to constantly climb the steps and rewind the mechanism.  A request was made to the Lighthouse Service for permission to cut holes in the watchroom, service room and first landing floors, so the weight could descend to the base of the tower.  Permission was granted and the modification was completed, which increased the winding interval to 4 hours. 

There were three keepers that worked rotating shifts to maintain the light at Heceta Head.  Their responsibilities included filling the lantern with kerosene oil, winding the mechanism, polishing the lens, painting and whitewashing the buildings and general cleaning and upkeep of the lightstation. Things began to change in 1932 when the Oregon Coast Highway was built, which passed within yards of the station.  Electricity came on the heels of the road in 1934, and the oil-fired lantern was replaced by an electric light bulb.  That eliminated the soot on the lens from the kerosene, which resulted in less cleaning. Following that, the clockwork was removed and replaced with an electric motor.  With the decreased workload, the Lighthouse Service eventually reduced the quantity of keepers from three to two.  The head keeper was moved into one half of the assistant keepers duplex. The main keepers home was sold for $10 with the stipulation that the buyer must dismantle and remove it.

With the onset of World War II, there were heightened concerns of Japanese attacks along the west coast.  Defenses were built all along the shore from Southern California to the Canadian border. Heceta Head became host to a bevy of Coast Guard personnel, along with what was described as several vicious guard dogs. Patrols originated from the station to the north and south.  A couple of barracks buildings had to be built where the former head keepers house was, and it was noted that perhaps they had removed the first structure a little too soon.  Once the war was over, the barracks were removed.

In 1963, the lighthouse was fully automated.  All of the windows below the lantern room were sealed over to prevent vandalism. Occasional maintenance was undertaken by the Coast Guard to change the light bulb, grease the rollers the lens rotates on and clean the windows.  In the 1960’s, the Coast Guard turned over the lighthouse to Oregon Parks and Recreation, except for the lens and one oil house.  Those were deeded to the state park at a later date.  The assistant keepers house is owned by the U.S. Forest Service and is leased as a bed and breakfast.

In 2012, a major restoration was undertaken to restore the lighthouse.  Today it stands proud on the headland shining its beam through the same lens it did 123 years ago.  Diana and I feel extremely fortunate to be able to showcase the beautiful sentinel this month, and to foster interest in the history of the location.  We have met people from all around the globe who have come to visit the beacon.  It’s that sort of curiosity and interest that ensures Heceta Head Lighthouse will still be shining brightly 123 years from now!

Redwoods and Rocky Shores 

Heading into Northern California on US-101, we were really impressed with how beautiful the region was.  The hills along the winding road soon were filled with progressively taller forests, eventually transitioning into groves of coastal redwoods.   We spent a night in Myers Flat to quickly explore the Avenue of the Giants, knowing we were going to be spending a full day at our next stop in Redwood National Park.  While checking out the visitor center at Humboldt State Park, we noticed the campground next door. 

When we walked in to take a look, we realized that it was the same place that our friends Lee and Tracy had hosted at back in 2015.

The next day, we drove up to Klamath and set up on a riverfront site at Klamath River RV Park.  We decided to do a little exploring, so we drove down towards the ocean.  One of the first things we saw was the entrance to the old US-101 bridge over the Klamath, which was washed out in 1964.  

The span featured these concrete grizzly bears on the railings, similar to the gold bears on the new span farther upriver.  Why are the bears on the new span gold?  Well it seems that back in the 1950’s, several friends were at a local bar discussing how the town needed to be spruced up.  They set out that night sweeping up the streets and washing windows on the businesses.  To top it all off, someone suggested they coat the bears on what is now the old bridge with some gold paint that he had in his shed.  When the California Department of Transportation saw them the next day, they sent workers with turpentine to remove the golden hue.  This went on back and forth several times until the state finally gave in and left the grizzlies as the townsfolk wanted them to be. 


 
When the new bridge was built, the highway department adorned the approaches with these bedazzled bruins as a tribute to the Golden Bear Club of Klamath.  😊

The other point of interest on our drive that afternoon was the old World War II era early warning radar station along the coast.

The trail down to the facility was not maintained, so we couldn’t get any closer. Disguised to look like a farmhouse and barn, the structures actually housed radar equipment, a generator, and two 50 caliber anti-aircraft guns.  This particular station is the last of 65 such stations that once were located up and down the entire coast.  If they detected any military boats or aircraft that didn’t belong, they sent out a warning. Having not heard of these defenses before, we wondered aloud, ” What sort of things like this exist today that we don’t know about?”

We drove to the national park visitor center in Crescent City the next day to get our bearings.  We had business to take care of that required good wifi, so we knew our time would be limited in the park. We made good use of the local library’s wifi, and checked out town before heading out to see the big trees.

Battery Point lighthouse sits just off the mainland.  There is a trail out to it that is accessible only at low tide.

From there, we drove up into a grove of trees northeast of town.

The height on the coastal redwoods can get quite a bit taller than sequoias, even though they aren’t as old or as big around.

Even after they’ve fallen, they are gigantic!

They are so rot resistant, large trees take root in them and grow to impressive heights before the nurse log has a chance to decay.  

After spending nearly a month exploring California, we arrived in Oregon on Tuesday, May 23rd. Our first stop was in Port Orford.  We drove out to Cape Blanco to check out the lighthouse and the westernmost point in the contiguous United States.

The wind was blowing so hard, we had trouble holding our footing!  It was incredible!

On Wednesday, we arrived at Carl G. Washburne State Park north of Florence, Oregon.

This is our campsite for the month of June, as we will be interpretive hosts just south of here at…

…Heceta Head Lighthouse!  This sentinel has held a special place in our hearts since we visited it during a special nighttime tour back in 1996. We will be giving tours until the end of June, when we will be moving on to a different adventure. Our internet is non-existent at our campsite, but we do get service in the day use and at the lighthouse. If we are slow to respond to comments, that’s why.   Please stay tuned as we explore the central Oregon coast over the next month!

Joining the Amazon CamperForce

When we decided to retire, become fulltime RVers and travel North America, we knew we would want to supplement our retirement savings on occasion.  That would be accomplished through ‘work camping’, which involves some sort of work being done in exchange for a campsite. Our jobs the past two summers at Wild Cherry provided us a free place to stay in a fabulous location for two easy days of work each week.  Many of these campgrounds offer fulltimers additional compensation after a certain number of hours to entice us rolling retirees to come and work for them.  Recognizing the work ethic this segment of society has to offer, several companies that have nothing to do with camping are jumping on this bandwagon.  One of the biggest examples of this is the online retailer, Amazon.com.

To pass along a little history, Amazon.com was founded as Cadabra, Inc in 1994 by Jeff Bezos in his garage in Bellevue, Washington.  

One of his lawyers misunderstood the name to be cadaver, so Bezos changed it to Amazon, as the Amazon River was “exotic and different.”  It’s also the biggest river in the world, just as he hoped his company would be.  Furthermore, he noted that it was at the top of the alphabet, thereby appearing at the top of an alphabetized list.  The company went online in 1995 as a book retailer (I remember that!) and eventually began selling everything from A to Z with a smile, as indicated in their logo.    

I wonder where he got that idea?

Amazon survived the dot com bubble burst and turned a profit in the fourth quarter of 2001.  The company went public with an initial public offering of stock at a price of $18 a share in 1997 (actually equal to $1.50 after three stock splits early on) and is now trading at $822 a share.  It is mind boggling to think that a person who would have invested a mere $2000 in the company in 1995 would be a millionaire today from just that one transaction!  In 22 short years, the company has over 100 billion in annual revenue (2015) and over 250,000 employees in 16 countries….and it all started in a garage.

With that kind of explosive growth, logistics come into play.  Fulfillment centers (known from here out as FC) need to be placed near airports that are serviced by shipping companies, and also near a stable workforce.  Campbellsville, Kentucky was a perfect choice, as a 1998 closing of a Fruit of the Loom textile plant left a fairly new building vacant and over 800 workers unemployed.  It was also very close to the Louisville airport (airport code SDF), also known as Worldport, United Parcel Services main hub.  The new FC in Campbellsville opened in May of 1999 and was named SDF-1…or the first FC to ship out of that airport.  Being centrally located in the United States, SDF-1 played an important role in Amazon’s success.

Amazon started offering items other than books in November of 1999.  It wasn’t long before consumer buying habits started shifting from brick-and-mortar stores to buying goods online.  In 2005, the term Cyber Monday came into existence, referring to the first workday after Black Friday, when many people sit at their desks and do their holiday shopping instead of their jobs.  The Amazon FCs started feeling the pinch, and armies of temporary employees were brought in to help with the increased workload.  In Campbellsville’s case, many were bussed in from Louisville and housed in local hotels.  As is often the case with temps, quality and attendance issues arose…and sleepy little Campbellsville was having to deal with a segment of society that tend to cause problems.  

In 2008, the FC in Coffeysville, Kansas began a pilot program to hire work campers to help with the holiday rush, known in Amazon circles as peak season. That program has since been expanded to several other FCs…including Campbellsville…and has been given the name Amazon CamperForce. The upside for the company is that the majority of these workers are retired and have a great work ethic and attendance.  The only drawback is that they tend to want to change the Amazon way of doing things, as they come from careers in which they did things differently.  That fact is stressed at orientation, saying “it’s a job, not a career”.  The company sends recruiters to RV shows around the country to recruit new workers each year.  We put our names on the list at the Tampa RV Show in January, after reading the accounts of several friends and family members who had done it in the past.  We already had ties with the company as advertisers through our Associates account (located at the bottom of each post), so we thought it would be fun to see what makes the place tick.

We arrived on October 8 to find a newly remodeled facility.  Our friends Peg and Michele who worked last year pointed out that the building is vastly improved, and is much cleaner.  The regular workers (known as Amazonians) seem genuinely happy that we are there, probably because the CamperForce can be counted on to get the job done without too much drama.  Our first morning was orientation, led by a very entertaining and informative gentleman named Kelly Calmes.  That was followed by safety school in the afternoon.  The remainder of the first week was 5 hour work days in our departments, meant to harden us for the 10 hour days that were to follow.  We were assigned to packing, which I will talk more about in a future post.  


Looking pretty good at 6:15 AM for Breast Cancer Awareness Week!

For now, I will leave it at this:  our first week went really well. We found the work, the environment and people enjoyable.  We are amazed at the process, and I kept finding myself looking back to my career in manufacturing and thinking ‘THIS is how we should have done things’.  Granted, their system is not perfect…but when you consider that almost every package they deliver is on time and correct, it’s pretty darned slick.

And it all started in a garage just a mere 22 years ago…
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explorRVistas is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon .com. Shopping through our link doesn’t add anything to your cost, but it does help support this blog. Thank you for shopping through exploRVistas!