Let’s Talk Workamping

Let’s Talk Workamping

Need to find something to do with all your extra time? Maybe workamping is for you!

This last January we spent three months caretaking for Key’s Ranch inside Joshua Tree National Park. The caretaker position there didn’t pay a wage, but we had space for the trailer, water, garbage, and reimbursement for our propane. The job description included helping park rangers with daily tours of the ranch, helping lost hikers find their way, and making sure there were no vandals on the property. It was a simple job, and the rangers at Joshua Tree were great to work with. It was an amazing experience that I am quite grateful for.

Keys Ranch

We were just recently hired for a Fire/Equipment Watch position in Oregon.  This job description includes fire watch for a few hours after quitting time for the work crew, and equipment watch during the night and weekends. They decided to go ahead and hire for the position because some jackass used their equipment tires as target practice a few weeks ago. We are paid a daily stipend with this job, which is great. We’re responsible for our own power (solar!), water, and propane. They do provide a port-a-john, and I learned today that I have to share my port-a-john with the crew sometimes. I’m not super thrilled about this, but I think I’m going to try leaving packages of maxi pads and tampons in there to keep the guys out – I will keep you updated on how that works for me. 

This is part of the area that we are keeping watch over. (Photo credit unknown)

Now you would like to know where we find these kind of gigs, right? Well, if you wouldn’t like to know, you should go read something else.

There are a lot of workamping sites available online. Most are free, but some do charge for a membership.

Sugar Beet Harvest Short term positions offer excellent compensation and attract applicants from all over the United States and Canada.

Workamping JobsHelp Wanted Ads for Campgrounds and RV Parks looking for RV workers.

Cool Works– Jobs in Great Places. Where Do You Want To Be Tomorrow?

Workers on Wheels   – Work For RVers And Campers. Sets you free with temporary, seasonal, and mobile jobs that pay.

American Land & Leisure – Here you’ll find information about the facilities we manage and about working with AL&L.

Modern Day NomadsFollow Your Dream Job: Top Travel Jobs & Inspiration for Globetrekking, Creative Professionals

Government Volunteer Positions

Volunteer.gov – Find volunteer positions within the government at National Parks, Army corps of Engineers, etc. 

State Parks – Look up individual states to find what workamping positions they may have available, like Oregon

Craigslist – If you have a location in mind, use Craigslist.org to find workamping positions. Make sure to search under Jobs and Gigs. 

Indeed.com – Use the desired location zip code and keywords to find workamping jobs. Keywords: workamping, caretaker, host, fire watch, etc.

 

Redwoods and Trees of Mystery

Majestic.

Awe inspiring.  

Magnificent.

Grand.

Splendid.

BIG.

Just some descriptive words that come to mind in the California Redwoods.

That’s some big wood…
…that’s what she said.

We just visited the northern parts of the Redwoods, near Jedediah Smith National and State Parks. We spent a few days exploring the forests, rivers, and parks.

Howland Hill Road. An excellent motor tour through the giant trees.
How many trees can you plant in an empty forest? One. After that, it’s not empty anymore.
It takes a long time to say anything in Old Redwoodish -and we never say anything unless it is worth taking a long time to say.

Our favorite part of the visit was Trees of Mystery. Trees of Mystery allows you to bring your four-legged friends in with you! So, Rusty and Milo got to go play tourists with us and even got to ride a gondola up the SkyTrail.  Trees of Mystery is gorgeous and worth the ticket price!

Paul Bunyan and Babe are at the entrance to welcome you to Trees of Mystery.
Rusty and Milo were VERY excited about Trees of Mystery!
This guy makes me think about how I feel after too much to eat and not enough nap.

 

The Elephant Tree
Nature’s Underpass
Nom. Nom. Nom.

 

What are we doing next? We already peed on every tree here!

 

SkyTrail Gondola

 

Um. Someone is taking the ground away. We should get out. – Milo.
Rusty enjoyed the view!

 

Sand Non-Camp – California Highway 199

We don’t like to pay for our campsites, and do so as little as possible. The idea of paying an average of $40 a night to have neighbors that are too close just seems silly to us. So we use an Android app called ParkAdvisor and the website https://freecampsites.net to find hidden little gems.

Hoban (the truck) and Serenity (trailer) hiding in the forest.

Our most recent hideaway was just north of the Redwoods on Hwy 199 in California. I found it on the freecampsites.net website.

Sand Camp…?

The spot was right on the river with a vault toilet and no other campers. There were quite a few visitors during the day for potty breaks, and a few local kids that slung gravel at our truck, but it was quiet and calm most of the time there.

Those darn punk kids!

We also had a fox as a late night visitor. 

This beauty came by for a visit too.
The only water in the forest is the river.

We stayed at Sand Camp for three nights while we explored the Redwoods during the day.

I would recommend this hideaway to anyone – except on the fourth day a Park Ranger came by and told us we couldn’t camp there. Meh. Who am I to argue after three free nights? So we packed up and headed north a few days early to start our tour of the entire Oregon Coast.

…and the scenery on the way out of our non-camp.

Redding, CA

Redding, CA

According the itinerary that I loosely created for our trek back to Oregon, we were going to stop at Whiskeytown Lake, near Redding, CA, and stay for a week. Mr. Write on the Road spent some of his young wild years growing up (….although, he’s still working on that part) there, and had a friend from way back that he wanted to hang out with.

As it sometimes goes with RV Living, things didn’t work out that way. We arrived at Whiskeytown, which is run by the National Parks Service, to discover that most of the campgrounds were closed – and if the campground was open, then the road to the campground was closed. There wasn’t a heads up on their website about the closures, so I was irritated to say the least. 

We ended up driving 20 miles north of Redding to Bailey Cove Campground, which is a small campground right on Shasta Lake. It is beautiful! Lots of birds to watch, the beautiful Shasta Lake in the background, and tall, tall trees. After 3 months at Joshua Tree, I needed the fresh smell of trees and grass.

This particular feathered friend was waiting for the dogs to look away so he could pull some ninja-bird tricks and steal their food.
Our little corner of Shasta Lake during sunset.
Beautiful colors along the lake.

Because of the cost of the camp site and the distance to Redding and back to our campground, we opted for only staying two nights at Bailey Cove. The cost per night is $20 – we have an access pass to decrease the fee by 50%, but $10 a night is still too much for this frugal couple.

We spent the first day in Redding. We managed to get together with the Mr.’s long-time buddy, and it was a great time! Social media can be a real blessing when it comes to this kind of life as you are able to find long-lost friends and reconnect as you travel. If you find yourself in the Redding/Anderson area and in need of some pampering, go visit De Ja’ Vu – A Fluxx Concept Salon . Mr.’s buddy owns and operates the salon, so go check it out and leave looking fabulous!

We spent the rest of the day wandering around Redding as the Hubs showed me his old stomping grounds, including stories of a young man’s insanity. It was – interesting. 🙂

The second day was a calm, peaceful morning at the campground. Coffee, trees, and birds. The dogs took a quick swim in Shasta Lake before we got back on the road.

On the lookout for the ninja-birds.
No, sir. This is my stick. You go find your own.

Now we are off to Valley of the Rogue State Park in Oregon- and to meet our granddaughter!

 

The Keys to the Desert – Part Two

Bill Keys was more than just a homesteader. He was an eccentric genius. During his life he worked as a prospector, deputy sheriff, miner, assayer, carpenter, farmer, cattleman, stonemason, blacksmith, mechanic, dam builder, animal doctor, beekeeper, actor, husband and father. He was truly a jack of all trades.

Bill dug multiple wells on the ranch to provide water for the family. His first well was 50 feet deep, but he found only hard clay, so he turned it into an adobe well for making bricks. He dug another well close by, 30 feet deep, and this time he found water. Bill built the windmill standing near the well. He dug two others on the ranch as well, but filled one in with concrete when his mule fell in it.

Well, well, well.

Windmills…I’m a huge fan!!

Keys built an earthen dam around 1914. Bill included alcoves and tunnels in the bank that provided storage for canned goods. The earthen dam broke during a heavy rainstorm. After the earthen dam washed away, Bill built the concrete dam that still stands today. The dam formed a reservoir, which was used as irrigation for the garden and orchard, and as backup water if the wells went dry. The Keys family also used it for recreation; during the summer the children would swim and in the winter they would ice skate. Bill would stock Bluegill and Bass in the lake so they could fish as well.

There is not usually this much water, but the desert has had some rain recently.
Oh my dam!
What did the Bluegill say when it ran into the concrete wall?
Dam!!

Bill had a contract with the Forest Service to break mules for them. He would collect the mules from abandoned mining sites and bring them to the ranch to break. The mules were tied off to large beams, and when the mules were walked they moved it in a large circle. Since Bill didn’t like any resource to go to waste he built an arrastra so that the mules were being productive as they were being broken in. As the mules walked ‘round and ‘round, they were crushing ore so that gold could be collected.

 

I was Bill’s favorite!! (linked to photo credit)

Keys had also acquired and repaired a stamp mill. Bill charged other miners to process their ore for them, $5 per ton. The stamp mill took 10 hours per ton. The ore was broken into small pieces by the jaw crusher, then carried to the hopper. The ore was then hit 60 times per minute and pulverized into a fine powder. Water ran through it, which washed the powder over the amalgamation table. The table was copper coated with silver and covered with mercury. Gold would stick to the mercury as the rest of the powder washed away.

There’s gold in these here hills!

Bill’s ability to upcycle and reuse was one of the main reasons the Keys family was able to thrive in the desert. He had back problems, so he built his own backstretcher; today it is known as an inversion table.  He built Desert Coolers onto the cabins and houses; they look like window boxes covered in burlap. A pan of water was set on the top and it would slowly drip water over the burlap. Any wind that blew through would blow the burlap, cooling the water and keeping foods fresh for a time. Bill dug a car out of the desert and made it into a chicken coup.

Bills collection of abandoned items from the desert are still laid out in the yard in what a park ranger stated was the first Home Depot.

This piece is gorgeous! It has been sitting in the desert for at least 50 years.
These are older appliances that Bill was trying to sell after he purchased newer ones for Frances.
I have no idea what this is.
Tons of cans, pails, and buckets all over the ranch.

Willy’s Jeep – Bill’s favorite car.

The Keys to the Desert Part Three

The Keys to the Desert – Part One

Keys Ranch rests in the desert inside Joshua Tree National Park. It is an intriguing place where time has stood still, leaving behind an amazing view into history.  This is the story behind the eccentric genius that brought it to life.

Keys Ranch

William Keys was born on September 27, 1879 in Palisade, Nebraska. At the age of 15, Bill left home to head west. As he traveled he worked at mills, mines, and cattle ranches. Bill arrived in Twentynine Palms in 1910 and landed a job working for a large mining company called the Desert Queen. The owner of the Desert Queen died still owing Bill back wages. Bill took the Desert Queen Mine and Millsite as payment.

Bill married Frances Lawton on October 8, 1918. She had a been a big city girl, now living in a small homesteading world.

Did we just have a reverse Journey moment?

Between 1919 and 1931 Bill and Frances had seven children; three died during childhood and are buried in the ranch cemetery.

Bill and Frances Keys. (image linked to photo credit)

Bill and Frances not only survived in the desert, they prospered in it. Bill was a master of many trades. He worked construction on the ranch, mined over 16 mines, processed ore for himself and other miners in the area, and built a dam (twice). He rented cabins to war veterans that needed the space and healing attributes that the desert had to offer.

Wanting to keep the kids at the ranch in case Bill needed help, Frances home schooled the children. As more children were born and more homesteaders moved in nearby, Bill decided to build a school and hired a teacher that lived on the ranch as well.

Frances and Bill planted a large garden and orchard that grew almost everything that the family needed, plus enough left over that Frances would can the fruits and vegetables and sell them in their small store on the ranch. The Keys also kept goats, chickens, and cattle on the ranch along with bee hives to harvest honey and help pollinate  his garden.  

Bill’s biggest conquest of the desert was the dam he built to create a reservoir on the ranch. He used any type of metal that he could find the desert to strengthen the retaining wall, including bed springs.

Dammit, Bill!

Bill had a knack for knowing when other homesteaders were getting ready to abandon their land and he would go there after they had left to salvage anything that they had left behind. He acquired a 1922 chain driven Mack truck that the county of San Bernardino had abandoned it after getting it stuck in the sand.

 

Few cosmetic issues, nothing too bad. .

The battery is going to go dead if you leave the door open too long…
Studebaker Wagons

While some visitors today may look at the ranch as a bit of a junkyard, there was purpose for everything. Bill was probably the first “upcycler”. If alive today, Bill would have had the most popular Pinterest site ever.

“Aren’t you one of those guys? Those guy guys, you know, those guys with skills. You send them into the wilderness with a pocket knife and a Q-tip and they build you a shopping mall.” – Six Days, Seven Nights…also known as Harrison Ford’s biggest regret.

Read more. The Keys to the Desert Part Two.