Campground hosting in Alaska – what we do

By July 13, 2018 Adventure/Travel
campground hosting in Alaska

Lots of folks have asked us questions about what we do as campground hosts in Alaska. This blog is our attempt to share most of the details of our daily and weekly duties.

The daily rounds

Trail River Campground is located in the middle of the Chugach National Forest on the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska. Our closest town is six miles away and we almost no services (we do have a sewer dump at our site and can mostly send and receive text messages plus the occasional phone call). It’s a fairly remote location, though.

As hosts, we have a few of primary duties:

  1. Cleaning
  2. Paperwork and reservations
  3. Being a “presence” at the campground

campground host trailer

1. Cleaning

This a is a BIG part of our job as campground hosts in Alaska. Our campground has 91 sites spread over three loops, plus a group area (with eight dedicated campsites sites, pavilion, volleyball area, and playground), plus a day-use area with six dedicated picnic areas. On site there are also hand-pump water stations for each loop (including the day use area and the group sites).

This means – on a daily basis – we could be cleaning 18 pit toilets, emptying 28 garbage cans, and picking trash out of 105 fire pits.

We start our day by putting on our official dark green campground host T-shirts, and often, layering our dark green campground host sweatshirts over top of them. If it’s raining really hard (it often rains here on the Kenai Peninsula) we’ll add rain jackets as part of our outfit.

Next, we hook up our small trailer to “Bob” (our small, yellow 2003 Chevy Tracker ZR2). On the trailer, we have stocked cleaning supplies including sprayer bottles of Pine Sol and bleach (not together…ever), a pump sprayer with Pine Sol, rolls of paper towels, acres of trash bags, and one long handled poop scrubber (remember the 28 pit toilets?). We also carry a broom, rake, shovel, long-handled trash grabber and small trash can.

campground hosting =lots of toilet paperWe drive to the first set of pit toilets, check their two garbage cans, and garbage bags inside the pit toilet rooms. Then we clean the each pit toilet inside and out and replace toilet paper when necessary. The whole place gets swept and then we’re done. Off we go to the next set of trash cans and toilets. Wheeeee!!!

As we’re driving through the campground (almost 3 miles in total), we’re looking at people’s campsites for reservations (more on that later) and for cleanliness (more on that later, too) as well as looking for stray trash around the campground that people drop, that the wind might have picked up, or that the magpies or ravens decides looks interesting to play with.

On a quiet weekday, we tend to make our rounds in the afternoon and can take us just over an hour. On weekends, we do rounds twice a day and each time can take us between 2-3 hours depending on how dirty the pit toilets are or how full the trash cans are.

Here are a couple things open for debate: trash or not trash?

We are seeing a couple of trends.

  • Folks are leaving bottles on tables with flowers in them. The flowers come from the campground.
  • People have started painting rocks and placing them all around the campground. A couple of times the picnic tables have been ruined by paint, glue and glitter from these “decorations.”

Do you think these items are trash or not?

are painted rocks trash?is this trash or a decoration?










2. Paperwork and Reservations

Twice a week we get a printout (between 9 – 13 pages long) of reservations for the upcoming 2-3 weeks. There’s too many boring, tedious details to share about the daily sheets Bean has to slog each morning, so we’ll skip that. But twice a week we’re cleaning the weather-proof plastic reservation cards and making new ones to put out for the upcoming reservations.  Bean especially likes to get on her three-wheel trike and pedal around the campground pulling off old reservation cards and adding new ones. While she’s riding around, she’s got the trash picker and a bucket and cleans a surprising amount of plastic, tin foil, glass, and aluminum out the firepits. People don’t seem to understand that firepits ARE NOT TRASHCANS.

fire pits are NOT trash cans

All week, and especially on weekends, our task is to answer endless questions about how payment and reservations work and to make amends when we inevitably miss or mess up a reservation. With 91 sites, it’s more of an art than a science to keep track of the daily moving parts (people). Oy!

3. Being a presence

A big part of our job is to be onsite, especially during the evenings and on weekends. We drive around or ride the bikes often just checking things out. If there’s a messy campsites (we’re looking for food, beverages, cooking items that have been left out or coolers that are unsecured). If people are around, we remind them they are in bear country. This year we’ve had what we think is the same black bear wander through at least three times (he was spotted twice over two weeks and last week he left us a nice pile of scat in the middle of the road at the end of the Eagle Loop).

We’ve also been called on half a dozen times to remind folks quiet hours are from 10 pm – 6 am. We can’t “enforce” this (no gun, no badge dontcha know), but usually just our appearance and having a casual, friendly conversation helps people to pipe down. It also helps that Yukon is a big guy, near six feet tall, with broad shoulders, a big beard, and deep matter-of-fact voice. People take note when he makes a request. And, as we’ve had twice, when he threatens to call the state troopers if we get another complaint, that’s pretty effective, too.

As you’ve read, what we do as campground hosts here in Alaska isn’t difficult.

We aren’t saving whales or doing brain surgery. Heavy bags of trash can be a pain to sling into the dumpsters and sometimes we have to put some serious muscle into scrubbing out the pit toilets.

Overall, besides living in a national forest in Alaska, the best part of the job is the people we get to interact with. The folks we meet are ridiculously nice. Their questions, while repetitive to us, are important to them. We get a lot of satisfaction helping people out. The few frustrations we’ve had have been part of the learning curve of being first-time hosts at a 91 site facility and figuring out how to effectively manage conflict between groups of campers.

This particular campground is especially nice because we get a lot of folks from Anchorage who consider this “their” campground. They come back multiple weekends over the summer and a repeat group of friends (Hi, Teresa and Dave and Dale and Sandy) have had us over for dinner during the 4th of July holiday and gifted us with tasty adult beverages. Sure, there are the tourists who come and stay, but mostly we see them for one or two days as they are heading to somewhere new and fabulous on their Alaska vacation. It’s all about the people, people!

At some point, we’ll write a blog about some of the neat folks we’ve met here in Alaska. I wish we’d gotten pictures with them!

If you have any questions or comments about this blog, don’t be shy! We love hearing your thoughts and answering your questions.

outhousestrash cans

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  • Reply Torg July 14, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    Thanks for all the great details in this piece. I enjoyed hearing how long your rounds take and the distance around the campground. Any idea how long you will be in this spot?

    • Reply Angie Stegall July 15, 2018 at 9:42 pm

      We plan to be here through Labor Day. Maybe a few weeks longer if a project for Nelson comes through.

  • Reply Julie July 17, 2018 at 12:22 pm

    Hi! We’re the Cooper Creek hosts. :). Picking flowers isn’t trash though I wonder about the “if everyone did it” mentality. We have issues with folks cutting down trees for marshmallow sticks (yes, really) so at what point is one okay; the other not. I actually jave flowers on my table that someone left behind – not in water but stuck in the table. Rocks!!! Personally I hate it! IMHO it’s no different than carving a name in a tree or taking birch bark off trees. What bugs me most is they leave them behind for us to deal with. If they are so ‘special’ take them home as a souvenir of the trip. Love your firepit is NOT a trash can! I made a kiosk that liss the five-star camper and along with fire pits is toilet etiquette, dogs on leashes, using the bear box, and no cutting of trees! Came by the other day to meet you two but you weren’t there. :).

    • Reply Angie Stegall July 17, 2018 at 2:19 pm

      You get it! 🙂 I hope we’ll have an opportunity to meet you in the future.

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