Traveling Thursday
August 9, 2018

How would you like to live in one of the amazing state parks in your state…  for free?  It could happen. It happened for us during 2017. We lived in our RV from March until August at Eisenhower State Park at Lake Texoma. Granted, Scott was still working in Irving at the time, but we enjoyed our five months at the lake and never had to pay for a day of our stay.  I can hear your comments of surprise and doubt, but it’s true. I was working as a Park Host through the Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Park Hosting Program.  We were allowed to live on site in one of the campsites in exchange for my working as a host 20 hours a week. My duties were not hard at all, but rather fun and enjoyable.

What exactly is a park and/or campsite host? This is a person who supplements the park staff to help them take care of the park and their visitors. Often you will find the hosts are retired seniors living in their RVs; some are fulltime travelers while others only host during certain seasons of the year. Not all park hosts are seniors, you will find younger couples involved; however, it is not as often. The work these volunteers do varies from customer service duties such as greeting visitors at the front gate to cleaning bathrooms and campsites to assisting the office staff in the office. Some parks even encourage their park hosts to help out with activities like group hikes, nature presentations and the like.  The hours a volunteer will work varies from state park to state park.  Where one state may only require 20 hours per week per couple another state will require up to 40 hours a week divided between a couple.  In exchange for their work, the park provides a campsite with hookups. These volunteer positions are viewed as ambassadors of the parts, being examples of what a model camper should be.

During my time as park host, I found the work enjoyable. I was one of the customer service clerks in the office and out in the gatehouse where we helped to guide and check-in guests and take entry fees. The people were excited about their time at the park and often shared their stories from their day. When I was not working at the gate or office, I could be found assisting with guided hikes and nature presentations. This was one of my favorite activities because I was able to meet people from many places and see how much they appreciated the park system.  Being new to the park hosting, we were able to learn from other hosts who had been all over the state hosting and some that had only hosted at this park. Their knowledge was amazing and extremely helpful and their friendships are very cherished.

When we weren’t working, we were able to sit back and enjoy being a living at the lake. There were bike rides through the camping loop, hiking the various trails, and walks along the lake. We were able to enjoy being outdoors. There is something about sitting out by a campfire experiencing the world of nature every minute of the day. You living in the weather, no matter how rainy or hot and it becomes part of your home. I miss those days so much; hopefully, we will be able to return to park hosting in a few years.

Park hosting is important to our state and national parks. Hosts teach guest how to be a model camper, help parks get work done, and they enable people to get outside of their comfort zone and experience life. If you are interested in park hosting in your state’s parks, head over to their website and see how you can start today.

Safe travels everyone,
Ren