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Old 03-31-2009, 09:07 AM   #1
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Work Camping and How We Found our Jobs

After getting a few emails from fellow RV'ers who were asking us how we got our jobs in Yellowstone this summer, I thought I'd post a thread if others were interested.

For those that dont know yet, Cindy and I will be working in Yellowstone National Park this summer season which will allow us to enjoy the park and earn a little traveling money for the remainder of the year.

While traveling in Baja last winter, we met a couple who has worked in Yellowstone for the last four summers. Like us, they had decided to leave the day to day life earlier than the usual retirement age to travel while they still had their youth and could hike, bike, climb and do the things a young body allows you to do.

Like us, they realized that traveling fulltime is very expensive and they were going to blow through their money much faster than they had planned on. We figured this out the hard way when we spent all our savings within the first 2 years.

What they found was working for 5 months out of the year with the National Park System was a way to be in the great outdoors and earn a little money so they wouldnt have to touch their savings. They told us they earn enough money while working, that the rest of the year is a break even and they've yet to touch that savings money.

When we visited Yellowstone last June, we met back up with them and stayed a few nights talking about how nice it would be to work there. With both Cindy and I being photographers, spending 5 months in Yellowstone would be a dream come true.



So we applied for the jobs for this coming summer (You have to apply almost a year in advance for the job) and found out we were chosen to work at the Old Faithful General Store.

Now you dont actually work for the National Park System. You work for a contract company that runs all the concessions in the park. There are two concessionaires who have the contracts, one being Xanterra and one being Delaware North.

Delaware North is the company we're working for and after talking with many people who work there currently or have worked for them in the past, we heard nothing but positive feedback.

I regret to say we didnt hear the same about Xanterra. I cant speak from experience as I've never worked for them myself, but we did get a few emails warning us we wouldnt like the summer stint until they found out we werent working for Xanterra.

Once we told them we were working for Delaware North, they were like "Oh, well in that case you'll love it!"

So the job includes a Employee campsite which costs $5 per day. Each site has its own electrical meter so you get billed at the end of the month for your electricity usage, but water is included.

Since we have Solar Panels, we asked that we be put in the most sunny location we could, and were told "that wouldnt be a problem as most campers want a shady spot." We figured if we'll be working during the daytime, there is no use in using electricity and can live like we do on the road and run the inverter at night so hopefully unless its very hot and we have to run the A/C, we wont have a electrical bill

Pay is just minimum wage, but they offer an employee meal program that comes out to $4 per meal and you eat at the employee cafeteria. At first we both thought "I dont really want to eat at a cafeteria every day" but after talking with folks who already work there, they all recommended we go for the meal program.

The nearest city is Jackson Hole which is a 45 minute drive from Yellowstone. If you want to drive that far each time you need to replenish your groceries, in the long run they will cost a fortune. We figure we'll keep a stock pile of munchies and meals that we can fix if we dont want to eat in the cafeteria that day, but how can you beat a full meal for $4. And no clean up afterwards! Heck, that's worth it for me!

We have to report to work the First week of June, and we are required to work through the first week of October. This will give us a full array of seasons in Wyoming to experience and when we leave in October, there will probably be snow on the ground.

If you are a couple working together, then they allow you to have the same days off together (Not sure if Cindy is happy about this ) And you never work more than 35 hours per week. That is the cut off between fulltime and part time.

For us, we asked if we could wait tables as we both come from a service industry background. Since we used to own a bar, we know how to provide quality service and working for tips is a way to earn extra income over and above the hourly wage.

We got positions in what they call the Soda Fountain, inside the Old Faithful General Store which only serves Burgers, Hot Dogs and Sodas like a 50's style diner. This should be a cake walk after working for too many years dealing with beer, whiskey and a full service kitchen pumping out a 3 page menu. Hopefully if I'm not too rusty, I should be able to work this job with my eyes closed.

Plus, table turn over is a big deal here because everyone is on vacation. So they only want to get in, grab a bite to eat and get back out to see as much of this 22 million acre park as possible. When we owned the bar, table turnover was something you wanted to avoid because the longer they stayed, the more they drank and the more money we made.

Delaware North also offers benefits if we want to chose that option, but we're waiting till we get up to the park and go through our orientation before we decide if we want to accept them. Just thought I'd mention that.

Since the employee campground is a short 1/4 mile walk from the General Store, driving our truck will be only for days we want to go explore the park or head into Jackson Hole. We hope that we'll be able to bank 90% of our income to save for travel expenses once we get back out on the road.

If we do need to just make a short trip somewhere, we always have the Motorcycle or our pedal bikes which get much better fuel economy than the F-250 does.

So I think that's explains what you have to do if you want to work in one of the major National Parks and should answer most of the questions we've been getting asked.



I know that Delaware North has concessions in Yosemite, Arcadia, Grand Canyon and a few others. We're hopeing that we might be able to try out each park over the next few years which will extend our time out on the road, and offer us a chance to spend serious time in some of the major destinations around North America. Normally, you cant spend more than 14 days in many of the big national parks per year. So this offers us a unique opportunity to photograph the parks for an extended period of time and get paid to do it.



Here is a link to our Yellowstone Gallery if you would like to see the wealth of photos we captured while we visited last year. This gallery should continue to be updated trhoughout the summer as we stock pile more photos. = http://everymilesamemory.smugmug.com...0_RnCtS#P-1-15

Here is a link to Delaware North if you want to check out the company and see if something like this might ease your RV lifestyle into retirement.

http://www.delawarenorth.com/
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Old 03-31-2009, 10:57 AM   #2
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Hi Pat,

Thanks for taking the time to post this information. Great stuff and what a fantastic opportunity. Have fun and enjoy your summer.

Hutch
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Old 03-31-2009, 12:59 PM   #3
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Very Interesting

That's really good information.

I can't rememember if I related this information but it's related to park employment.

While hiking about the ruins in Gila National Park in NM we met a park volunteer, apparently working for the NPS. At this location they were giving a campground site, propane and paid $10 an hour. He and his wife were truly enjoying their stay. She worked at the Visitor's Center and he as a guide to and thru the ruins.

This is a truly remote park but absolutely beautiful and very different from Yellowstone. There are just so many wonderful places to visit and jobs that make it all possible.

Notm Milliard
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Old 03-31-2009, 01:06 PM   #4
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Hi Pat, Thanks for the info. We always wondered how workcampers found their jobs. Did you go directly through the delawarenorth website or does the National Park Service have a website for applying? The other thing I've always wondered is what are the tax consquences of workcamping in one state while being a resident of a different state, and if you get your site for free (which I realize you don't at Yellowstone) does Uncle Sam consider the value of that site taxable income? What you're doing sounds like a great plan to keep you guys on the road almost indefinitely! The call of the road didn't grab us yet...but you never know...so I keep freecycling stuff and throwing out stuff...just in case
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Old 03-31-2009, 02:18 PM   #5
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We knew this type of work would be mandatory to stay on the road.

Cindy had been looking for some work camper positions and we had gotten a call back from Glacier National Park Campground which was listed on their site and you were working for the park service, but there was no pay involved.

Just a free campsite with full hookups and $35 per week provided for fuel to go into town to get supplies.

We sort of fell into this one, and you would contact Delaware North themselves, not Yellowstone

Hopefully this will be our ticket to staying on the road indefinately
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Old 04-19-2009, 07:47 AM   #6
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Pat & Cindy,

Jan and I will be arriving in Yellowstone about May 25 or 26. I am finishing up a year long job in New Mexico and we are taking a shortcut home to Missouri through the northwest.

It would be great if we could meet. We plan on staying at Fishing Bridge campground.
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Old 04-26-2009, 05:52 PM   #7
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Hey Paul, we dont report to work till the first week of June, but depending on how long your stay will be, feel free to shoot us an email and we'd be happy to meet up for a night of story telling
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Old 04-27-2009, 07:33 PM   #8
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Our current itenerary has us in Yellowstone May 21 through the 24th. I doubt that will change by more than a day or two.

How are you getting there? We plan on being at Horsethief campground near Rapid City SD the 26, 27 and 28.

If not this trip, maybe we'll see you another time. I'm retiring (again) and hope to try and wear this Sunline out with traveling.
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Old 11-25-2009, 12:40 PM   #9
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I thought I would update this so others thinking about this type of work would know what we learned after a full season of working in a National Park.



We didnt make it more than a month at our original job. I'm thinking for the simple reason that we used to own a high turn-over type of restaurant and ran things a certain way, this job we were working was run a completely backwards way...i.e. Corporate (Devil)

I guess if you're used to following rules that dont make sense, and do things that you see a company losing money at, yet dont mind speaking up to try and change those things, then you'll do fine at this job, for us, we just couldnt handle the nonsense.



When a boss is telling me to do something that is completely backwards from the way it should be done, simply because that's how its always been done, I'm not the type to just follow the rules. So there was major head butting going on which wasnt a fun working environment.

There are two companies that have 90% of the jobs in Yellowstone. Xantera, voted by Forbes magazine as the 3rd worst company in the world to work for, and Delaware North, the company we worked for.

Xantera hires plenty of young kids and has one of the higest turn over rates I've ever seen in my life. I was amazed by the amount of guests we'd have come into our diner that would be complaining about the service, or lack of given by this company.



How can the Crown Jewel of the National Parks be run by a company that leaves guests from all over the world with a bad taste in their mouth?

Even more complaints were heard by the employees of Xantera who all came into our diner to eat because they were saying the food they were served was awful. First rule of the Service Industry is "If you're employees arent happy, then they arent that eager to provide quality service."

Our company wasnt all that bad to work for, the main complaint was the hours. They require you to work a split shift that means even though you only work an 8 hour day, the shift keeps you tied to it for well over 10-12 hours. Much of those hours not being paid to work at.



You would show up for a few hours of work, have a few hour break, but short enough that you couldnt really go do anything or enjoy the park, then have to report back to work for a few more hours.

Most of us employees were begging to be put on straight shifts, but in a corporate world, rules are rules and there is no gray area, EVERYTHING is Black and White.

Being as we really wanted to enjoy the park and seeing that this was almost impossible to do, we felt like we were wasting our time with this job, and both decided to quit. We werent the only ones, since we stayed working in Yellowstone, we talked with our old fellow employees throughout the season and noticed all of them were quite upset that we had the balls to quit, as all of them wanted to but felt to obligated to actually leave. Many employees quit or left early not finishing out their contract, so we werent the only ones.



Cindy and I both have an understanding that if we're doing something we dont like, we're really the only ones who can change it, so we see no need in sticking around with something that is making us miserable.

What we found instead was work at the Yellowstone Association. This is a non-profit organization that works with the Park System in educating the guests with knowledge of the park, its wildlife and uniqueness.

Almost every park system has its own Non-Profit organization within its network that helps raise money for the park. Since most of the National Parks are so underfunded, we felt that this job was much more rewarding than working at a diner that wasnt worried about the guests experience of their visit and more worried about the bottom line profit numbers.



At the diner, the place was so understaffed, almost every guest was complaining about the time it took to get their overpriced, low quality food, and it didnt make for a good working atmosphere for all involved. You dreaded going to work knowing the service issue was out of your hands. You can only say "Im Sorry the food is taking so long" so many times.

But working for the Yellowstone Association in the book store was a completely different experience. It was now fun to go to work because everyone you dealt with wanted to purchase that book. They came to you asking which book you'd recommend for animals, geysers, hikes...etc.

There was no complaints and you came home each day knowing all those books sold were going to the park to help build new boardwalks and maintain attractions that are already in place.



The atmosphere at the Yellowstone Association was 180 degrees opposite of the 1st company we worked with. All the employees seemed happy and were great to talk with. If you were asked to do something extra, they compensated you for it rather than scold you for getting over time. It was just a really good place to work and we both had an amazing time.

If we felt we came up with a way to give the guests a better experience, they were happy to impliment it and encourage us to think up better ways to make the company run more smoothly.

Plus, you worked straight shifts. We only worked 3 sometimes 4 days per week, and had the rest of the week to enjoy the park. On our days off, we werent so tired that we just felt like staying in the camper to rest and we could actually go out and enjoy the park.

While working, you were encouraged to read the books so when asked questions about them you knew what you were talking about. With Cindy and I both being avid readers, this was a dream come true. We had hundreds of amazing books and couldnt soak up enough of them in the few months we worked there.



Since we didnt have to be at the book store till 9am, this meant we could go hiking early in the morning when the animals were most active. The book store closed at 5pm, and we were usually back at the camper by 5:30, so we would still have time to go back out for another hike to fully enjoy the park.

All in all, our experience was amazing and we're really glad we stayed in yellowstone for the entire season. I cant imagine how bad of a taste we would have if we would have remained with the first company, but if we every want to do the Work Camper thing again, we both know that we'd find a Non-profit in one of the National Parks and work for them with big smiles on our faces.

[/img]
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Old 11-25-2009, 02:38 PM   #10
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So what you're saying is that this is yet another thing that our government is responsible for that is a mess.

Beautiful photos. I love Yellowstone. Heck, I love most anything west of the Mississippi except California.
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Old 11-25-2009, 03:07 PM   #11
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California has much to love. North of San Francisco is beautiful, particularly the coast. Death Valley is as wonderous as Yellowstone, though Yellostone is my favorite. Yosemite is something not to miss.

Of course California is in the midst of self created crisis. There is certainly much to dislike but also much to like. In our travels I've learned that every state has wonders, places I could have lived comfortably.

As well there are places, as well as attitudes, every where that in some sense keep me traveling seeking the wonder in states and people, avoiding the dislikeable.

I admit to enjoying RVers, a generally happy group, possibly because they have the freedom to flee what displeases them and seek that which brings joy.


My first mentor told me to maximize the "fun integral", I've modified it to "Seek Joy".
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Old 11-25-2009, 03:29 PM   #12
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emam,

Sent you a pm.

Pics are beautiful. Glad you found happier circumstances.
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Old 11-25-2009, 04:55 PM   #13
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Pat and Cindy

Welcome back! Missed you for a while and those really great pics you 2 take. Breathtaking…. Thank you for sharing.

As I read your post, one of those great pic would just pop in, no explanation, just nature at it’s best. Had to stop reading for sure…..

Glad things worked out for you.

John
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Old 11-25-2009, 05:09 PM   #14
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Pat

I was showing my DW (Cindy) your pics and we came upon this one. I said look at this one, it’s like right out of a TV show…


Then she said, the 1st thought that came to her mind was Old Forge NY. We went to the ADK M & G this year we arrived early. So that night we went into town for something to eat. We are sitting in the Subway on main street here come 5 deer across the street like they own the place and start munching on the flower gardens what is left of them….

I grew up on a farm and have seen deer all the time so that was no shock. But never is that closeness to people. They do not flinch when they see a tractor, but dash when they see a truck. Guess tractors are suppose to be there. Trucks are invaders.

Obviously the wild life in Yellowstone is use to people. By the way, is that a mule deer or some other long distant cousin? A mini Elk? The white tail deer of the northeast have a different horn makeup and the chest is different. Legs too.

John
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