Our Summer Volunteering at Oregon State Parks

Heading to Tugman State Park

We left the southwest in April to make our way back to Oregon after spending the winter there. We had scheduled May through August to volunteer at three Oregon State Parks. We needed to get back for our first host job beginning in May at Tugman State Park. This state park is near and dear to our hearts.  We have camped there several times over the years. We also paddled Eel Lake many times a year because it was so close to our home we had in Coos Bay.

The month of May turned out to be very rainy. We only had about 5-7 days where it didn’t rain. We were beginning to wonder why we came back to Oregon so soon!  We have many friends on the South Coast so we were able to get together with several during the month.  Some of our geocaching friends even camped at Tugman during our stay.  I had lunch with former co-workers and friends nearly every week. One of our Portland kids made reservations to stay in a yurt near us. It was so fun to see them.

Family Time

One of our main reasons for volunteering at Oregon State Parks is to be close to our kids during the summer months. We schedule with parks that are near where they live so we could visit with them.

Mike’s daughter and kids live in North Bend but unfortunately we didn’t get to see them much during that month. Being it was right near the end of the school year, Mike’s daughter was steeped in her studies prior to her graduation from where I worked for years, Southwestern Oregon Community College.  Our four grandkids were also busy with school so the weekends were the only chance to see them. Unfortunately, we had to work on the weekends. That was such a bummer. We did enjoy one of our granddaughter’s softball games a couple of times though. It was so fun to see her all grown up playing with her teammates!

Champoeg State Heritage Area

We made our way to Champoeg State Heritage Area which is between Salem and Portland in June. Like last year, we hosted at the Visitor Center during the month of June and July.  We requested the same campsite and got it! We love that campground, it’s in a beautiful area. We work 2 days on and have 4 days off. You couldn’t ask for a better schedule than that! Since it isn’t far from Portland, we were able to spend lots of time seeing our two kids and their families. Not only did they come out to see us a few times, we made our way to Portland often to see them.

At the end of June, my New York City daughter flew in. She came with our nearly 18 year old grandson, who ended up staying with us for two weeks while were were there. My daughter could only stay a few days, but it was great to see her since she hasn’t been to Oregon for a couple of years. Right before leaving Champoeg in July, our grandson came back with us after spending one week with my brother in Washington and another week with his dad, visiting Oregon from New York.

Mike’s youngest daughter was graduating with her Masters Degree in Social Work. We were so fortunate to get an invite from her to be there and watch her graduate in June. It makes us extremely happy as parents & grandparents when our kids want us to be a part of their special moments.

Smith Rock State Park

Following Champoeg, we headed for Central Oregon.  Oh yes, one more kid to camp host by! Mike’s daughter & family live in Bend, so we like hosting at Smith Rock State Park not too far from them. It was so good to spend time with them. For the first week after we arrived we still had our NYC grandson with us. He and our Bend granddaughter get along great so we had a chance to take them out to Sparks Lake to paddle and swim during a really hot day. Our coast kids paid a visit to Bend and we had a chance to see them a couple of hours one afternoon!

We love Central Oregon, it’s such a beautiful place. However, the fires in Oregon have been a problem the last couple of weeks and have made for some really smokey conditions. This kind of put a damper on some of my photography goals while there.

One highlight of being at Smith Rock is that we had a chance to experience the solar eclipse during totality. Though the park was crowded with visitors that had traveled from all over the world to Central Oregon, things went pretty smoothly. It was a surreal experience, one I won’t easily forget!

Final thoughts on Volunteering

Mike & I decided we would take a break from volunteering for the state parks. Next summer, instead of hosting, we’ll be traveling to locations that we are only able to get to after the snow melts. We are itching to get to places like Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park and other higher elevation locations we have never been to before.  We may volunteer in the future, but for now we’ve made no commitments.