Retirees make travel work
When Dwight and Jane Gooding of Marion retired in 2008, they knew they wanted to travel around the country. So for their first trip, they went to North Carolina, up the east coast, and into Canada before returning home.
“I enjoy seeing the countryside, the scenery that’s out there,” Dwight said.
They really enjoyed the trip, but it showed them that they couldn’t afford to travel as much as they wanted to in their retirement, Jane said. They looked for ways to stretch their travel budget, and a friend suggested “work-camping.”
Work-camping involves working part-time at a campground in return for having camping and utility fees waived. In some cases additional pay is involved.
The Goodings found opportunities at online clearinghouses that help match volunteers and parks. They had their first work-camping experience in 2009 at Mueller State Park in Colorado.
At Mueller State Park, they each worked two hours a day five days a week cleaning campsites and restrooms. The short working hours gave them plenty of time to see sights and visit family in the area. They returned to Mueller State Park in 2010.
In 2011, the Goodings worked at a park near Ferndale, Wash. The park was 90 to 100 miles north of Seattle, 15 miles from the Canadian border, and 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean.
“It was cool because we were right at the ocean, and 60 miles away we were in the mountains,” Jane said.
The area had a lot of berry farms — blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries.
“There were wild blackberries at the campground,” Jane said. “Every couple of days, Dwight would pick a gallon of blackberries. We lived on blackberries.”
In Washington they worked six hours a day — four days on and two days off. Jane worked in a shop and at a registration office, and Dwight did campsite maintenance. With the longer working hours, they were paid.
This year they aren’t work-camping. They have home maintenance they needed to do this summer.
“We plan to go again next year, health allowing,” Jane said.
They want to go back to Colorado in 2013. One of their grandchildren in Colorado will be graduating from high school, and they want to spend more time with family.
Even before their semi-retirement, the Goodings made their way through much of the U.S. Dwight was a truck driver, and between his work and their recreational travels, they have been to every state except Hawaii.
Their favorite places to travel have been in cooler climates. They agree that Minnesota, Michigan, and Maine are places they want to return to. They avoided the terrible heat that baked Marion County in 2011. Jane said temperatures in Washington seldom passed 85 degrees.
They said they made a lot of good friends while working at parks and stay in touch with some of the people they’ve met. While working in Colorado, Dwight even ran into one of his high school classmates.
Most parks use work-campers between the beginning of May and the end of September. The Goodings don’t think they would want to stay anywhere longer than that.
“With travel time and all, we were gone six months last year,” Jane said.
They’ve talked about selling their house and traveling full-time, but they like the security of having a house.
Their miniature Schnauzer, Zoey, is their constant companion on their work-camping trips.
“She’s a good traveler,” Jane said. “She always goes with us. But she’s getting old; we’ll see how she does next year. The dog just loves to climb on rocks.”
The Goodings hope for a work-camping opportunity in 2013 at Mountaindale, Colo. After that, places they would like to spend a summer include Maine, northern Montana near Glacier National Park, the Tetons, and Yellowstone National Park.
Last modified July 19, 2012