Saturday, July 2, 2016

Camp Hosting at Baker Park Reserve - The Best of Both Worlds

We've had the great opportunity for our first Camp Host position at Baker Park Reserve Campground during the month of June. This beautiful campground, located 20 miles west of Minneapolis, is operated by the Three Rivers Park District. As we explored some of the many parks and trails that they manage, we've discovered that we don't have to venture too far from the Twin Cities to find the tranquility of nature. Baker Park Reserve is the best of both worlds!

We originally stayed at Baker Park in 2014 on the maiden voyage of the Wildebeest. Chris was volunteering at a nearby camp as a nurse for kids with asthma. Doug used the time to test and learn about the systems in the Wildebeest. Unfortunately, he found the first of a few repair "issues" ... the water tank dump valve leaked, so the water tank wouldn't hold water. It turned into our first "dry camp" experience. Chris had more success with her volunteer work than Doug had with the Wildebeest, but we learned a lot ... including how beautiful this park on the shores of Lake Independence was.

The Wildebeest at Baker Park - June 2014

Last fall, Chris noticed that Baker Park posted a camp host position available for this summer. We thought that this would be a good location for us, since our sons live nearby in Minneapolis. We quickly put in our application, and hoped for the best. Doug included the link to our blog with the application so that the staff could get to know us better. We think that helped, as we were selected for an interview with Bruce in December when we were in Minneapolis for Christmas. The position sounded perfect for us (15 hours a week for just a month), and we hoped for the best. We were happy to be selected to be one of the camp hosts for the summer and arranged to camp host for the month of June.

First day on the job at Baker Park

The Best of Camp Hosting!
Baker park has a fairly large campground with over 200 sites and 5 cabins that can be rented. The sites are either non-electric, 30 amp electric, or 50/30 amp electric. There is a water fill station, dump station, several bathrooms, a couple shower houses, and a dish-washing facility ... all which are very well maintained. The host site is the only full hookup site in the park, which is really nice when you are staying for a month.

Baker Park Cabin

To earn our keep (which gives us a free place to stay for the month), we are available at the host site on Sunday through Thursday evenings from 7pm-10pm to answer questions, help late arrivals with self-registration and to find their site, make sure the woodpile stays stocked, and do a bit of patrolling to remind people of the rules (primarily that you are not supposed to park on the grass). The park is generally fully booked on Friday and Saturday nights (which is when we are not on duty and there is paid staff in place). Sunday through Thursday the park is much quieter.

Golf cart driving lessons much less nerve-wracking than Wildebeest driving lessons!

The Best of Cycling!
This schedule gifted us with quite a bit of time to explore the area, of which we took full advantage. While Baker Park is 25 miles from downtown Minneapolis, the park itself is very isolated from traffic and the big city. There is a nice lake and beach as well as a lot of bike trails - so it's a great place to relax when not out and about. Shopping is an easy eight mile drive with no stop lights and good roads until you get to the shopping district.

The Sabo Bike Bridge

Bicycling is a big interest for us, and with the bike path practically at our front door, we did a lot of bike rides to explore the area. It is easy to get to some of the little towns around us staying primarily on bike trails. You can even get to downtown Minneapolis directly from the campground entirely on bike trails (though we haven't done that yet, since it is 25 miles one way). We found that driving into Hopkins and getting on the Midtown Greenway trail gave us some nice options for getting into Minneapolis and exploring the city with some more reasonable distances. 

The Best of Recycling!

One of our "jobs" as host was to promote some of Baker Park Reserve's programs ... especially "Recycling and Composting" program. Since recycling is one of Chris' passions, this would be easy!

The state of Minnesota has always been a leader with recycling, and Baker is no different. At check-in, the staff gives campers a blue bag for recycling, and a biodegradable white bag for composting. We are familiar with the recyclable items, but have not done much composting because of inability to dispose of them. But Chris quickly had a system in place, and Doug had to once again change the way he does things, and put the morning coffee grounds in the composting container rather than the garbage.

We should have known, but were still amazed at the drastic decrease in the amount of "garbage" we produced for the landfills. The picture below shows the amount of garbage (left) we had for the month, the amount of recyclables (center) and compost (right) that we had for a week. Watermelon, being our favorite fruit, would quickly fill the compost bag with its rind. We realized many benefits with Baker's recycling and composting program, and we hope that the rest of the county and state parks that we stay at all around our beautiful country can get on board also!

The Best of Places to Meet Family and Friends!
Of course, one of the best benefits of being able to serve as camp host at Baker was being able to spend time reconnecting with dear family and friends in the area ...

Picnic at the campground with our sons
Reunion with college friends on Lake Minnetonka
A former co-worker found the Wildebeest's current parking spot!
My best friend from grade school lives just up the road!
Our campfire buddies from Florida found us up North!

... as well as making new friends. 

A group of campers proudly show off their "caterpiller home"

A green tree frog was found on our roof ... a local friend or stow away from the South?

We hit the jackpot with our first camp host position! Baker Park is truly the best of both worlds - a quiet rural retreat (especially during the week), with big city activities close by.

Until next time ... appreciate the special people and places that surround you ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!
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