Workamping in the US – Part 1

This series will take you back to different issues of our magazines throughout the last few years. Some of the blog posts will be about Workamping in CA state parks, solo Workamping, Alaska, along with not so typical Workamping jobs. Let’s start with Alaska!

Alaska is for sure on my bucket list to explore someday. I have seen several people on social media lately talking about their 2-4 month long trips they are planning this year and in the future. Did you know you can Workamp in Alaska too? Be sure to check out the Hotline ads and the Help Wanted ads online and in our magazines for those gems.

This story is taken from the November/December 2017 issue of Workamper News and was written by Kelly.

Please note some of the photos in this story are from the article in our magazine and some are stock photos of the area.

Way back when I was in 5th grade, my bucket list was born. My teacher assigned each child in her class to do a report on a specific state, and my state was Alaska. When I went home and opened the encyclopedia under “A,” what I read sparked my imagination. Glaciers, puffins and whales – oh my! I knew someday I would have to leave my small New Jersey town to see them for myself.

Fast forward forty years, my husband, Bill, and I had been living as full-time RVers for almost two years. After months of planning, and securing jobs on the Kenai Peninsula, we found ourselves crossing the border into Canada from Sumas, WA. Bill was behind the wheel of our Ford F-350 diesel DRW truck, towing our 40′ Heartland Landmark 5th wheel. My dream of traveling to Alaska was coming to life!

As we moved past Customs, my excitement couldn’t be contained. I took pictures of everything, almost getting myself in trouble at the border crossing. After only a couple of days, my face hurt from constantly smiling. And we were only in Canada! Alaska was still several days in front of us.

I did wonder – just a little bit – how would our summer go? Would the jobs be what we hoped? We had never worked for a privately-owned campground, and I was anxious about how it would go. We were traveling a long way to get there, so I had a lot of time to think.

Our friends and travel companions, Steven and Linda, asked us (mostly kiddingly) to skip the jobs and join them on the rest of their “vacation mode” journey. Believe me, it was tempting. The cost, however without Workamping, was more than our budget could bear; we needed the income.

My anxiety faded as we headed north through British Columbia and Yukon, which was beautiful, with amazing vistas and wildlife sightings. There were no words to convey the awe at turning south on the road to Haines, Alaska. The snow-capped mountains surrounded the road on both sides and had us stopping at each pull-out for pictures. “Wow!” became my new most-used word.

Yukon, Canada

After five glorious days in Haines, we had to move on to where we would be spending our summer, on the shore of Kenai Lake, between Moose Pass and Seward. I was jumping around in my seat as Bill drove down the Seward Highway for the first time. Around each turn in the road was a new view. One area, just south of Anchorage, called Turnagain Arm, featured mountains meeting the water, with puffy white clouds floating near their summits. It took our breath away!

Kenai Lake

Three weeks to the day after entering Canada, we pulled into the driveway at Renfro’s Lakeside Retreat. Bill parked us in front of the log-built lodge and we went in to meet our new boss, Gary.

As I remember that moment, I am feeling some of what I was feeling then – exhilaration! Forty years of anticipation came to a head, and as we introduced ourselves to Gary, I found myself unabashedly bursting into tears. I explained, as best I could, how I waited for this a long time. Gary hugged me tight and told me it was okay.

After regaining my composure, we walked down to the RV park so Gary could show us our site. As we set up, I realized that each day the mountains would greet us, right outside our front door. We walked down to see the cabins set on the shore of Kenai Lake and my jaw about hit the ground! The mountains were all around the lake, which was the coolest shade of green. Glacier sediment caused it to look like clouded sea glass. I had never seen water that color before.

Renfro’s offered eight cabins and ten RV sites. Our jobs were to turn them over, making sure all was perfect for incoming guests. The unique seven-days-on followed by seven-days-off schedule afforded plenty of opportunity to take in all the great state of Alaska had to offer

Denali National Park

Locally, we went wild blueberry picking; sightseeing on the Kenai Fjords tour; hiking to Exit Glacier; and exploring Seward, Whittier, and Portage Glacier. There was also plenty of time for multi-day trips, including Homer, Denali, and Valdez. No other jobs we considered had so much time off for exploring.

Almost every day, working or not, I took a picture of the mountains and the lake at Renfro’s. Bill asked me, at least once a week, “Don’t you have enough pictures? It’s the same mountain.” And I would reply, ‘It looks different today.” Almost every day, while taking trash to the transfer station, we saw waterfalls and moose, and I snapped pictures of them too.

I am happy to report, we never tired of the mountain views out our front door, or the views of Kenai Lake as we worked. In fact, we never tired of the views from anywhere we went, from Haines, to Seward, to Whittier, to Homer, to Talkeetna and Denali, or to Valdez. We never tired of seeing the stunning glaciers and waterfalls. We never tired of seeing wildlife – moose, grizzlies, elk, caribou, sheep, bald eagles, puffin, whales, and oh! – the otters. I think the otters are my favorite.

Alaska exceeded my every imagining, and our Workamping jobs at Renfro’s helped make it possible. I know someday we will return to the Last Frontier to continue exploring all it has to offer. We are grateful to Workamper News and opportunities they share for RVers like us, allowing us to travel anywhere, even to Alaska. To paraphrase naturalist and writer, John Muir, “Someday the mountains of Alaska will call and we will go!”

Safe travels…

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