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Keeping the Commitment
Ron and I had talked about getting back to volunteering ever since our last stint at the LBJ Ranch in 1992. One thing and another kept us on the road and busy; we wrote a new book, promoted it and accepted speaking engagements which kept us too busy to volunteer in parks. Of course we did lots of volunteering at our winter RV Resort in Mesa, but that wasn't like being in a national park, learning something new and helping visitors have a good visit.

Last year at the Life on Wheels (LOW) Conference we taught a class on volunteering and the Idaho director of volunteer services was in our audience. She announced that they were planning on using more volunteers in their parks so we said that we might be interested. Even though we had never volunteered in a state park before, we figured it would be okay and it would fit into our schedule nicely. We could volunteer for six weeks on our way from Mesa to the LOW in Moscow, Idaho. Actually we planned to volunteer as camp hosts rather than give tours as we had done in the national parks. Our thinking was that state parks probably didn't have many interpretive programs. Anyway we applied and shortly after we were invited to volunteer in the Oregon Trail History and Education Center at Three Island Crossing State Park in Glenns Ferry, Idaho. They were happy with our offer to work for only six weeks and we figured that it was close enough to Moscow that getting to the LOW would not be a problem. So we agreed to report in on May 22;  they promised a full hook up site in return for 24 hours each per week. 

Although the area surrounding Glenns Ferry is flat desert, the campground is lovely. It is full of mature trees, lush green grass and they have water and electric sites. We arrived a few days ahead of our due date and were parked in a regular camp site which we enjoyed. They said that our sites weren't ready yet. They had had to build sites for the three interpretive volunteers (2 rigs) who would be here for the first time. The history center is only one year old. 


Our site in the campground                             Our dusty, dirty, "volunteer" site

Our view (the maintenance buildings, old tires, junk etc.)

All three of us were definitely disappointed in the surroundings of our sites, but Ron and I figured that it was for only 6 weeks. The outlook was more depressing for Shirlea (the other interpreter) who will be here all summer. 

The History center is new and not very well signed on I-84 so visitation is low. Our supervisor Gregg had originally wanted the three of us---who work on Friday, Saturday and Sunday---to just wander through the interpretive displays, answering questions as the people come through. But people had few questions and basically wanted to be left alone to read all the interpretive signs and see the displays. Most of the time there were more of us than the visitors and when there were visitors we felt that we were intimidating them. Gregg was receptive to our idea of us working on campfire programs rather than just standing around. So we took turns wandering through the exhibit area and we developed programs which we suggested we could do at the campground amphitheater. Ron and I do a program on Families on the Oregon Trail, Shirlea does a program on how the Oregon Trail changed over time (The Oregon Trail in Time and Space), and I do a program about the interaction with native Americans on the trail (The Good, Bad and Ugly). But that only meant working one night a week (in the campground) and the other days were down right boring. The attendance at our campfire programs was sparse too. We maybe averaged 14-30 from a campground with 100 sites. Time dragged on and I felt that the place could manage without us. They were really over staffed here and I wanted to leave. In our seminars we always say that as a volunteer, if the situation is not good, you can leave. Ron didn't want to go and convinced me that we could finish our commitment since it wasn't forever. 

On the postive side, we did learn some neat history about this part of the Oregon trail, we were able to take trips to other parts of Idaho on our days off. And we have met some nice people---visitors and other workers here. Shirlea, the other volunteer, is a single full-timer who has been on the road for 6 years. Wanda, Fabriana and Shannon work in the gift shop and have been fun to visit with when we stand around. 

I think we will keep our interpretive volunteering to national parks which have more visitation and where a path has been paved for us. We were given little direction here. If the camp site had been nicer, I might have felt differently. Every work day I hated to get up to go and wander the center. Ron was saved from boredom with the idea to drive passengers over to the other side of the river for a good view of the three islands. He used the park's van and is kept busy on Saturday and Sunday. As I write this we only have two more days to go through that routine.  We will do a program on July 3. Then we are outta here. Cheers!

P.S. Last night we had a terrific campfire program. Ron and I had gone to each and every camp site two hours before the program and personally invited everyone to our program. We had 110 wonderful folks join us. 


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