Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Volunteering Adventures–Week 1

Coquille River Lighthouse

Coquille River Lighthouse

This past week we started our first ever volunteer position as Relief Lighthouse Hosts at the Coquille River Lighthouse which is part of the Bullard's Beach State Park in Oregon.

So far we have learned the following about volunteering:

1. You get the site they assign not the one you would pick out for yourself. They definitely gave us a site I wouldn't have picked out today. At this state park they apparently assign  sites by what you are here to do. The Campground Host for circle A is in site A-1, the host for circle B is in site B-1 etc. The Relief Lighthouse Host get site A-36. A 90 degree blind back-in in a forest. We are not good at backing in. Since this site required us to back in to the right I was blind as to which direction to turn when. After about 45 minutes we got into the nice long site. I did, however, trim a bush with the side of the trailer. Fortunately, the campground was deserted on Sunday afternoon and we didn't have an audience.

2. Did I mention the forest? The site is surrounded by 15 foot tall rhododendrons. These are backed up by 40 foot pine tress. It is a very nice and secluded site.

3. We have one little window of sky to setup the TV satellite dish. We got it setup and had 70% signal for the 2 tuners. Minutes later the wind picked up and our signal went from 70% to 0% to 40% to 20% to 50% etc. After an hour of trying to find a place for the dish and lock on to a good signal. I gave up in frustration. The next day I was able to pull in an 80% signal in only a few minutes. That’s just how it seems to go setup the satellite dish.

4. We have 2 bars of phone coverage and so we do have Internet just not very fast Internet.

5. Bullard’s Beach is a lovely state park. It is off the main road and very quiet. It is also mostly empty on a Sunday afternoon. The weather was very nice all day today. Of course we now realize that we consider a mid-50 degree day without wind to be T-shirt weather. It may have reached 60 Sunday. The forecast for Monday mid-50 with a 60% chance of rain.

6. Monday it rained in Oregon! Who knew? Rained from 6 AM until about 10 AM but, not too hard and it has been nice ever since.

7. Oregon State Parks have their act together. They have at least 10 couples working here this month and they do Orientation over two days in two (2) hour segments per day. They have all kinds of handbooks to pass out and part of the training is a walk through of each function.

8. When I wear my official volunteer hat and vest, I look like an old man with too much time on my hands.

9. This is a very quiet campground, but if the wind is blowing just right you can hear the waves breaking and the fog horn that is 3 miles away. The waves have a nice soothing sound. The fog horn not so much.

10. There are birds everywhere.

11. They take Tsunami warnings VERY SERIOUSLY here. This past March when there was the Japanese earthquake they evacuated the park. They even have a special Tsunami Trail in case there is an earthquake here to get everyone to head up the trail to safety until they can find out if there is a local Tsunami.

12. There is a lot to learn about the Lighthouse, local history and landmarks. Tuesday was Lighthouse Host training. We met at the lighthouse and went over the opening and closing procedures. As well as how to conduct the tour. Where to stand and what rules to enforce and how. Then we learned the history of the lighthouse and the surrounding area. Next we went to the top of the lighthouse so we could learn to point out the local landmarks. All of this was followed with examples of things to talk to the visitor about. That was followed by some hands on exercises of how to used the cash register and their paper trail for cash, check or credit card transactions.

13. Lighthouses get VERY DUSTY and DIRTY over the winter months. On Tuesday after, lunch all lighthouse hosts came back to the lighthouse for an hour and half of cobwebbing, dusting, sweeping  and general cleaning.

14. Wednesday wasn't much of an adventure. It was our day off but, we went out to the Lighthouse in case there was more training, but all we did is put in the displays and stock the Lighthouse Store.

Friday was the BIG DAY! Our first shift was in the afternoon, 2-5 PM with the lighthouse open to the public!

We arrived a half hour early because we were excited to get started. That worked out good because the Ranger was there to help the morning shift balance out the register.

It was a gray misty day and during our first hour we didn't have any visitors. It was a little strange having the lighthouse totally to ourselves. Things picked up during the second hour when we had two visitors. They were wearing flip flops so they couldn't go up the tower and get the view or the tour narration by yours truly.

The pace really picked up the last hour when we had 4 visitors! Both couples wanted to go up the tower to the light room and I got to do my narration. The first lady asked how long we had been doing volunteering and leading tours. When I told her that they were my first tour ever she said "Really! You did a great job".

We closed the lighthouse at 5 PM and took 20 minutes to balance out the register and make sure everything was locked up correctly. Our total sales were 2 bottles of Blueberry Jam.

Yes, it is a grueling pace and we both slept in until 7 AM. We were back to the grind the next afternoon. Smile

Saturday after some early rain it cleared up and we had the best views yet from the top of the lighthouse. For the first time there was no wind to speak of at the lighthouse.

The early shift Lighthouse Hosts had 50 visitors and all but few wanted to go up the tower.

Our shift started off slow, but we ended up with 30 visitors and half went up to the tower. I am amazed at the number of people that show up in shorts and flip flops in mid-50s temperatures. We had just enough activity to make the time flew by, but not enough to make it hectic.

Sunday was our first day of Campground Maintenance Hosts. Basically we make sure that no one left any litter behind.

It turned out to be more fun than I had expected.  We started the day with rain, but by 9 AM it wasn't raining and by the time we were done we were just in T-shirts. I loved driving the electric Mule. It was like the Autopia ride at Disneyland. I was doing laps around the campground loop just for fun. I may take up golf just so I can drive the golf cart. There were only 6 sites checking out of our loop that day so, we really didn't have much to do to fill 4 hours. What we did instead was to check every non-occupied site for litter, rake any dirt areas and use the gas blower to get anything off of driveways. All of the sites here are paved. As it turned out 2 of the 6 sites renewed for another night and one didn't leave until 1:45 even though checkout is 1 PM.

We found out that everyone want's to talk to us when we are wearing our Volunteer Vests.

We took 1/2 hour out for lunch. Then the last thing I did was get the lawnmower from the equipment barn and mowed our site. It is ironic because we had a gardener at our sticks and bricks house and it has been 15 - 20 years since I last mowed a yard.

Somehow by the time we were done we had put in 4 1/2 hours.

When we were done with our Hosting duties we got Raider and went to the beach. It was his first beach run since we were at Morro Bay back in January. Although, truth be told he is feeling his age and didn't run very long. He turns 9 this month.

Raider the Beach Dog running down the beach

Raider the Beach Dog running down the beach

Raider the wore out Beach Dog resting on the beach

Raider the wore out Beach Dog resting on the beach

All of the fresh air must have done Kathy and Raider in both of them took a nap as soon as we got back to the trailer.

Monday we had the early shift at the lighthouse, if 11 AM can be considered early. We expect that the crowd would be light, but it turned out to be a busier time of the day. We were just busy enough to make the time fly by.

We had 25 visitors in 3 hours so I made 12 trips up the stairs to the light room. One person that came by was a hardcore lighthouse person. Like us she retired at the beginning of 2008 and is full timing in a Dolphin class C (one of those little Toyota trucks that was overweight when it was built). In her 3 years of travelling she has visited 417 lighthouses! Mostly along the gulf, east coast and Michigan.

Tuesday was our 5th day working and it was much like Monday with about the same number of visitors.  I would prefer working four (5) hours days rather than five (4) hour days. Once we have walked Raider before and after our shift, taken the time to get ready to go, drive out to and back from the lighthouse it really uses up most of the day.

Bird Notes:

There are birds everywhere around here. Tuesday as we were walking from the parking lot to the lighthouse a Bald Eagle came flying up the river. There is an active Osprey nest on the bridge where highway 101 cross the Coquille River. We have seen it fishing outside the lighthouse on a couple of occasions. Other birds we have seen include Red-necked Phalarope, Savannah, Fox, White-crowned, Golden-crowned and Song Sparrows,  Pelagic and Double-crested Cormorants, White-tailed Kite and whole lot of lightning fast unidentifiable “little brown jobs” or as they are LBJs.


  1. Raider looks so happy :)

  2. Love your new header picture! And it sounds like you are having the time of your lives! What fun and how interesting. Plus you will really get your exercise on those stairs and running around on the beach. Loved your post today.


  3. Grant what a great cliff note verison of you and Kathy are doing. Oh my gosh I had no idea so much was involved in volunteering. But the good news is they have excellent volunteers in you and Kathy.
    The pictures of Raider made me smile a great big happy smile. Nothing like have one's ears blowing in the wind. I expect one of the Beach Boys came back as a beautiful golden named Raider.
    Hugs and belly rubs,
    Cecilia and Madi

  4. Sounds like you are in an awesome place. Your site sounds beautiful. Glad you can get satellite though!

  5. What an interesting week you two have had. Thanks for the low down on your adventures. You need to write a book.

  6. Does sound like you are keeping busy. Hi Raider!!!

  7. We like Buzzard Beach park and got acquainted with the lighthouse and host. The coast is never very warm and they told us to expect a lot of fog up at Lookout SP in July. Keep warm

  8. Hiiiii! We haven't been by in ages. So fantastic, your new adventure!!!! LOVE the photos of Raider on the beach, he must have had a blast! Will have to look at a map, the area you are in sounds quite familiar. What a great volunteer position you have, great pace, interesting..beautiful area! Your description is fantastic, as we often talk about someday doing something similiar. How many stairs are there? Good workout!
    Will check back for more updates. Big hugs to Raider!!!

    Sweet hugs,
    Sierra Rose & Kristin

  9. May 15, 2011....
    First of all Happy 9th Birthday to our favorite redhead. Hugs and kisses to you Raider
    Second of all looks like mean old blogger lost the comment we left on May 11. Dag gone it!!
    Anyway if Mom remembers correctly she said she love seeing your beautiful ears blowing in the wind.
    Have a lovely b-day
    Madi and Cecilia

  10. Sorry Madi and Mom,
    Blogger ate up several comments. Fortunately we did receive your message and I still had it in my Inbox:

    "Grant what a great cliff note verison of you and Kathy are doing. Oh my gosh I had no idea so much was involved in volunteering. But the good news is they have excellent volunteers in you and Kathy.
    The pictures of Raider made me smile a great big happy smile. Nothing like have one's ears blowing in the wind. I expect one of the Beach Boys came back as a beautiful golden named Raider.
    Hugs and belly rubs,
    Cecilia and Madi

    Thank you for reading the blog, loyal followers!
    Kathy & Grant