Monday, October 27, 2014

Trouble with Authority

I have a serious problem with authority. That's why, when it comes time for me to be the authority figure, I suck at it. I have always considered myself a decent leader or manager but being the guy who has to spoil the party, I'm really terrible at being that guy. 

So we had a group of campers come and occupy three sites last Sunday. They were in their early 20s and when they arrived they all sat around a picnic table and cracked beers. The beer cracking continued until 11pm. Quiet hours start at 10 and they were only getting louder as the night went on.

On a Sunday night there aren't a lot of park Rangers around. In fact, I hadn't seen one all day. If I do see one on a Sunday it's at around 8-9 when they stop in for the evening check before heading home.

I have a digital radio that is hooked up to a series of repeaters along the mountain ridge. It can basically summon a park ranger 24 hours a day from anywhere along the central coast. As far south as Monterey and as far north as San Francisco. I am supposed to use it for emergencies and I give the emergency a code between 1-3 based on severity. Code 1 being a serious threat requiring a Ranger to immediately respond with lights flashing. So, when I think about the consequences of summoning a ranger via radio, and then think about these noisy kids, it seems a little extreme. 

We are still new and learning all of the finer points of the job but the issue of noisy campers isn't a common one here. We've been told to leave the reprimands to the Rangers. Hosts are supposed to be welcoming and cheery. 

I knew something had to be done and after weighing the consequences, I decided I would rather bend the rules of engagement in lieu of ordering a Ranger to the scene. I rehearsed what I would say. "Hey dudes, hope everyone is enjoying themselves. Listen, I'm supposed to call a ranger when it gets noisy like this. I don't wanna do that to you so I just came to remind everyone that it's quiet hours." This felt honest and non-invasive. I could still be the cool guy when morning came around. 

As I approached with my flashlight I could hear the giggles become muted and people shushing one another. A weird feeling came over me that I wasn't expecting. I had been part of the group of noisy drunks on too many occasions to count. I had never ONCE been on this side of the flashlight. I continued my stride and announced myself.

"hey guys. Camp host." 

Immediately I was caught off guard by a talkative smartass who reminded me of my Canadian friend, Greg. 

"oh, hey, I forgot to pay the parking fee. How much is it? My bad." He said, in an overly friendly tone. 

I explained to Greg that he could self-register in the morning and tried to move on to my rehearsed speech. He came back and asked for specifics.

"So I fill out one of those envelopes? Can you show me? I can do it now." Making sure to patronize me with every word. I was being schmoozed. 

"No." I said, "We will just handle it in the morning." Wondering if I should have just taken his $10 instead of giving him the option to skip out in the morning. 

Greg had deliberately and successfully thrown me off my game. I tried to remember my planned speech as I addressed the other 4 campers at the fire. 

"Hey guys. It's kinda loud. Quiet hours..."

"Oh, is it getting late?" Interrupted Greg, "We will just try to keep it on the DL." 

I nodded and continued, "okay cool because I am not supposed to even come talk to you. I'm supposed to call a ranger and if I had called them to come at this hour they'd probably not be happy about it and wrote you a ticket." 

Just then, another smartass chimed in. He was a different kind of smartass than Greg. He reminded more of myself. 

"Oh yeah? How much is the ticket?" He asked, in a defiant tone. 

I don't know if he asked this to see if I was bullshitting or to determine if the fine was collectively afforded by their group. Either way, he was definitely the Mike Yum at the party. 

I responded, "I don't know. Probably at least a couple hundred bucks." 

Doing a math equation in my head to determine a believable yet intimidating figure. Greg came up to butter me up, offering his hand. 

"I'm sorry, what's your name?"

"Mike." I said

"Mike, we will quiet things down. My apologies. Nice to meet you." He said, while almost walking me away from the group with his body language. 

As he was taking, a guy and a girl sitting at the fire stood up and walked past me. I assumed they were going to the bathroom and finished shaking Greg's hand. 

"Have a good night guys. Thanks for understanding." 

I knew that my visit had not done much to slow the party down but at least they would be conscious of me. I remembered times when I was camping and how the group would self-regulate after being visited by a ranger. I was in their heads. 

When I got back to my camper the couple that had walked away from the fire were standing at my door. 

"Hi, we figured since you were awake we could buy some firewood?"

That was it. Fuck these kids.

"I didn't put pants on and walk up there with a flashlight to sell you firewood. I'm going to bed and I suggest you and your friends do the same. Good night!"

"Okay, fair enough." Said the guy, with a surprised look on his face. It was as-if they suddenly realized they were being inconsiderate assholes. 

They headed back to their group and shortly afterwards silence ensued. I don't know if it was my warning or their lack of firewood that caused this but I felt responsible either way.

I learned something about myself in dealing with these kids. I have always thought myself to be good at confrontation. I'm not afraid to argue or persuade someone. I won't bite my tongue when I feel an injustice has occurred. What I never realized is that I am only good at confrontation when I get to be the shithead. When the tables turn and I am the teacher, policeman, park ranger or camp host, I have trouble dealing with the Mike Yums of the world...

As I mentioned, we are the new camp hosts at Butano State Park, a beautiful park in the middle of a redwood stand on California’s central coast. When it comes to solitude and remote settings, you can't do any better than this in California. The campground we are in only has 39 sites and it is in the middle of the canyon so there is no cell phone signal, no TV signal, nothing. This state park is part of a series of central coast state parks that are all interconnected by trails and fire roads. Included in these parks are Big Basin Redwoods and Ano Nuevo State Preserve. 
Ano Nuevo State Preserve. If you like watching 3000 lb elephant seals crashing into each other, this is the place. 

Bean Hollow State Beach. 

Low tide in Santa Cruz. 
Our main responsibility at this park is to sell firewood to campers. The going price for a bag of firewood on California's Central Coast is a whopping $10. We are a popular spot for Silicon Valley executives with families so the price tag doesn't even make them flinch. They buy as many as 6 bundles and come back the next night for more. The wood is soft, burns fast and I don't know a single Michigander who would buy one of these. The one thing they have going for them is each bag comes with a small, red, fire-starting disc that we have dubbed 'The Hamburger'. I even joke with some campers, "Here ya go, It's $10 for the wood and I even threw in a free hamburger. haha." I know, cheesy, but it is impossible not to throw cheesy humor at people when you are trying to pull off the job of camp host. 

$10 for 1 cubic foot of local firewood. Enjoy!

We get two days off each week so we try to spend those days somewhere besides the park. This week we spent one day in Half Moon Bay and another in Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is where the movie The Lost Boys was filmed. Right now is the part where I am supposed to explain what The Lost Boys is but, frankly, if you don't already know, you should stop reading and lose my number. Now, for those of you who ARE familiar with thrilling 80's movies about vampires, Santa Cruz should be on your list of places to visit in California. We went there to use the library, do laundry and get lunch. It wasn't the most eventful trip, really more business than pleasure, but we did eat Chinese food for lunch! 

The small town of Pescadero is about 5 miles from our campsite. It’s a two block stretch of road that attempts to offer travelers everything they need on a pit stop. The market, which is actually quite nice, is also a bar, pizzeria, ice cream shop and seasonal pumpkin dealer. The gas station doubles as a kick-ass Mexican restaurant that is an incredibly popular dinner spot. They also have a really expensive (but delicious and well conceived) restaurant, a post office, a really creepy cemetery and a few small businesses. That’s it. Blink and you might miss Pescadero.
Pescadero, CA
Pie Ranch. An organic farm that makes fresh pie. 
We ran into the old camp hosts at the Half Moon Bay Library. They were in the process of changing their address on their library account…the address I was about to use to open a library account. The odds of this happening the way it did are extremely slim but, like all of the other chance encounters we have had, it must have happened for a reason. They shared some personal details with us and left us with this parting advice: “Enjoy your time there. Trust no one.”
Checking out books at the Half Moon Bay Library. 

It was a little unsettling to hear this advice but I am a strong believer that no advice is bad advice. They seemed a little bitter about the way things ended for them and we were fully aware that they left under sudden and unusual circumstances. It was nice to hear them tell it their way. Now we have heard all sides and I have concluded that all of the people involved are really good people, they just had a classic misunderstanding. We are only here for another 37 days and we have two crazy kids to keep up with so I am confident we will have a drama free stay here...with the exception of a few run-ins with noisy, smartass campers. 
SAMurai and NOAHverine are ready for halloween.

I update this blog as often as I can. If you want up-to-the-minute updates of our trip, follow us on Instagram at @YumFam. 

Family and Friends - We have a landline and physical address here in California. If you want it, just message me on Facebook. 


  1. enjoyed your blog post & it felt familiar as we just finished two host jobs - working as kayak tour guides in Oregon. would enjoy it if you followed my blog at
    happy hosting!

    1. Will do. I will try to work it into a link in an upcoming blog entry. Thanks for reading.

  2. I enjoyed your report very much. I was the camp post add a county park in Florida and had to do the and I was in the same boat as you are in at the moment. To the point the manager of the park told me when I got there that he hadn't had a vacation in 9 months and would be gone every weekend while I was the camp post.. It's not normal for a cam post to have to do any enforcement duties so hopefully your next campground host job will be much more pleasant

  3. I had lunch with my daughter at Dwarte's in Pescadero on Saturday. It is my happiest place on earth.

    1. I have heard their Cioppino (sp?) is really good.

  4. Look at your reflection in the mirror. You're a creature of the night Michael, just like out of a comic book! You're a vampire Michael! My own brother, a goddamn, shit-sucking vampire. You wait 'till mom finds out, buddy!