More than your average campers
Dennis and Clara Moor are technically retired, but they still put in some long days. The Moors, hosts at the U.S. Forest Service’s Gore Creek Campground at the base of Vail Pass, start their days early in the morning, greeting campers, picking up trash and shoveling out fire rings at campsites, and, yes, cleaning the outhouses. They’re also charged with keeping campers in line when needed, counting money, tracking occupancy levels and other administrative chores.Often, campers will roust the hosts in the dead of night with a question or a problem.For all this, the Moors are each paid, at the minimum wage of just more than $5 an hour, for about 25 hours of their time every week. “There’s a lot of responsibility with the job,” said Larry McAfee, local manager for Thousand Trails, the private company that runs many Forest Service campgrounds in the area. “You basically have to think about it all the time.”While it’s a big job, the Moors, who live year ’round in their motorhome, get to spend the summer parked in one of the most scenic places on earth, as well as earn a little extra money for their travels the rest of the year. And there is some slack time, enough to make small talk with visitors, enough for Dennis to work on his fly-fishing technique, and, on the couple’s days off, enough time to explore the mountains in the small car they tow behind the motorhome. Fresh water is trucked in, and, uh, used water is trucked out. All in all, it’s not a bad way to spend a summer.
Local getawayThe Moors were recruited into the campground host corps by Thousand Trails, the private firm that operates many of the Forest Service campgrounds in the White River National Forest.Like many of their fellow hosts, the Moors were recruited at the Thousand Trails booth at the annual Family Motor Coach Association convention in Quartzite, Ariz. That event draws as many as 250,000 people to the desert in January. A small handful sign up for host duty every year. Already somewhat familiar with what hosts do, the Moors signed up last year, and were assigned to the Gold Park campground, above Red Cliff and on the road to Homestake Reservoir.”We just fell in love with the work,” Dennis said. “There are great people coming in every day, and it’s beautiful country. There are mountains and then there are the Rocky Mountains. After spending last summer at Gold Camp, the Moors this year were assigned to Gore Creek, a 24-site campground many locals don’t know about. Plenty of locals do know about it, though.”We had one lady staying up here for a week or 10 days who lives just down in Vail,” Clara said. “She’d go home to shower and then come back up.” Other locals send visiting friends and family members to the campground.
Emergency marshmallowsAnd there are always visitors. In addition to the folks passing through, the steady stream of summer events in town brings campers to Gore Creek. Those visitors come through toting just about every type of camping gear there is, from pup tents and sleeping bags to 40-foot motorhomes.Even without a highway sign, and despite the fact many locals don’t know about it, McAfee said the campground is the most popular one it manages in the White River National Forest.While the place stays busy through much of the summer, it’s a pretty relaxed place. Like most campers, the folks who stay at Gore Creek are pretty easy to get along with, Dennis said. Most understand the rules, especially regarding camping in bear habitat. But there is a difference between the people who camp near the interstate and those who venture off the beaten path enough to get to Gold Park.”Gold Park is more family camping, for people with kids, people who go off hiking and fishing,” Dennis said. “Here, a lot of people are here overnight, they don’t interact with us as much because they’re off doing stuff during the day.”There aren’t as many people who like to visit. I kind of miss that.”Overall, though, it’s the people who make the job worthwhile.
“People wouldn’t do this if they didn’t love it,” McAfee said. “They have to enjoy it.”For the most part, the Moors like their work.”Most people have jobs they go to, and do they like it 100 percent every day? No.” Dennis said. “You get what you put into it. It could be a real drag if I didn’t like people, but I thoroughly enjoy most people. It’s a lot of fun to talk with a family and kids.”Kids who stay at Gore Creek have one rule that’s unique to the campground the Moors host. “You can’t camp here and not roast marshmallows,” Clara said. “We have a stock in our motorhome in case anyone comes here without their own.”The Gore Creek what?The Gore Creek Campground is at the base of Vail Pass, at the far east end of East Vail.The campground is just past where old Highway 6 ducks under Interstate 70, just to the west of the spot the road is closed to motorized traffic. A total of 24 camp sites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, and it’s $13 a night to stay there.