Friday, January 17, 2014

Looking Back — Our First Workamper Job

Going through old photos, remembering our earlier workamper jobs, I decided to use some of my best pictures and catch up to where I actually began blogging, in 2008, about our adventures. We moved into our 5th wheel in January of 2005 and left for our first workamping job in June of that year. With great excitement and anticipation, and entering into the unknown, we set off for South Dakota. Crossing Montana was an awesome experience. We fell in love! The early pioneers must have traveled in a wagon much like this one. We found this gorgeous scene near the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument near Hardin MT.

Here we are in our modern covered wagon, much more comfortable, just leaving the 7th Ranch RV Park in Garry Owen MT.

We've arrived safely in Rapid City in the gorgeous Black Hills of South Dakota! I'm talking to my best friends to say, "We're here!" Our employer, Bear Country USA, furnished us with a nice spot at the Lazy J RV Park. What we liked best about this park was that it overlooked the east part of the city and on a clear day we could see almost to the Badlands, an hour away. The sky was always gorgeous with frequent rainbows and awe-inspiring cloud formations.

Our boss, Vanessa, was truly the best boss we could have had for our first job. We will never forget her wonderful and kind treatment of us as we began our workamper job at Bear Country USA, a drive-through wildlife park. It has its walk-through area, too, and the new crop of black bear cubs each summer is probably the largest draw to the park. True to the name, the park has around 250 bears, but there are also many other kinds of animals, mostly North American varieties. In future posts I'll include many other critters.

That's a bear sculpture swatting at the plaster salmon in the waterfall above the otter enclosure, and those are real workampers in our "mule" where we spent our days going from restrooms to gift shop to flower beds, to garbage runs, and, most important, to tourists with questions and needs. The best part was that as we drove around we got to watch the animals all day long. We did spend quite a bit of time watching those adorable bear cubs, too. We loved this job so much that we returned for 2 more summers, 2006 and 2008. The park changed management and no longer has workampers, or we'd be there yet.

We shared cleaning duties with one other workamper couple, Ron and Connie, who trained us and then alternated days with us. It was their second summer at Bear Country. Next to them is Vanessa, and seated is Richard, whose job was to pick up handicapped tourists in his golf cart and drive them around to see the sights. We came to love these fellow workers as well as all the other employees at this wonderful and exciting place.

Mr. Keith looking "cool" in the Mule. 

I have hundreds of photos of the bear cubs. This is one of my favorites. We could, and did, watch them for hours, along with hundreds and thousands of tourists. 
Each spring there are approximately 10 to 15 cubs born. They are taken from the dens at about 2 months old to protect them from the male bears and to accustom them to humans. When they are old enough they are returned to the larger bear population in the drive-through area. Bear cubs are like human toddlers. They play endlessly, entertaining everyone. They are even cute while they are sleeping! Their enclosure had a swimming pool, lots of grass, trees for climbing and logs for scampering over. What fun!

The most amazing animals at Bear Country were the two Grizzly bears, Tank, the male, and Cherokee, his mate. They had a beautiful enclosure with a deep moat for protection, but they seemed almost tame. Tank would wave and do funny things to entertain the onlookers and to get treats. We frequently were asked to throw strawberries, or hotdogs, or muffins to the begging bears, for the enjoyment of the tourists. These grizzlies were located right outside the main restrooms so we got to see them several times a day as we cleaned and checked the facilities. I also have hundreds of photos of Tank and Cherokee and I will share more of them in future posts.


Doug Morgan said...

What a joyous journey you have been on. Love the memories you posted.

Unknown said...

Fun to scroll through your blog and see the bears again.