We’ve camped just under 400 nights over the past six seasons, nearly every one of which was in some sort of formal campground. Nearly every one of them had a “campground host” on duty. The only places we’ve ever had issues with these park volunteers (we call them “Wallys”) have been in Arizona state parks.
Two years ago, we were camped at Kartchner Caverns State Park in southern Arizona. Our site had water and electric hookups, but no sewer. That’s not a problem since we don’t have a bathroom in the trailer. But we do wash dishes in the trailer sink, which produces “gray water.” We catch the sink runout in an 11-gallon tote, which we can wheel to a drain site.
Our Kartchner campsite was across from the campground restrooms. It had an outside sink where folks could wash dishes and dump their dirty dishwater. We used similar sinks at a national park to drain our tote of dishwater, so we figured that would be the proper thing to do there.
Not so, said the Wally who intercepted me on my way to the sink. You must dump your dishwater at the trailer dump station. We discussed the issue and I agreed to tote my tote across the campground to the RV sewer dump.
I thought the issue was settled, but apparently it was not. She had one of the park rangers drive over to tell us that if we were to so much as even thinking of dumping our sink water anywhere but the RV dump station, we could be subject to a $5,000 fine.
“Why are you telling me this?” I asked. “I already told the lady we’d wheel it to the dump station. Did she think we might smuggle our dishwater into the dishwater sink when she wasn’t looking?”
The second incident occurred on our current visit to Dead Horse Ranch State Park located in the Verde Valley near Sedona. The park is beautiful, the restrooms clean, the hiking trails plentiful and the ranger staff at the Entrance Station/Visitor Center friendly and helpful. We hiked an eight-mile loop trail from our campsite and explored and photographed three nearby national monuments preserving centuries-old Sinagua Indian sites.
On our way back from one of the sites, we decided to take a look at the park’s group campsite facilities. We belong to the Aliner Owners Group (yes, ours is a Rockwood but the club graciously lets SOBs–Some Other Brands—join). They are always looking for regional rally sites, so we thought we’d scope out the group site here.
There were no signs, cones, closed gates or anything else saying the group site was off-limits. We drove in, made a quick loop through the area and headed out. An angry Wally flagged us down as we were leaving.
She told us we were not welcome in the group site and began scolding us for violating some unwritten, do-not-enter protocol. We explained why we were there, apologized profusely and promised never to ever enter the group campsite again. Her scolding and our apologizes continued for a good five minutes. Finally we were allowed to exit. I half expected to receive a ranger visit that evening, but fortunately none followed.
I’m sure the two volunteer hosts were just ordinary people trying to do their job as they best saw fit. Maybe we were the 15th incident in a stressful day and suffered accordingly. I love Arizona State Parks and will continue to visit them.
I will just make sure to never enter a group campsite or tote my dishwater to the dishwater sink.