Wow! My 2021 season working at Kings Canyon National Park came to a very unexpected end on September 22, 2021! On September 10th Sequoia National Park, which is our sister park and adjacent to Kings Canyon National Park experienced lighting strikes that started 11 fires, which in the following days grew into two larger fires, and by the end of the first week had emerged into one fire called the KNP Complex Fire.
By September 19th Kings Canyon/Grant Grove and Cedar Grove had closed operations. All guests were discharged and the “Grab and Go” at the restaurant closed at 6 PM.
As my position at Grant Grove was “Cash Auditor” I was tasked with making the last of the cash deposits and preparing our safe funds to be returned to the bank. Things were a bit stressful on Monday taking on that task and I was very grateful for two of my co-workers who worked with me and we were able to complete it after a 10-hour workday. Tuesday was another long day and I was part of the escort to return funds to the bank. Upon my return, I had to finish preparing to exit my RV from my campsite……..I had already spent a couple of evenings packing down my RV and preparing to evacuate within just a couple of days. One of my last steps was to get my tow dolly hooked on to the back of my motorhome. Two of my co-workers with the maintenance department were planning to assist me, but at the last minute there was a main water break in the park and so they were going to be delayed. I proceeded to hook up the dolly on my own. Without going to a lot of detail which would be hard to explain or for anyone to understand it was a bit of a challenge to do, but I finally succeeded. I had just gotten the dolly hitched onto the back of the RV when my co-workers arrived. They proceeded to finish helping me secure the dolly with the safety pin and chain hooks. I drove my car down from our campground to the lodge as that is where I would be bringing my motorhome with the dolly and loading my car onto the dolly. I was given a ride back to my motorhome in the maintenance golf cart. I drove my motorhome to the John Muir Lodge parking lot and we proceeded to load my dolly onto the RV with help from my co-workers Tanya and James. I was going to stay the night in the lodge, but with the main water breaking the fire, sprinklers would not be operational in the lodge so I was going to have to stay in one of the cabins which was a short distance from the lodge and were equipped with portable fire extinguishers. I was planning to move my RV down near the cabin but when I went to start the RV it would not start. By this time it has been a very long, exhausting day and I am really tired and my knees are killing me. I tried a few more times, double-checked that the deadman switch at the back/outside of the RV was on, and still nothing. My boss, Jeff approached my RV to see what was happening. I told him I don’t know, it won’t start. He came into my motorhome and tried to start it as well with no luck. Next Tanaya came and she crawled down on the floor and was looking at the wiring and could not see anything wrong. By this time it’s getting later and everyone who had been standing around at the lodging gabbing was starting to head home. Tanya offered to give Hank and me a ride to the cabin in the golf cart, so I gathered up a few overnight things, the dog, and a water dish for Hank. Tanya told me that my boss, Jeff, and JR, the maintenance supervisor would help me out in the morning and see if they could get my RV going. That night I slept really well as I was so exhausted. The next morning I got a shower and Jeff called about 8:30 AM…..I said good morning and what was the plan. He asked me if I had triple-A? In my head I was saying ” crap, I know where this is heading”. I told him no that I had Good’s Sam. He said well you might want to give them a call and see if they can come up here and get you going because we need to get you out of here and I have no resources to help you out……..everyone has gone to Cedar Grove to wrap up stuff there. I was not happy but I kept my feelings to myself and said okay, all my information is in the RV, so could you can come and get me and my dog in the golf cart and give me a ride to my RV….(.it is not too far of a walk, but with one hand having to be devoted to using a cane because of my bad knee, I had only one hand to carry my clothes bag, Hanks food and water, and Hank on a leash). Jeff told me NO! ……. he said the golf cart was gone and he did not have time……I was totally blown away by his attitude. I was very mad and hurt by his attitude and lack of any compassion and the promise he had made to me just days before to not panice about the fire, that I would be given assistance to get out, but again I said okay I will make my way back to my RV. So Hank and I get to the parking lot where my RV is and what do I see…….3 Kings Canyon trucks, two Kings Canyon SUV cars, and the golf cart. I was pretty livid….I get up in my motorhome and I try to start it a couple times and still nothing. I am then sitting there in my driver’s seat feeling completely defeated when my eyes glance over towards my shifter gears and I see that the shifter is in “Reverse” mode……Uh, nope it’s supposed to be in “Neutral”. I move it to Neutral, give the key a turn and it Whoo Hoo the RV starts. I was so happy and relieved I could have danced to a gig……..Thank you, Lord. I then get on my cell phone and called Jeff to let him know the good news and that I needed to give him my timesheet and keys. He said he was in his office so to just bring them to me…..well the office is not far, it’s next to the maintenance shop where all the Kings Canyon vehicles were. So as I am walking to his office, I run into JR, the maintenance supervisor……..well how about that, the two resources who were supposed to help me that Jeff claimed he had “NO resources” to help me are right there, right there on the property…..Jeff and JR. I was miffed……I still kept my cool…..don’t want to burn my bridges. So I get into Jeff’s office, he was very distracted doing stuff on his computer and barely paying attention to me, but I proceed to give him my timesheet and keys, thanked him for the opportunity to have worked there for the season, and left. I was very upset and distraught over how I had been treated, especially after the compliments I had gotten all season as to what a great worker I was and he wanted to bring me back next season, and then as the impeding fires shut us down and I had to get everything wrapped up with the cash office, Jeff said to me several times not to panic, not to worry, that we had time to get things done and that they would help me with whatever I needed to get my RV out from the campground and get me on my way…..but in the end, he got everything he wanted to be done and then bailed on me and left me to my own devices.
After leaving his office I had to clean and adjust my mirrors and clean my front window. After sitting for 5 months they were pretty dirty and dusty. I doubled checked that everything was put away and buttoned-down, that everything with my car was okay, and tie-downs were snug. I jumped back up in my motorhome, put it in gear, and headed down the mountain. After the last few days of the pressure and the stress, I was never so happy to get off that mountain.
Our restaurant manager had tested positive for COVID so he had been out for 10 days and then unable to return as Kings Canyon shut down operations. When I got to Squaw Valley, I gave him a call to see if he wanted to meet up with me for lunch so I could say goodbye………he lives close by so we met up, had lunch, and visited for about an hour. I proceeded on my way and was going along when it struck me that I really needed to stop and stay somewhere to decompress and regroup as to what I was doing next. A few days prior to us shutting down I had applied for a Cash Ops position with the Grand Canyon that had been open since July. I was looking for my next place to go after the season was to be done on November 1st, not knowing that we would be closing down 6 weeks early because of the fires. Anyway, I remembered a KOA campground in Visalia that I had stayed one night at two years ago when I was coming to Kings Canyon for the first time in 2019. My friend, Chris had been staying there for a few months and she was just getting ready to leave, so I caught her on her last night and we were able to visit and catch up. I liked the park and thought it would be the best place to go so I could make my call to the Grand Canyon and see if that was something that would work out. The person I needed to talk to was Patty White, she had actually been working in the Fresno office for Kings and Sequoia in 2019, but in 2020 they closed the office and she went to the Grand Canyon. I had met Patty a couple times when she came up to Kings Canyon and I sent all my reports to her in the Cash Auditor position, so we knew of each other. I called and talked to her and seemed that she was interested, We talked about the position requirements and she said she would talk to the housing department as to getting me an RV spot. At the time we spoke she knew of the fires and our evacuation. I related to her that I was at an RV park in Visalia and this was a crossroad for me to figure out which direction I was going……..to the Grand Canyon or Washington so I did not have to backtrack. She said she would get back to me in a few days about the position and RV space. Now at the Grand Canyon, I know there are only two places for Staff RV parking, ……Trailer Village which is at the main village where I would be working or out at Desert View which is 25 miles away and has plenty of empty RV spaces. Well, a week and a half goes by and Patty has never called me back. By this time it is a Friday and I have paid up through Sunday at the KOA and it’s costing me money every day I sit waiting. So I gave Patty a call and she informs me that she is out and about in the park and she will get in touch with the housing and call me back by the end of the day. In my mind, I really felt I was not going to hear back from her……..I was feeling the vibe that this was not where I needed to be going and I started realizing why this position has been open since July……..There was no follow-through! There was an option B for me……about the same time I had gotten to Visalia I had gotten a text from a friend/co-worker, Mindy that I used to work with at my job at Kitsap Mental Health Services in Washington. Mindy also left KMHS a couple years ago and had moved to Post Falls, Idaho. Her daughter and boyfriend had been living with her for about a year and a half and they had just boughten a house and were going to be moving out at the end of October, so she reached out to me to see if I was interested in settling down for a while and renting a room from her. I told her that I might very well be interested but was wanting to see if anything was going to come of this Grand Canyon position. As the days ticked on and not hearing from Patty I proceeded to talk with Mindy more about going to Post Falls. My thoughts were also on the fact that one of my goals was to get my knees checked into this winter and my motorhome is needing more repair work. My thoughts have gone many different directions as I very much want to keep traveling and exploring, but also feel that as my knees are deteriorating and doing basic daily tasks is becoming increasingly more difficult and the motorhome is constantly needing repairs that it is time to reassess things. So I decided to take Mindy up on her offer and take the time to take care of my health, my knees, and figure out what I really want to do next.
From Visalia, I headed to the Flying J/Pilot truck stop in Lodi, CA where I was going to be meeting up with my friend Laci. We had planned to eat at Denny’s restaurant but the wait was an hour-long, so we got Subway sandwiches and sat out on the lawn section in our lawn chairs. I was able to park my motorhome right near there and let Hank hang outside with us. The weather was actually nice out and so we chatted and visited for about 4 hours when it was starting to get dark and Laci needed to head back home. I slept in my motorhome that night at the Flying J. The next morning I got fuel and headed down highway 12 and then 113 to Vacaville. My friends Colleen and Bill live there as well as my brother off and on. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get together with Colleen and Bill. My brother was busy with some other commitments and could not meet up with me that day……..He didn’t know I was going to be in town so it was last-minute notice. I went to the local Walmart and stocked up on some grocery shopping and that night I stayed at a rest stop about 40 minutes down the road at Dunnigan Northbound Rest Area near Woodland, CA. The next morning I called Canyon Creek Resort near Winters, WA……it is a membership only campground but my brother mentioned I should check it out because you could stay for two days and 3 nights if you listened to their membership presentation, so I called and headed off to Canyon Creek Resort. I spent the next two days and three nights at Canyon Creek which turned out to be a really nice park just about 8 miles outside Winters in the foothills along the river.
On the day I was to leave my brother came out that morning to visit me…….he took me to breakfast in Winters and then we came back to the campground where he helped me out with a problem I was having with my car dolly and I was having trouble with the door lock on my RV. We both headed out from the campground at the same time and we stopped in winters at the Napa to pick up some extra oil and coolant for the motorhome. From there he went on home and I headed to the Dunnigan Northbound Rest Area again for the night.
The next morning I called a couple of RV parks to stay at for the next week near Sacramento and Folsom. I was going to spend some time seeing my cousin who lived in Sacramento and was hoping to see a couple more friends while I was in the area. I was able to stay two nights at the Placerville KOA park in Shingle Springs, CA. This was also a really nice KOA and I was able to get a space on the end that was large so it was easy to pull in and pull out. I was able to see my cousin on the second day I was there, she came up to the KOA and we took a soak in the hot tub, but unfortunately, it wasn’t really too hot, they were having problems with it, but we hung out in it for about an hour talking and visiting……the water was lukewarm like bathtub water. Afterward, we went back to the motorhome and had some dinner I fixed. Again I was not able to meet up with friends as I had hoped. The next morning I headed to Loomis RV Park in Loomis, CA. This park was okay, but the spots were pretty tight and close together. I had three nights here……the second day I was there my cousin came to pick me up after she got off work and I stayed overnight at her house and the next afternoon I went with her to her grandson’s high school soccer game. Afterward, we stopped and picked up food from Panda Express and she took me back to my motorhome, ate our dinner, and then she headed back home. The next morning I headed out of the Sacramento area and headed towards Redding and finally stopped for the night in Mt Shasta City, CA at the KOA.
The next morning I left the KOA in Mt Shasta City and just past Weed, CA I took highway 97 making my way through Klamath Falls, Oregon up to Bend, Oregon where I stayed just outside the city limits at a Scenic Viewpoint/Rest Area. I had tried to find an RV park to stay in but it was later in the evening and most things were already filled up for the night. The next morning I was back on the road and it wasn’t long and things warmed up as the day got warmer. I continued to travel on Highway 97 all the way to Briggs Junction, Oregon where I caught Highway 84, and then highway 82 to Kennewick, then 395 /90 to the Spokane Valley KOA in Washington. It was after dark when I arrived but found my space at the end of the row I was assigned to, so it was again an easy pull-in and pull-out. This was another very nice KOA campground with lots of trees that were changing colors so it was really beautiful. I stayed at this campground for a week till I touched base with my friend and figured out the arrangements for me to move in and I also had to secure a place to store my motorhome and the car dolly which I was able to accomplish. I moved out of the KOA and got my motorhome to the storage facility on October 31st, 2021. I slept a week on my friend’s couch till her daughter and her boyfriend were finally able to move into their new home on October 29th. I slept my first night in my new room and in a real bed again on October 30th.