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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Wisconsin State Parks Volunteer Jamboree 2016

Every year the park department sponsors an event called a Volunteer Jamboree. Through the hard efforts of the friends of Wisconsin State Parks and the Friends of Devil's Lake State Park, we enjoyed a wonderful 3 day getaway.  It is a Thank You to the volunteers who gave of time and effort all year long.

The location changes from park to park over the years, and this year it happened to be at Devil's Lake State Park near Baraboo, Wisconsin. We were treated to three days of paid up camping fees, programs, wonderful meals, prizes, and a lot of outside activities and tours to choose from.

We arrived early so we could get into our campsite if possible and tune in to the Packer game at noon. We could see that the people on our site were packing up and ready to leave early. They really didn't have to vacate until 4 p.m. But with the pending rainstorm they packed up as quick as they could.

While we waited patiently in the overflow parking area, it was just beginning to rain. Soon the skies opened up, the rain poured down. The site was already the lowest one of the campground loop, and the site got softer and softer with mud. As many of you know this part of the state has had record rainfalls over the last few weeks with a lot of flooded fields, overflowing river banks and very muddy low-lying areas.

We hung out in the Overflow parking lot while watching the start of the Packer game, until the other folks pulled out. We tried to back into our campsite but the back dually wheels of our heavy diesel rig sunk deeper and deeper into the mud!!! I told Steve NO WAY and to quickly get it out of there! So he managed to get the motorhome out of the site before doing any major damage to the muddy site or our rig.

(I snapped this pic two days later and it still had not dried up!)

The office gals kindly switched us to another camp site on high ground that could accommodate a 40-foot motorhome. They gave us the choice of 5 sites..  Ahhhhh that was much nicer.

Soon our other High Cliff volunteers began to arrive. We have seven volunteer couples that work for a month each throughout the spring, summer and fall at High Cliff.  Steve and I help out with camphosting as needed ---  in case of scheduling conflicts. Steve is also the Camp Host Coordinator for our park, in charge of training and setting the schedule for the camp hosts in our park. Each couple takes a one-month long stint. In return for a free electric/water campsite, the couple is required to put in 20 total hours of work per week. Their duties include cleaning fire pits and grills, and picking up trash whenever it is seen anywhere on the trails or in the park. Mainly, their job is to be an ambassador to the public, answer questions, hand out information and be goodnatured friendly faces to the patrons of our park.

Three of the seven couples were able to make it to this weekend event. It was also nice to see some other friendly faces from other volunteer camphosts that we have met over the years at past Jamborees.

After the Packer game was over, (which they won), we hopped in the tracker and found our way around the park.

Upon registration we were given a goody bag full of some wonderful items and souvenirs about Devil's Lake State Park. We had the park map and decided to drive around to become acclimated with the very large park. There are almost 500 campsites here and a 360 acre lake with 500 ft high bluffs.

I have camped here about 30 years ago with my kids, so it was nice to figure out again where to go and where certain events were being held.

The weather was kind of iffy but they had a welcoming social event down in one of the enclosed pavilions. These gorgeous buildings were constructed by the CCC workers during the Depression.  I think of all the young men who were learning skills and working with their hands, earning money to send home to their family.  Now our parks benefit from those long ago laborers.

I was admiring the lovey purple hues of the stones in the roof supports for this building. 
They almost looked like amethyst... I forgot the name of it.

The staff lit up a fire outside and had a buffet table of snacks and all of the makings for s'mores.  The rain had ended for the evening and we had a nice campfire circle.

About 80 of the volunteers arrived and we were also treated to an acapella group of singers from Milwaukee to furnish the evening entertainment.  Another 50 or so volunteers were due to arrive tomorrow.

We met up with a nice couple named Annette and Tom from the Madison area. They camphost up at the Northern Highlands Park system. They were two sites away from us and we did some visiting back and forth throughout the three-day Jamboree.


Monday morning we awoke to beautiful sunshine. It was a total surprise because it was supposed to be rainy and icky all day.

We were treated to a continental breakfast and got to visit with other folks from other parks. It is interesting to hear about the varying  job descriptions that camphosts take on in other parks. Our folks have it pretty easy!   We had some speeches with various State Park staff from Madison... and they gifted us with a variety of items. I got a nice state park T shirt and Steve got a thermal cooler for packing along bottles of wine.

 All of these great things were being sponsored by the Friends of the Park Organization.

We attended some discussions and meetings, and then we were treated to a wonderful box lunch. For the afternoon we were given seven or eight choices of things in the area to go and see. The whitecaps on the lake prevented us from kayaking, canoeing, or heck --- even stand up paddle boarding!

We went to go find a winery to tour, and I decided I needed to pop into the little town of Baraboo to a little quilt shop to check it out. It was called Ardyth's Sew n Vac Shoppe

The owner was so sweet and helpful and gave me some information about different sewing threads and also some different needles for my Janome machine when I do my quilting.

We roamed around the park and explored some areas on the South Shore. Devils Lake is a huge lake bordered on both sides by high cliffs and tumbling rocks along the shores.

The park winds around through swamp lands and high bluffs. 

During the summer months this place is jam-packed. Now that school has started, and being a weekday, it was pleasantly less busy.  Except for these guys....

We joined some of our other volunteer couples and toured the Nature Center in the park. Isn't this building absolutely adorable?

Inside they had some live animals and I got a kick out of this painted turtle. He just wanted to go somewhere. 

We got in some time to get back to the motor home to take the dogs for a walk but then had to rush back for our evening dinner.  This time we were in another building called The Chalet that looked out over the lake.

The friends of Wisconsin state parks hosted a wonderful meal of bluegill and chicken and all the fixens for a fine feast. We sat at a table by the window and watched the sun set.

They had evening entertainment of a blues / Rock / oldies band.  After our wonderful dinner and dessert of this great cake...  the leaves are not quite this color yet, but it is coming, for sure!~~

Adult beverages were available for the evening. Sipping wine and chatting with our new friends Annette and Tom, before we knew it, it was time to head on back to our campers. Annette and Tom came over to check out our motorhome, and we chatted well into the night. It was getting windy and cold out so we stayed inside. No campfires for us.

Our next door neighbor had this little guy who was hoping for a campfire for his marshmallow. He plugs in and lights up at night too. How cute is that?

Tuesday morning we finished up some final paperwork, said our goodbyes, and headed on back towards home. I managed to convince Steve that IF we could find a decent parking spot, I would like to stop at a little quilt shop in Portage, Wisconsin.

The problem is when we are towing the Tracker we are about 55 feet long. I Google-Earthed this little quilt shop and it was right on the main drag in town.  Although we could have twisted around on some of the back streets to try and find a parking lot, I told Steve we would only stop IF we found an easy spot to park in front. Otherwise we could pass it by.

Lo and behold, as we got close to the store, here were about five vacant parallel parking spots! We pulled into the first four and pulled ahead. The last spot in front of us we needed for wiggle room to be able to leave. Steve put together two of our little orange emergency triangles and set them there.

What most non-rving people do not understand is that when you are towing a vehicle behind a motorhome with a tow bar, it is not made to back up. The tow bar can be severely damaged by shoving the rams backwards into themselves. They are only made to pull, and not be pushed back in a reverse position.  So it is not the lack of skill that prevents us from backing up...noooo  it is due to the limitations of the equipment.

We are not about to destroy an $800 tow bar just to try to back up if someone happens to park in front of us. Or go through the whole hassle of unhooking to move back ten feet to get out of a parking space. So we HOGGED the row of parking spots on the street!  LOL .. For a little bit, anyhow.

And sure enough, while I was in the quilt shop, some old codger came and drove right over Steve's orange triangles and cracked one! He did pull ahead to the next space beyond, but we don't think he even saw our orange triangles in the first place!!!

I was busy inside this shop: 

It was chock-full of beautiful things and I selected a variety of batik fabrics that I needed to finish the Log Cabin quilt that I am working on. The very knowledgeable owner took time to chat with me. She gave me some information on various things, and showed me around her store. She invited me to come back sometime on a Saturday and see their classroom on the lower level.

I bought a few more things and headed back on out to the motor home, where my husband and dogs were patiently waiting for me. With one broken emergency triangle. LOL

We ambled on the 100 miles back to home.  On the way, I snapped this pic of the heavy dark skies over a typical Wisconsin Farm scene.  I wanted to get a pic of a windmill but got some pretty stormy clouds that were more interesting.

 Yes, it was windy and blasting and stormy by the time we got home.  We had a tail wind pushing us most of the way, which was pretty nice.  Another Wisconsin State Parks Volunteer Jamboree is in the books.

Thank you Friends Groups and the State of Wisconsin.  We had fun!


  1. Nice weekend for all the volunteers, they were rewarded for all their hard work.That is a really good picture of you with Steve.

  2. looks like the camping season is almost over in Wisconsin. I never went to Devils Lake when I lived there, but Craig and friends did in High School.

    We had our annual services done on our Alfa this week. We have had no problems, and the only thing they found amiss was a torn air intake tube connector. You have to appreciate Steve for all the great maintenance he has done on your Safari. Labor cost was $155 per hour! Our bill, with no problems or repairs other than that connecting hose was over $2000. Steve is a treasure!


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