The Disney Wilderness Preserve

We have been volunteering here at The Disney Wilderness Preserve for The Nature Conservancy since the end of October. It is going well. In exchange for around 28 hours a week, we get a full hook up RV spot, laundry, WiFi and the use of off road vehicles and tools. We don’t work every week. It is an odd schedule of 2 days on/3 days off, 2 days on/3 days off, 2 days on/9 days off. That way workampers can get away if they choose to explore some of Florida. There are three couples here including Craig and I.

We do work like-keeping the office areas clean, landscaping, answering questions around the small visitor center, checking bathrooms, cleaning garages, maintaining vehicles, sharpening tools, planting, etc. 

Our boss/volunteer coordinator, the other staff and workampers are all great. We have get togethers every week and it has been interesting talking to visitors and workers from NEON, Americorps, Disney, etc.

When Disney built Celebration and Animal Kingdom back in the 90’s, they bought the nearly 12,000 acres here in mitigation. They donated it to The Nature Conservancy to run. It saved the land from developers. The headwaters to the Everglades are here and we see heron, egrets, wood stork, Sandhill cranes, eagle, ospreys, Florida Scrub Jay, Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, alligators, otter, Gopher tortoise, snakes and more every day. We hear coyotes and see raccoon and bobcat tracks too! 

It has been peaceful here, but much less isolated than Yellowstone. We have Publix, Aldi, Walmart, food places, a post office and library five minutes away. We are 40 minutes to Walt Disney World, Universal, Sea World and shopping. We  are less than an hour to downtown Orlando.

We are enjoying volunteering here, but are ready to make some money soon! If you are in the Central Florida area, visit The Disney Wilderness Preserve. Take a nice walk to Lake Russell, one of the last developed lakes in Florida! We will keep you updated on where we head next.

 

 

One Year Anniversary of Full Time RVing

As of September, we have been living in our RV for a year! We picked up our Grand Design Reflection travel trailer last September in Tampa, Florida. It still feels really comfortable and we are very happy with the model we chose.

Winter in Florida was wonderful and we look forward to getting back there in October. The trip to Yellowstone was also amazing. We are happy we took the route we did because we got to see so much. FL-AL-LA-TX-NM-CO-WY. Two months was a perfect amount of time to travel to WY.

Our first Workamping position was very interesting. We loved being able to spend more time in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. We hiked over 100 miles, saw more wildlife than we had in the past and met many great people. In the future, I do not know if we would work somewhere so remote. At least not for so long! It was very hard to do our other work with no WiFi nearby. It was also tough to eat healthy with decent grocery stores at least two hours away.

Yellowstone Forever was a nice orginization to work for, but trying at times. The Old Faithful bookstore was always busy. Sometimes packed with hundreds of people in a very small store. The AC was broken all summer, so it was very hot and stuffy trying to stock or clean. The POS system was also broken all season and would ring prices wrong, items wrong and refused to do refunds for weeks. It was very hard to chat with customers or give good service when you had to be constantly checking your computer screen for mistakes! Craig and I both sold well over $5,000 each in memberships for YF. People were really wonderful about giving back to their park. It was hard to sell memberships when you had lines out the door some days though.

Because of the amout of people from all over the world packed into our small space, as well as not eating healthy and tons of fires surrounding us, we have been sick off and on for the entire season. Craig and I rarely get sick- maybe once every two years- so this has thrown us for a loop. We are super excited to finish out our season and head back to Florida October 1st.

Would we do it again? Yes, but not for 5+ months and not in such a remote location. Or, we would consider it if they offered workers WiFi. They have WiFi in the Snow Lodge for a charge and they also offer it to employees of the hotels and restaurants. We have other work we do from the RV that is our main source of income, so we need to be able to do that if we take a volunteer or lower paying position in the future. The Disney Wilderness Preserve where we are volunteering next does offer volunteers WiFi, but we will also be able to use our phone data there. 

In all an interesting first year and we are glad we had this adventure!

Natural Places Nearby

Once you have a plan for the future it can be hard to wait. Craig and I have to be patient and save a little more money before we feel comfortable heading out on the road. That is why we gave ourselves until next fall. This also gives us more time to plan things out and search for a nice truck and RV. While we are saving and planning, we are spending as much time as we can in the open spaces and land near us.

We like to bird watch, so we have been going to several of the Mass Audubon Sanctuaries near us. Like the National Park Service, they are celebrating 100 years this year. We love to walk the paths in the woods and near the marshes. Every time we visit, we see something new. Yesterday two deer were bedding down right next to where we were walking. A hawk was being chased away by several birds and we also saw three snakes.  I have been posting pictures to our Instagram feed.

We have also been volunteering at the Essex County Greenbelt and the Trustees of Reservations. The Trustees are celebrating 125 years this year. It is nice to learn more about the wildlife around us, work and hike our trails and give some of our time back to the community. We enjoy being part of the events and are finding we are spending less money on other outings. We got to take a wilderness first aid class and plan on taking a longer one in the fall or next spring.  

We are also walking 3-10 miles every time we get out there. This makes a big difference when we hike on our trips. We are able to walk all day and enjoy our time in the National Parks. One more month until our big Glacier/Yellowstone/Grand Teton summer trip. We are really looking forward to it!