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245 Campground Host 2010-06-23

Elkmont Campground Sign

On our weekend trip to the Smokies, we stayed at Elkmont Campground. The Campground had a "full" sign posted as we entered. Actually, Laura had tried to get a campground reservation but it was full. She tried back later and a spot had opened due to a cancellation. We were lucky.

Then, Jon and Laura found out a friend, Steve, was also going to be camping at Elkmont that weekend. Steve had two sites but only needed one. Now, we had two sites for six people. Things were looking good.

We arrived at the campsite at dark. The campground office was closed. After discussing the registration we decided that, since it was reserved and paid for, we should not have to register.

Saturday morning we left before 6 in the morning. The campground office was closed as we left for the day. We probably would not have registered anyway, because we had already done so online when we reserved the site.

Our hike lasted all day and we did not return to the site until early evening, again, after the office was closed for the day. We went back to our site for a couple of minutes and then left for Steve's sites to join the others for dinner. After dinner we returned to our original site and immediately went to bed.

Sunday morning I awoke early, as usual.

While walking around camp I found a notice stuck to our camp table. It said, "Garbage Kills Bears". I did not understand why it was on our table, but thought it was just a friendly reminder. As I was making hot water for coffee (we did not have coffee; but I did not know that yet), I read the back of the notice - it said, "pls register."

We were packing to leave so we were not in any rush to "pls register". Not long after finding the notice, Charlie, the campground host arrived. Before I go too far, please understand that volunteer programs at the Park provide invaluable manpower for certain services. In the days of tight budgets, the volunteers are sorely needed.

Charlie approached the campsite and told me that I needed to register. I went on to tell Charlie about Laura making the reservations and that we were preparing to leave but he obviously did not care. When I realized the uselessness of trying to talk to him, I told Charlie that Laura was in site B-8, and she had a copy of the reservation. He turned and huffed away.

About thirty minutes later Charlie returned. He started the conversation from a distance, "there is no one on that site named Franklin."

Now, unless they had already left that morning, I knew that was a bold faced lie.

Campground NoticeCharlie proceeded to tell me that I had thrown away two notices that he had posted at the site requesting us to register. We needed to go at once to register. By now Amy was up. Amy volunteered to go to Laura's site with Charlie. They left together.

I continued to work on getting ready to leave and the rest of the story was taken from Amy and Laura.

Over at the other site, it was clear Laura was not yet awake. Amy shook the tent a bit and tried to explain, in as few words as possible, the registration situation. Laura asked if she could first put on some clothes and go to the bathroom before speaking to Charlie. Of course, they would wait.

Fully clothed and refreshed, Laura retrieved her copy of the registration from her car and handed it to Charlie who then scrutinized it in great detail. The first thing he asked her was, 'why are you camping on THIS site instead of the other one?'

Laura began to explain but it was clear this is not what Charlie wanted to hear. Amy interrupted and stated that, with the registration copy, we should simply walk down to the office and check in. Charlie glared at Amy and explained, 'that's not the issue here!'

Amy retorted with, 'then what IS the issue?'

This really upset Charlie and he threatened to call an "officer" and have them write Amy a ticket.

Laura, trying to keep the peace, using a calm voice asked Charlie, 'Sir, sir, just what do you want us to do and we'll do it.'

Charlie's response nearly created a raged-induced murder by Amy; 'What I WANT you to DO is to walk down to that office and REGISTER!'

Laura politely replied she would do just that, and we watched Charlie walk off.

After retrieving her ID, Laura and Amy walked to the office to find Charlie (who had obviously just finished recanting the situation), another volunteer, and a ranger, all behind the check-in counter. Laura, in as concise a manner as possible, replayed the situation. Charlie refused eye contact. When she mentioned the part about showing the registration copy to Charlie, he came out from behind the counter and, head down, stomped out the door like an angry three-year-old.

When Laura offered to show her ID to the ranger, the ranger simply said, 'not necessary', and the matter was quickly resolved without further incident.

So we finally discovered the major issue, the Campground Host thought we were squatting on the site. That is, some folks find empty sites in the campground, even though they have been reserved and paid by someone else, and they use the vacant sites.

Personally, I do not have a problem with someone using the site. If I paid for a site and cancelled too late for a refund, I would rather someone use the site than for it to sit empty. I would think that the typical squatter would come to the campground late and and then leave very early the next day. We were supposedly squatting for two days! In fact we felt comfortable enough about our squatting prowess, that we left a $500 tent and camping gear just sitting in the campsite for the two days.

That just doesn't seem like the behavior of squatters.

And just for the record, I don't squat, I stand to pee.

Happy squatting trails.


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