A cold wind whipped down the Texas plains on the night last month that Sharon Smith, 68, and her husband, Bill, 73, arrived here to be work-campers.
In the dark, they had trouble setting up their camper. But Ms. Smith, a former teacher’s aide from Sioux Falls, S.D., said she looked up at the starry sky, shook off a few of the burrs she had picked up lying on the ground working on their truck, and told herself it would get better.
The life of a work-camper, volunteering in places like Falcon State Park in deep South Texas in return for free rent, is not without its bumps. But as Ms. Smith also quickly discovered, the rewards can be deep as well — like making cinnamon rolls as part of her job at the camp recreation center, where she and Mr. Smith are working as hosts through the end of March.
“We’re here for three reasons,” she said, as she spread sugar on the dough. “No. 1, we like to travel. No. 2, we like people. And No. 3, we’re on a budget.”
An itinerant, footloose army of available and willing retirees in their 60s and 70s is marching through the American outback, looking to stretch retirement dollars by volunteering to work in parks, campgrounds and wildlife sanctuaries, usually in exchange for camping space.
Park and wildlife agencies say that retired volunteers have in turn become all the more crucial as budget cuts and new demands have made it harder to keep parks open.
RTFA. Reflect on the nation which to all intents and purposes invented national parks for the recreation and education of the people – now ruled by beancounters who care only for columns of profit and loss marching in obedient fashion through their budgets.
We have parks with no funds, retirees without adequate healthcare and a new generation left to fill out their American dreams with nonsense television and online myths.