Solo Volunteering At LCIC, Cape Disappointment State Park, WA
Believe it or not I’m just starting my 3rd week of volunteering at Cape Disappointment State Park, WA. We LOVE this area, so honestly I find it super easy to volunteer here. Cape D is a gorgeous State Park and the nearby towns (Long Beach, Astoria) are both awesome spots with fabulous beer choices (which is always a “must” for us LOL). Work-wise the history is fun, the hours are easy and Steve & Aaron (the two interpretive rangers) are really great guys to work for.
We’ve volunteered here at Cape D before, so when I was looking for a solo position, I simply talked to Steve and asked him if he had anything I could do. As luck had it he told me he could use some help at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center (LCIC) for the month of June. After some additional questions about the job (hours, requirements etc.) and confirmation on exactly where I would park (only a few sites here at Cape D have cellphone signal, which is always a requirement for us), I was committed and ready to go. My fingerprints & background check (a required part of the WA State Parks Volunteer Program) were still valid from last year, so I didn’t have to do any additional paperwork. Just show up and get going!
Where/What Is The Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center?
The Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center (LCIC) is a large 2-level building located on a spectacular bluff ~200 ft above pacific ocean bluff right inside Cape Disappointment State Park on the very SW tip of WA. It’s pretty much exactly what you think it is. It’s a center dedicated to the 1804-1806 Lewis and Clark Expedition (also known as the Corps of Discovery Expedition), the first American expedition to cross what is now the western portion of the United States. Cape D was the historic end-point of their travels west so it’s a pretty significant spot for fans of the history, and we have an awesome interpretive center to match. Two levels of superb history covering the entire length of the expedition with tons of interactive displays as well as a film. There’s also a gift shop (managed by someone else) and displays on local military and maritime history (the gorgeous 1st Order Fresnel Lens that was used at the lighthouse is here, amongst other things).
Seriously, if you come to Cape D, don’t miss the LCIC!
Do You Get Any Training?
Everyone who volunteer hosts at Cape Disappointment gets an initial orientation training that covers park safety, rules, volunteer responsibilities, paperwork etc. Hosts also get a HUGE info folder that covers everything from the job to park rules and area history. The folder is yours to keep & study at home for the duration of your job (you give it back when you leave). As an LCIC host you’ll also get training in how to use the cash register & credit card machine.
I did the standard orientation on the very last day of May, and started my job in the beginning of June. The ranger also spent several hours at the desk with me my first day on the job just to make sure I felt comfortable handling everything. The whole process was effortless.
What Do You DO at Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center?
As the LCIC host my job is to welcome folks into the building, sell tickets ($5 to go through the interpretive displays) and answer any questions they might have about LCIC or the park. I’m also asked to keep a record of how many people come in (with a clicker counter) and distribute Junior Ranger packets (to those who ask). Most of the time I just sit behind a big desk right at the entrance and look welcoming!
- Host Hours -> I’m at the LCIC from 11am – 4pm, 3-4 days per week, with 1/2 hour break for lunch. My current schedule is Mon-Wed/Thur (another set of hosts take over Wed/Thur to Sun). In total I work a ~15-20 hours per week. Easy peasy.
- Host Equipment -> At the LCIC desk I have a cash register, credit card reader, 2-way radio (for contacting a ranger or the park), landline phone, ink stamps (for folks collecting National Park or Lighthouse stamps) and access to a small library of books & handouts. There’s also WiFi access (not public, just for folks who work at the center).
- Host Attire -> As a host I’m required to wear a volunteer vest and (if I wish) a hat. The vest is what makes me “official” and once I put it on, I’m a representative of the park. That’s it.
Where Is Your RV Parked?
There are several host RV parking sites, all located within Cape Disappointment State Park. Our RV is in one of the sites nearest the entrance of the park (the only place in the park that has decent cell signal) and is the same site we’ve had in previous years. It’s a nice, green site with a lovely sitting area and basic full hookups (30 Amp, water, sewer). This year the park also re-graveled the RV pad which was a nice improvement.
The location is great, walking distance to a fabulous beach & several hiking trails. Plus cellphone signal is good. The only negative is that our site is right next to the campground toilets. They’re on the drivers side of the RV so if we pull down the shades on that side we can pretend they’re not there. On week-ends the area can get busy with people, but on the weekdays it’s mostly empty. We have decent separation from the camping loop folks so it’s not bothersome. Overall, we really like our site here.
Note/ This is a volunteer job so there is NO PAY. You get your RV site and that’s it.
What’s A Typical Day Like?
Since my job doesn’t start until 11am, I can enjoy a leisurely morning walking the dog to the beach or hanging at my RV site. The LCIC center is either ~20 mins walk or ~5 mins drive from my site, so if the weather is good I’ll leave at around 10:30am and do the walk. It’s a really nice hike along a forested trail with several fabulous viewpoints of the beach and ocean. This time of year the salmon-berries are ripe, so I’ll usually have a few handfuls of those on the walk over too.
Once at the LCIC center I get behind the desk and just start hosting. The park opens the desk at 10am and mans it for an hour before I start, so the register and everything else is already stocked and active by the time I arrive. At noon(ish) I have my lunch break which I’ll either take outside if the weather is nice (there’s a bench with a great view of the ocean and Cape D lighthouse), or inside if weather is grey (there’s a large, private staff room in the building). Then, it’s back to the desk from 12:30 until I’m off at 4pm. The park takes over the desk for the last hour of the museum time (4-5 pm) so I don’t have to cash out or close anything. I simply hand over the seat and go.
My time at the desk is spent welcoming people, selling tickets and chatting. Most of the time I’m chatting about stuff that has nothing at all to do with the LCIC center (where people come from, their stories, local hikes, restaurant recommendations and so on), but every now and then I will get asked a history question related to either Lewis & Clark, why this place is called Cape Disappointment (it’s a common question and has nothing to do with Lewis & Clark, by the way) or what the big concrete bunkers are behind the museum (a WWI-era battlement from old Fort Canby).
We get anywhere from 90 to 300 people visiting the museum every day. This time of year (June) weekdays are slower while week-ends are busier. When it’s busy the day speeds by with folks & chatting. When visitation is slow it can get a little boring, so I’ll read some of the history books by the desk, chat to the gift shop gal (who’s right nextdoor) and/or surf a little on my phone.
Honestly the job is super easy. I get to meet a bunch of interesting people, learn some history and stay in a place we LOVE. Plus WA State Parks are a GREAT organization to volunteer for. It’s a job I’d recommend to anyone. Volunteering rocks!
Any questions on my job? Or RV volunteering in general? Fire away below!
Related Blog Posts -> Our Previous Volunteer Jobs
- Top 10 FAQ -> Lighthouse Volunteering/Hosting
- On the “Job” At North Head Lighthouse – Cape Disappointment, WA
- Volunteering as Lighthouse Hosts -> What Do You Actually DO?
- Volunteer Hosting At Cape Blanco Lighthouse
- Back on The Job – Lighthouse Hosting At Coquille River Lighthouse, OR
- Volunteer Hosting at Mount Constitution, Orcas Island, WA – What Do We DO Here?
Related Blog Posts -> Long Beach/Astoria Area
- A Week-End By The Sea – Astoria, OR
- The Foulest Place In The West? Cape Disappointment, WA
- Cape Disappointment, WA – It Most Definitely Does Not…
- 5 Spots To Have Beer & Cocktails In Style – Long Beach/Astoria WA/OR
- Kite Madness – Long Beach, WA
- Fishing, History & Alligator-Men – Long Beach Peninsula, WA
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do
Sweet! That is a great job in exchange for really good parking. In addition to wondering how anyone on the Lewis and Clark expedition actually survived its rigors, we have been captivated by the building of the jetties. That was a significant engineering project, they were 30 years in the making. The LCIC is a great resource, as are the kiosks on the surrounding grounds.
Totally. In fact the whole area around here is BURSTING with history. The jetties, the two lighthouses, the forts (Fort Canby, Fort Columbia), and of course the rich native american history. I love it!
Bob Martel says
We were there in September of 2015 and loved the L&C Interpretive Center. I remember the walk up (and I mean UP!) from the parking lot, the visit to the lighthouse (which was closed when we were there) and the amazing views!!! We’ll be back!
It’s a super cool place! Both lighthouses are closed this year, unfortunately. Cape D Lighthouse is owned by the Coast Guard and is typically closed anyway (they only open up one or two days a year). North Head Lighthouse is typically open, but is undergoing renovation this year so sadly no tours until 2017.
We’ll be there just after the July 4th crunch, if you are still there we’ll say HI as we take in the LCIC. I know you have a cell booster, is cell service poor with the booster too?
Looking forward to our visit.
We’ll be gone by July, unfortunately. I asked Steve for 2 months, but July was already full so no-go.
Cell service in the main campground is ZERO. Nothing at all, even with a booster. You can get signal near the park entrance (by the rangers station) and there is free WiFi inside Serious Pizza. We’re parked right near the entrance which is the only reason we have signal.
Are long are you going to be working at the L and C Center/ also can a handicapped person get up to the L and C Center
I’ll be working there all of June. And yes it’s ADA accessible.
I’m at a solo volunteer position at Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach OR. wildlife interpreter for National Fish and Wildlife. My 18 hours a week affords me a full hookup site in Ecola State park. However I’m out in the elements. I’m furnished with weather gear so its very doable and I knew what I was getting into before accepting the position. For me it was yes from the very beginning.
I work with the local group Haystack Rock Awareness Program and their staff some paid some volunteers are so dedicated and knowledgeable.
I lived in Astoria a few years back and could not be happier living at the coast for the summer. A bit longer than you, memorial day thru labor day.
I love your blog and have a wonderful summer and safe travels.
Carlene aka Waianaegal
What an interesting gig! Thanks so much for sharing your experience. It’s always fascinating to hear what other volunteers are doing.
Great informative post, as usual….looks like it was tailored made for you….
This is really a win/win. The Park System wins, by basically zero cost staff to meet staffing demands. You (Volunteer) wins by both no cost parking, and the satisfaction of contributing. (And for some, perhaps Nina, a real plus – as ‘people people’ (Those that like interacting with others.) get a chance to do so.
We’ve followed yours, Pauls and others volunteering – and expect to start doings in 2017/2018. I’m the ‘gabber’ of our twosome, my Dear Wife is more comfortable volunteering in less public interaction ways. So I’d do good on interpretive type tours, and she’d love a day of gardening, general picking up and clean-up, and she says cleaning restrooms…
To each their own.
Thanks for sharing not just this experience, but your ones in the past too… Something for everyone!
Many State Parks, especially in Oregon, have a dedicated “maintenance host” who does nothing but outdoor work (no human interaction). Your wife might like that. Also many camp hosting jobs are a mix of human stuff (chatting and interacting with campers) and maintenance stuff (cleaning sites after check-out etc.) so you could easily split a job like that too. I think you’ll be a great volunteer couple!
Terri Pilate says
Thanks again for sharing so well, Nina! I will add this location to my wish list of places I hope I can workcamp at when we start full timing. Lewis and Clark! I grew up in Yankton, SD and Lewis and Clark figured hugely in the local history. I love customer service and as a public librarian, I get lots of experience and even know how to work a credit card machine. 😉
Sounds like you a MADE for a job like this! I bet you have a ton of good Lewis and Clark stories in your back pocket too.
Larry Campbell says
I rode my Harley to Cape D a few days ago, but the lady in the office said she never heard of you. I made it to Cape Disappointed just to be disappointed. I would have loved to meet you two. Maybe these posts you put out are much later than when I get them. I don’t know, but hope to meet you someday.
I wasn’t working over the weekend, but we’re still here. They may not give out site location of volunteers to folks, or perhaps the folks at the ranger office just don’t know us (the Rangers that handle volunteers are different from the ones that handle the park office). Sorry we missed ya.
That does look much more enjoyable than the Asian Regional Sales Manager for Cypress chip-sets.
Definitely a lot less stress LOL. I sometimes miss the excitement and challenge of sales, plus I miss the great people I worked with, but I never miss the stress.
Julie Livingston says
Thanks for the host info. We’ll be there next month so it was nice to read about it. Maybe we’ll see you at the end of the month.
It does sound like the perfect volunteer position in a most beautiful place. I love that you have a supply of books about the area and its history at your ‘disposal’ for those slower times. The center looks really nice. We turned east from our coastal sojourn last year just before we got there so it’s on the list to spend some time next trip!
Totally. I really enjoy the books! I’ve read at least 3 of them since I’ve been here. They cover everything from Lewis and Clark to local ghost stories. Fun stuff.
So great that you were able to return to one of your favorite spots for a month. It sounds like you have a sweet gig. We love hosting, too (as you know.) We’re heading back to Lopez Island this weekend for our sixth summer as interpretive hosts. 🙂
I knew you’d be back!! It’s so hard giving up hosting once you’ve found a place you love. The draw to go back is just so strong.
George and Diana says
We are currently hosting right across the Columbia River at Fort Stevens State Park, Oregon. Our assignment for the month of June is giving narriated tours around the historic area. Our ride is a 1952 Deuce and a Half military 6 X 6 truck. One host drives, the other rides in the back with park visitors. We view the Cape D lighthouse from afar during our 45 minute excursions. As you can imagine, this volunteering job is lots of fun just like you explain in your wonderful blog. You are cordially invited to attend.
What a sweeeet gig!!! I’ll definitely let you know if we manage to get over there.
When we visited the LCIC during our time in Astoria, I told Terry I thought it would be fun to volunteer there. It is such a beautiful building and the views are marvelous. I’d say you’ve landed another sweet volunteering gig Nina.
Paula Frazee says
I’ve wanted to visit Cape Disappointment for a long time. I always assumed it was named by Lewis and Clark – what is the real story? I heard about your travel blog from RV Sue’s blog. When I tried to read hers tonight a box popped up saying that you had to sign in with a username and password – but I read it last night and there wasn’t anything like that, or even information that it was going to be a restricted site. Do you know anything about it? Thanks.
Very strange. I just clicked RV Sue’s blog and got the same popup. Not sure what’s going on, but I imagine it’s a mistake. Sure hope she hasn’t been hacked.
As for the name, it stems from 1788 and an English Captain by the name of John Meares. He was trying to find the fabled northwest passage and the great river (that we now know as the Columbia) that was thought to lead to it. He actually found the entrance, but the notorious and shifty Columbia River bar blocked the passage. He concluded the river entrance did not exist, so he named the bay Deception Bay and the nearby headland Cape Disappointment. He was not happy!
Paula Frazee says
That’s interesting about Cape Disappointment! I once read both Lewis’s and Clark’s unabridged journals – very interesting, and I like to visit the sites they were at when we travel. But living in Independence, Missouri, it is a LONG way to the Pacific Northwest. BTW, I should have mentioned in my first comment that I really appreciate your information on boondocking sites. We may use one of the ones over by Marble, CO when we are there in August. And thanks for the info on RV Sue, I hope it is just a glitch or hackers, too. She’s in Colorado and I was really interested in hearing about her travels there since that is where we go for most of our vacations.
Reading the unabridged Lewis and Clark journals in their entirety is pretty hard core LOL. I have to admit they’re slow reading. But fascinating too, as you said. I’ve only managed to get through part of one of them.
MonaLiza Lowe says
Having visited the area in 2012, I’d say you really have a great gig going on. That place is really beautiful and peaceful and oh so green.
Pam Wright says
It was this type situation that we saw ourselves doing one day prior to our actual retirement. We met a couple at Lolo Pass and talked to them for quite awhile about their duties. He was the greeter and general question answerer and she worked the book store. Sounded perfect for us! John would do the history question answering and I would be with the books which I love. You have the perfect volunteer job in my opinion:) Not a bad spot at all and those shades block out a multitude of things:) Hope Polly and Taggart are continuing to do well and feeling a little better:)
I could totally see you two doing this kind of job!
Kathy Webb says
Hi Nina & Paul, sipping coffee in our Cape Disappointment mugs & reading your blog. We are across the river @ Ft. Stevens, could see the lighthouse well on Tuesday afternoon! We waved! Molly is asking: how’s her buddies Polly & Taggart?!
Polly is recovering slowly, but well (thank you!). Taggart is doing so-so. I’m going to wait and see what the 8-week blood-test (on Monday) shows. I’m worried we may have to re-adjust the doseage of her pill again.
You’re a Park Ranger, whether a volunteer or not. Except you get to work less hours. It’s a great place to be and give back as well. Fine job.
Hey Nina: Haven’t commented in a long while but do read your posts religiously. I think I mentioned once that I’m living in Minnesota but will be on the road this autumn. Something crossed my mind this morning and I thought to myself: Self….who better to answer that question than Nina! You had some dental work done a couple of years ago down in Algodones. I seem to remember you were pleased with the work and the price. Now that it’s been a couple of years are you still happy with it? Thinking of heading down there myself for some crown work. Best wishes to you and yours. Look forward to each of your postings.
Unfortunately the seal on my crown failed last year (I updated my Mexico blog post on it) so I’m not really clear I want to recommend Dr.Urena at the moment. There are other good dentists in Los Algodones, but I don’t have an updated list. I’d recommend going onto some of the RV forums and asking around. You’ll definitely get some tips there.
Alas, you’ve solved a puzzle which has perplexed me for a decade. I’ve had these pictures from some sort of maritime museum, but for the life of me, couldn’t figure out where I’d taken them. I knew they were close to Cape D, as I’d visited it at the same time with my daughter. At first, I thought it was from a place near Gray’s harbor, but didn’t remember visiting it. Once you shared your photos from the LCIC though, I knew in an instant this was the place. I remember, It was the first time I’d been up close and personal with a lighthouse lens. That experience helped me to appreciate lighthouses and their history. Love the area; we spent a peaceful week along the beaches and coastal waterways.
Your current assignment reminds me of a song, which was the theme for a show in the 90’s called “Cybill”, with Cybill Shepherd, called “Nice Work If You Can Get It”. Nice work, indeed. Thanks for sharing.
Awesome! So glad I could help you track that down. I tell you, if I didn’t write a blog I wouldn’t remember half of the places we go. Sometimes I go back and re-read my old blog just to remember again!
Tom the awning fixer says
My darling wife and I spent a few days at Cape Disappointment during the last week in May and were also frustrated by the absence of cell signal in the campground. The park entrance did have ATT signal, but we obtained much better reception at the end of the road out to the jetty. Line of sight to Astoria was our guess. Guests without a volunteer parking spot should check it out.
Good info. We have both ATT & Verizon. Our ATT reception is so-so (at the park entrance), so it’s good to know reception is better by the jetty. Verizon reception by the park entrance is good.
Like you said though…ZERO signal in the main campground unfortunately.
Doretta Abshire says
Ok. I’m hooked. I want to do this for two years….. that’s all I can afford ( I think) . Is it difficult to find volunteering spots that allow dogs? I have a small pull behind camper just large enough for the small dogs and I (under 12 pounds).
It’s easy as pie. All State Parks allow dogs and most campgrounds do too. You probably won’t be able to take your dog to work (most buildings prohibit them), but your campsite & surrounding area will be dog-friendly.