- Associated Press - Saturday, May 31, 2014

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - In the field of RV camping, Susan and Larry Dach are pros.

Since retiring in 2008, the Dachs have made a fifth wheel their full-time home in campgrounds across the USA.

“This winter we were in California, on a beach with 70 acres of campground in a beautiful neighborhood we’d never be able to afford to live in,” Larry said.

To make ends meet, they arrange for free campsites and utilities for six to eight months a year by volunteering as campground hosts.

They’re camping this summer just north of Spokane, where they both were raised.

The Dachs, both in their 50s, are hosts at Dragoon Creek Campground managed by the state Department of Natural Resources. Duties include locking the gate at night and opening it the morning, checking for Discover Passes on vehicles and reporting violations.

“We’re observers, not enforcers,” Susan said, noting that the main thing agencies want is their presence at the camp. “We help educate campers and explain the rules, but we call enforcement if needed.”

“This has been our lifestyle, and a way to stay retired,” Larry said as he relaxed on a lawn chair with the barbecue nearby and their bicycles next to the covered picnic table on their one-acre host site.

They had just finished the required first-aid training. The Washington State Patrol did a background check before they were assigned.

The Dachs are accustomed to the requirements that vary from state to state and park to park. It’s part of their routine for settling into one delicious campsite for a few months before traveling a month or two and settling down again.

In January they start applying for host slots with state and national parks and line up their year in carefully researched locations.

“Arizona campground host jobs in particular are in high demand during winter,” Larry said. “We like Zion National Park (Utah) in the fall, but you have to pay attention. Nearby Bryce Canyon looks just as inviting, but it’s at 8,000 feet elevation, where it can snow in October while it’s nice down in Zion at 4,000 feet.”

Being campground hosts didn’t occur to the couple when they first hit the road.

“Right after we retired, we traveled the United States coast to coast,” Susan said. “That was our plan and we sort of got that out of our system.

“When you’re traveling, you see areas superficially. When you stay put, you have time to explore the area more thoroughly, meet people, get tips from locals, discover trails - and restaurants.”

Story Continues →