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The  Caretaker  Gazette
Sunday, July 22 2018

Caretaker Profiles

A Caretaker Family Working Together - A Profile of the Chamberlains

Dates of Birth: Leslie - June 14, 1926, Earleen - December 7, 1966, Richard - June 14, 1966
Interests: Leslie - pilot, building aircraft, ham operator, chess, reading and sports. Earleen - reading, crafts, working with children, dancing, camping and hiking. Richard - animals, marshal arts, camping, hiking, dancing, spending time with wife.
Quote: "Our philosophy in life is to be kind to one another. Nothing else matters much."

The Chamberlain Family at work.

The Chamberlains, (father Les, son Richard and daughter-in-law Earleen) are a family that work together as Hosts/Campground Managers for the U.S. Forest Service. They are an outstanding and hard working team, well equipped to handle the many people and situations they encounter at the Forest Service campgrounds they manage in the summertime.

How did these three come to caretake together? Les explains that he lost his wife last year. It was a tremendous loss for him; the family joined forces together after her death. Les applied for the position with the Forest Service but the job required a couple so, as Les explains, "Earleen substitutes for Mom and Richard joined in because the three of us are basically doing the work of four people." A couple who joined earlier in the season left so the Chamberlains fill in for them as well, covering a total of 21 campsites rather than the usual ten per couple.

Working out of Garden Valley, Idaho, they are responsible for caretaking an area spread out over a 50-mile radius throughout the Boise National Forest. The campsites bear names descriptive of their sites: Swinging Bridge, Cold Springs, Big Eddy, Rattlesnake, Tie Creek, Hot Springs, Boiling Springs and Banks Beach, a pristine stretch of white sand along the north fork of the Payette River, also known as "kayakers' heaven."

The campsites are nestled amid tall Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir trees, surrounded by picturesque mountains. Hot Springs and Boiling Springs (where the water temperature reaches 180 at the source) are fed by underground geothermal springs. Many people soak in the soothing "jacuzzi type" pools that are formed by these springs, especially in the winter months when the air temperatures fall to below zero.

The caretaking trio check in at the ranger station each morning to pick up faxes and messages with information on current weather conditions and campground reservations. They then take off for their daily rounds of checking on the campground sites, and constantly being on the lookout for any forest fires.

One of the most important parts of their work involves collecting the money (cash and checks) from the fee boxes at the entrances of each campsite. This is done seven days a week. The average amount collected at the 21 campgrounds is $400-$500 per week. Earleen is responsible for doing the required bookkeeping and paperwork before mailing in each day's total receipts to the Forest Service.

They are never without their two-way radio on their rounds, which is critical in the primitive woods. In case of an emergency, they can call in ambulance or helicopter service via the Forest Service. The trio must also check all of the campgrounds' hand pumps to ensure the water supply to the campsites is adequate. Water at all of the sites is tested by the Forest Service for potability.

Les has worked as a pilot, counselor, and director of a halfway house. He's also worked in electronics, computers and with the State of Idaho in the areas of economics, planning and statistics. A former test engineer at Rocketdyne, Les has designed, built and flown both airplanes and helicopters.

He's a real "people person" and loves interacting with the variety of people he meets each day at the campgrounds. "We meet every walk of life, and we particularly enjoy meeting the many foreign nationalities that come through here. We have made some nice friendships and will be corresponding with our new friends in their native countries. It's amazing how everyone knows a little English."

A well-read and thoughtful man, Les is full of inspiring and thoughtful words. He states, "What I dream of is an art of balance - of purity and serenity without trouble or depressing subject matter - a soothing, calming of the mind - something like a good soft chair which gives me relaxation from physical fatigue."

The Chamberlains are currently living out of their own RV and paying all of their own expenses, including their own utilities. They are compensated with a monthly salary plus overtime calculated at time and a half.

Les' first love in life is flying. He still flies, including seaplanes, and is a very capable pilot. Les is interested in flying in his next position. He's looking for a landowner that needs a caretaker who can also be employed as a pilot for fly-in locations.


One of the Forest Service Campgrounds

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