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?
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- The Foulest Place In The West? Cape Disappointment, WA
- Cape Disappointment, WA – It Most Definitely Does Not…
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