Southwest Washington All Terrain

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 A camper in all seasons-Leroy Leaf(DNR Rock Creek CG)

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Number of posts : 78
Age : 50
Location : The Couve, WA (Cascade Park Area)
Registration date : 2008-06-06

PostSubject: A camper in all seasons-Leroy Leaf(DNR Rock Creek CG)   September 9th 2008, 2:57 am

A camper in all seasons
Sunday, September 7 | 10:54 p.m.

Leroy Leaf, 66, has lived at Rock Creek Campground, east of Battle Ground, for 13 years. The Vietnam veteran and former Alcoa worker prefers the solace of nature to the crowds of the city. (Zachary Kaufman/The Columbian)

YACOLT — The tents have rolled up; the horse trailers have rolled out. Clark County’s biggest camping season in years is over.

For the next eight months, there won’t be much for Leroy Leaf to do but walk his quiet weekly circuit through the trails of Rock Creek Campground and keep an eye on the doe and fawn that sleep in the grassy field behind his 24-foot trailer deep in the Yacolt Burn State Forest.

That and keep an eye out for UFOs. Leaf, who has hosted this campsite year-round since the first Clinton administration, has seen three.

Sometimes, pistol rounds will ricochet across his site or drill into his roof. Sometimes a woman will stumble into camp, weak from heat stroke, and beg him to help rescue her horse from the mud. Once in a while, tent campers will show up in the middle of winter looking for Bigfoot.

Those searchers, he laughs at.

“Everybody needs a hobby, I guess,” he said.

But ask him what he’s seen out here in the woods, and he’ll stroke his foot-long beard, take a drag on a Pall Mall cigarette, and give you his shy, toothless smile.

“The spirit world exists,” said Leaf, 66. “You can be sure of that.”

Accidental employment

When Leaf first came to Rock Creek, 45 minutes east of Battle Ground, he was just one of the campers. An Army veteran — he got back from Vietnam in 1967, he said —- he’d spent years at Alcoa’s Vancouver aluminum plant and later worked as a welder.

But he got sick of it. He sold his Orchards home and lived in an RV park for a while, then got tired of the neighbors. So he hit the road.

“I was just camping here when the host left,” Leaf said. “And I put in for the job.”

That was 13 years ago. He thinks.

“I don’t own a watch,” said Leaf, shaking his bare wrists. “I don’t keep track of time anymore.”

The first few winters, he read Stephen King and Dean Koontz novels in his trailer. These days, he watches a lot of “M*A*S*H” reruns off the satellite dish.

“You’d think for all the years it was on, they’d have more of them,” he said.

A couple years ago, the Department of Natural Resources wanted to buy him a mobile home. He turned them down.

“I didn’t want it,” he said. “I don’t need it.”

A job in demand

Leaf’s job doesn’t pay much: just a space to park his trucks and trailer, and all the water and electricity he can use. He gets by on Social Security and his Alcoa pension.

Even so, the work is in demand. The DNR never has trouble recruiting camp hosts, said Jessica Kimmick, recreation manager for the Pacific Cascade Region.

After this year’s jam-packed camping season, they plan to bring in a year-round camp host at the nearby Cold Creek Campground, as well. That’ll allow small parties to use the site, free of charge, after early October.

The soft-spoken Leaf said that before he stayed at the site year-round, vandals would do tens of thousands of dollars of damage every summer. With him keeping an eye out, things are quieter.

A threat to call the sheriff usually takes care of troublemakers, he said. He’s only had to make the call twice this year.

The years alone have changed him, Leaf said. Though he goes into town for groceries once a week, he can’t handle the city anymore. It’s the crowds.

The satellite dish brings him football games. But if he had Super Bowl tickets, he’d sell them.

And buy what?

“Bigger TV,” he deadpanned. Then he chuckled.

In a phone interview, Kimmick, the DNR manager, said she’s not sure who’ll move in at Cold Creek, but she knows Rock Creek is in good hands.

“He’s more than permanent,” she said. “Everybody loves Leroy.”

Told what Kimmick had said, Leaf went quiet. Then he spoke softly.

“Aw, you got me in tears now,” he said. “You don’t know me very well.”

Michael Andersen can be reached at 360-735-4508 or
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Number of posts : 99
Age : 37
Location : Vantucky
Registration date : 2008-06-06

PostSubject: Re: A camper in all seasons-Leroy Leaf(DNR Rock Creek CG)   September 9th 2008, 10:34 pm

I read the article yesterday on the net. Pretty cool.. Hey Eric theres a job for you year round camp host at cold creek. Less stress than the asphalt terminal. You should do it.
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A camper in all seasons-Leroy Leaf(DNR Rock Creek CG)
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