This is an in-depth recap of our first WINTER workamping experience. The past 4 months, November 2019 thru mid-March 2020, we worked 24 hours each per week in exchange for a full hook-up RV site, laundry and WiFi at Avon Park Air Force Range in south-central Florida.
The Range occupies 106,000 acres and is about 11 miles from the town of Avon Park and the nearest Walmart. The work here is divided among 6 workamping couples. We worked in support of the hunt program on the range, under their outdoor recreation office. Some of our duties were: manning the game check station, posting weekly range schedules, manning the Frostproof gate, performing routine maintenance on the range vehicles, mowing & weed-eating parts of the range, picking up litter, etc. We also scouted for gators, fed fish at the stocked ponds and participated in a Christmas Bird Count. For the most part the work was fun and easy although a few days were very physically demanding.
The volunteer coordinator assigned our work each week and the jobs were rotated fairly among the workamping couples. Many of the volunteer couples are repeats- they have been coming back several years. This job does not involve taking reservations or cleaning toilets like some workamping jobs. It was a nice change and the variety of tasks was awesome. They have a good group of volunteers, very friendly and helpful.
The range location is a little secluded but beautiful. It is in south central Florida – 2 hours southeast of Tampa and about 1 1/2 hours south of Orlando.
If you are considering workamping at Avon Park, you should be aware of the following:
- This is a military training bombing range and there is hunting. There will occasionally be BOOMING noises. Don’t be alarmed BUT you should always be alert for unexploded ordinances on the range.
- Part of the range is leased to Avon Park Correctional Facility. Inmates work, with supervision, on parts of the range. The front gate is manned by prison guards. We always felt safe.
- The volunteer village is located right by the front gate where everyone enters the range. Every morning around 6:00 a.m., when the correctional facility begins shift change, there is a lot of traffic noise. If you’re a light sleeper bring ear plugs
- The other volunteers are helpful and very social. They average 2 socials -out to eat or potluck- per week. For the most part this was a very drama-free job. Everyone got along well.
- If you bring a dog or other pet with you, please observe the leash rule. There are alligators in many of the nearby lakes so, for your dog’s safety and the safety of others, volunteers are asked to keep their dogs leashed.
- Speaking of alligators, there are alligators on the range. They stay in or near lakes, rivers or ponds. They are not aggressive and will not bother you if you don’t bother them. The mosquitos are more aggressive and bothersome than the gators. Bring bug spray!
- You will see all kinds of wildlife here: small lizards, frogs, quail, Turkey, snipe, owls, osprey, eagles, sand-hill cranes, turtles, alligators, armadillos, raccoon, possum, otters, coyotes, fox squirrels, hogs and deer among other creatures…bring your camera!
- When manning the Game check station you will see – and smell – some things you may wish to forget. Hunters check-in with their game, weigh, measure and gut it right there in front of you. Volunteers have to transport barrels of the remains to the “gut pit” to dump them and cover them over with sand to deter buzzards and coyotes. (The guy volunteers take care of this part for us) If you are very squeamish this job may not be for you OR you may discover you are stronger than you thought you were!
- The free WiFi is good here and we were able to get several TV channels using just our antenna.
The minimum stay is 4 months but some volunteers stay 6 or 7 months. We initially felt like the hours required were kind of high BUT there were some weeks when there was not enough work to warrant 24 hours. Also some weekends the military closed the range and we couldn’t work. The atmosphere is very laid back and everyone tracks their own hours and turns in a sheet at the end of the month. Most work is done Thursday through Monday. This makes it easy if you need to plan Dr appointments or make other plans just try to plan for Tuesday/Wednesday but most work schedules are pretty flexible. Volunteers will cover for each other if someone needs a specific day off.
This experience was unlike any other workamping job we had heard of so we were willing to give it a try. We do not regret it at all- we made some new friends and we got to see a part of central Florida we might not have otherwise seen. The winter weather in Avon Park was very pleasant with just a few chilly nights and most days were in the 70s/80s. If you are retired military, there is a VA clinic located nearby in Sebring. If you are a hunter, fisherman or nature-lover this would be the perfect job for you!
Our time in Florida wasn’t all work… we saw a LOT of Florida to include: Highlands Hammock, Honeymoon Island, Lovers Key and Ft. DeSoto State Parks. We also saw Disney Springs, TECO Manatee viewing area, Sanibel Island, Clearwater, Tampa, Ft. Myers and Lake Placid Florida just to name some of our day-trips and sight-seeing adventures. Workamping as a whole has proven to be a great option for us! We were able to see a new state, meet some new amazing people and work a few hours a week in exchange for our camping site,
We enjoyed our 4 months here and we may return another winter. If you have questions about Avon Park or about workamping in general feel free to contact us. For now we do not have definite plans for the winter of 2020/2021. We do hope to experience some NEW adventures and we’ll keep you posted as we make plans.
Thanks for following our story. By the end of March we hope to be back in North Carolina at Moonshine Creek – (God-willing and barring any further Coronavirus limitations) but FIRST a little side trip to Key West!