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Park Hosts Keep Tabs On McHenry Rec Area
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Though they live in Hawaii, Joseph and Pat Hensel are spending their 'summer vacation' here.

The retired couple has settled in to their assignment, serving as Park Hosts at McHenry Recreational Area off River Road in Escalon.

"Last year we were at Hoosier National Forest in Indiana," Pat explained. "We read about this a couple of years ago and signed up."

Park Hosts are brought in, typically for the summer, to keep an eye on things and regulate the park, turning people away if the parking lots are full. For Joe and Pat, the work was just the ticket for seeing the country.

They signed up through the Good Sam Club, a camping organization, and hope to visit several states through the summer work.

"You get on everybody's list," Pat said of having several options for this summer. "We got e-mails, letters, we sat down and decided where we wanted to go."

California was the choice this summer and they settled in around Memorial Day. Usually, assignments for the summer park hosts last through Labor Day, a three-month assignment.

"It is full time," Pat said.

The couple has their motor home on site and have a full hook up, with nearly all the comforts of home. They have Tuesdays and Wednesdays off, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers park rangers come in and handle the work at the park.

"It's a great way to volunteer and see the country," Pat said. "After we're done here, we'll play tourist for a few weeks and then head home."

Joe, who is an amateur gold prospector, was drawn to this area in hopes of getting the chance to do some gold panning. He's had the opportunity, but not much luck.

"We wanted to be on the river," Pat said.

Joe said though he hasn't had luck striking the Mother Lode here, he is still "sifting through some dirt" he brought with him from previous trips to Oregon and Georgia.