Cash-strapped retirees are finding worthy work and free rent by volunteering in parks, campgrounds and wildlife sanctuaries, in exchange for camping space, The New York Times reports.
Amid budget cuts and new demands, this new army of older volunteers are becoming crucial to keeping parks open.
Work-campers come together in one place -- leading nature walks or staffing visitor centers, typically working 20 hours to 30 hours a week -- then take off to their next assignments. As they move about, they keep in touch with one another through cellphone numbers, e-mail addresses and Facebook postings, creating virtual communities filled with the people they meet.
A spokesman for Kampgrounds of America Inc., a private company that franchises camps, estimates 80,000 people are currently work/camping across the country.
In some places, the retired volunteers are about the only staff members left. "We did a state park in Arizona this year that had laid off so many people, we basically ran it," said Carolyn Miller, 71, a former small-business owner from Colorado who has work-camped from Alaska to Maine with her husband, Warren, 73.
To read the full story of how retirees are finding love, companionship and reduced living costs by working at state parks, visit The New York Times. You can also view a slideshow of retirees on the trail.