QUESTION: I have heard that the United States needs volunteers to help in national parks. Where can I get information?
ANSWER: The American Hiking Society publishes "Helping Out in the Outdoors: Volunteer Opportunities on Public Lands," a 96-page directory with more than 500 listings for a total of about 2,000 volunteer jobs in national parks and forests, state and country parks and other public land.The listings, by state (all 50 are included), describe the duties, requirements and any benefits available, along with whom to contact.
One common job is campground host, which entails answering questions, helping campers get settled, keeping camps clean and perhaps collecting fees.
Hosts generally are given a free campsite, for which they must provide their own shelter. Trail maintenance and trail crew jobs involve clearing brush, removing stumps, vegetation and downed trees, using shovel, pick and saw. Those volunteers should be physically fit for this strenuous work.
Wilderness ranger and back-country guard jobs involve hiking trails by day and camping out at night, often alone. Duties are informing visitors of regulations and safety considerations and maintaining trails and campsites.
These volunteers often hike 10 to 20 miles a day while carrying 30 to 50 pounds, so they should be in good condition. The guide suggests asking contacts about the weather to expect, equipment required, length of assignment and any payment for out-of-pocket expenses or food.
Among listings in the current directory: doing trail maintenance in the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest in Colorado; campground host in the Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming; acting as fire-tower lookouts for the Florida Division of Forestry, and divers to assist in underwater research at the War in the Pacific National Historical Park in Guam.
The directory is available for $3 from the American Hiking Society, 1015 31st Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20007; 202-385-3252.
QUESTION: We are taking a Seine cruise from Paris to Honfleur this summer. We will stop in Caen for a day and would like to go to Mont St.-Michel but can't find out how to do it. We do not want to drive.
ANSWER: On Tuesday and Thursday between June 26 and Sept. 6, there is a bus excursion between Caen and Mont St.-Michel. The bus leaves Caen at 8:55 a.m. and returns at 7:30 p.m.
The round trip costs about $34. You can reserve through the Office of Tourism, Place St.-Pierre, 14000 Caen, France; telephone 18.104.22.168.
There is a train (Caen train station, 22.214.171.124) leaving Caen at 7:35 a.m. and arriving at Pontorson, about six miles from Mont St.-Michel, at 9:44 p.m. for $37 round trip.
From the Pontorson train station is a bus (126.96.36.199) that leaves at 9:50 a.m., arriving at Mont St.-Michel about 15 minutes later. The bus, $3.36 one way, leaves Mont St.-Michel at 5:50 p.m. to get to the Pontorson station for the 6:12 train to Caen, which arrives at 9:37 p.m.
On Friday, the train from Caen to Pontorson is at 7:19 a.m., arriving at 9:37 a.m. On Saturday, with the earliest train to Pontorson at 1:15 p.m., you will have only a about an hour to visit Mont St.-Michel before the return bus to Pontorson, at 4:55 p.m. If your day in Caen is a Sunday, a rental car is probably the only solution.
QUESTION: I have always wanted to drive cross-country one way. Rental companies are asking dropoff charges and I don't want to drive my own car as I want to drive only one way. Are there ways to do what I want that are less expensive?
ANSWER: You might consider acting as a driver for a company that delivers cars around the country, for which you pay nothing beyond your own travel expenses.
These drive-away services, which generally provide a full tank of gas at the outset, usually allow 7 to 10 days to complete a coast-to-coast delivery.
If you want to take more time, you can deliver a car to a city along the way, and then pick up a car to another city farther along.
Generally, those using the services must be licensed drivers at least 21 years old, and may be required to provide references. Deposits of $100 to $250 are required. The Yellow Pages list such companies under "Automobile Transporters and Drive-Away Companies."
For your purposes a company with offices around the country would be most useful. One such company is Auto Driveaway Co. (New York office 212-967-2344, Las Vegas office 702-732-2886), with about 90 offices nationwide.
According to Don Clarkin, who runs the New York office of Auto Driveaway, the company allows 10 days for a cross-country trip and requires a $250 deposit, which is returned when the car is delivered in essentially the same condition under it was picked up. (If you switch to another car at one of the organization's offices along the way, the deposit is transfered to the new car.)
If there is any damage on delivery and you are considered to be at fault, you lose your deposit, Clarkin said, but you will be out no more than the $250.
If you are not at fault, the deposit will be returned, but only after about a month. The driver is authorized to get car repairs for $100 along the way if needed to keep the car in transit, according to Clarkin; the owner will reimburse the driver on delivery when you present the receipts. The driver must call the owner to authorize repairs over $100.
QUESTION: We will be in England the second and third weeks of October, and would like to attend something in Royal Albert Hall in London. How can I get information on what is going on there at the time?
ANSWER: There is just one event at the Royal Albert Hall during the time you will be there. It is the International Ballroom Dancing Championship on Oct. 18, with professional and amateur pairs competing. If this interests you, tickets, $7 to $35, are said to sell out quickly.
They are available only by writing to Dance News Ltd., Hamble House, Meadrow, Godalming, Surrey GU7 3HJ; telephone from United States 011-44-4868 28679). Checks or money order must be sent in pounds sterling (available from some banks); no credit cards are accepted.
The Royal Albert Hall publishes a bimonthly events schedule, which for overseas subscribers, costs about 10 pounds, (about $17.50). Write to Mailing List Department, Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, London SW7 2AP, enclosing sterling money order.