Sunday, August 12, 2007

Tok - Day 3

The day started with high thin clouds but it cleared off nicely in the afternoon so we decided to take a ride on the scooter. First we rode back into Tok where we had wireless access so we could post the blog entry from yesterday and also check our email. It is nice to see that some people other than family are also reading about our journey. I posted our blog address on one of the RV forums I participate in and invited anyone who was interested to follow along.

After the computer work was done we rode toward Valdez on the Tok Cut off highway. It is the best road we have seen in all of Alaska. We rode about 20 miles and came to a State Park Campground at Clearwater Creek and decided to check it out.

The campground had a one mile nature trail and another two mile trail to a lookout point. We decided to take the nature trail and it was excellent. The trail was well marked and the explanatory signs were very informative. We thoroughly enjoyed the hike.

The campground was like most of the State Park Campgrounds we have seen in Alaska. The facilities were new and very well maintained, the camping spots were too small for anything except tents or small RV’s, and there was absolutely no one there. We have seen a few campgrounds where they have added large pull through spots for bigger RV’s, but when they do they place them in an open field and line them up side by side. Nothing like the camping experience you would have in the other spots.

But, the interesting thing we have noticed is the lack of use of the campgrounds. This is a phenomenon we have seen everywhere we have been in Alaska. The state has built many beautiful campgrounds, but they insist on charging at least $15 a night for using them. While they are often in very pretty locations, the only facilities they provide are pit toilets, a picnic table and a fire pit. There are no facilities for RV’s at all. No electric, water faucet (most have well pumps), and no dump stations. For most people, us included, $15 a night for just a place to park does not make sense. We have found nice commercial campgrounds with full hookups for as little as $20 a night. So for us, and for most people, it makes more sense to stay for free in one of the thousands of pull outs along the highway the state also provides. For example, the pull out we are in tonight has five other rigs besides ours here, and we are well spread out with plenty of room for everyone.

If I was a consultant to the Alaska State Parks system I would encourage them to lower the price of their campgrounds, especially in remote, unused areas so they would get more use. It seems a shame for such nice places to just deteriorate due to lack of use. We often see fees of $5 to $10 for such facilities in other locations including in the Yukon on the way up here. I guess Alaska thinks they need to charge a lot just because everything is expensive here. But this is one of those situations where they have priced themselves out of the game due to the abundant availability of less expensive options. The other thing I would encourage them to do is to remodel the campgrounds for primarily RV use. Tent campers can always use a spot designed for an RV, but not vice versa. There are very few people who tent camp, and we often see those that do camped in the pull outs as well. They are even less inclined to pay $15 a night for a place to pitch a tent.

End of editorial.

On the ride back to our rig we stopped in Tok again so Dianna could try to call Darin and her folks. Neither of them answered their phones so after an ice cream bar at the market, we continued on to our site below the Tanana River where we spent an uneventful evening reading and working on crafts.

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