Time for one of those columns journalists pull out of their hat when no single thread wants to develop into an article…
• Our family camped and toured through the Rocky Mountain House/Nordegg area of western Alberta this summer. Base-camp for a week was at David Thompson Resort located just off Highway 11 and backing onto Abraham Lake. For raw beauty, there are few areas in North America that compare to it. One afternoon, as we stood overlooking the lake, a couple from Washington exclaimed they had never seen anything like it. The pristine shade of blue waters combined with the snow-covered, jagged peaks of the Rockies made for postcard material. Facilities at the campground were comfortable with most amenities available right on the grounds, including gas. A half-mile down the road helicopter tours were available, as well as horseback riding on the opposite side of the highway. The surrounding area is also a hiker’s haven.
We took an afternoon to drive the Ram River Falls Loop which goes south from Nordegg and returns at Rocky Mountain House. The falls are impressive, and there are a number of primitive camping spots located along the loop, many of which are free. Though the main road is good (gravel), you should have the right vehicle to access the remote camping areas. (Your Honda Accord with a tent trailer behind may not cut it.) Again, the scenery is splendid. Friends of ours have even observed one of the few remaining herds of North American wild horses that roam the area. We hoped to see them ourselves but were disappointed.
We also made it to another of my favorite spots this summer: Marten River Provincial Campground on Lesser Slave Lake. The lake is very large, like being on the ocean, except that the water is shallow for quite a distance from shore. This, along with the beautiful sandy beaches, makes for lots of fun for the kids. The campsites are spacious, level and private (surrounded by large evergreens and lush foliage). This campground is reasonably priced and well maintained, has showers and free firewood. The amenities are basic, but clean. Excellent summer getaway spot.
• Rising oil prices are becoming an issue for the camping/RV industry. We spoke with Carston Urban of the RVDA to see if the Association has noticed any trends. Are people venturing out less, making vehicle changes, etc.? The only significant thing he has noticed is a swing from fifth wheels to travel trailers. They are lighter and allow more options for pulling. Certainly manufacturers have made some excellent advancements in the variety and quality of ultralights and hybrids (travel trailers with tent trailer extensions). Look for this trend to continue.
• There is a strange policy among many campground owners regarding reservations/refunds that the industry needs to re-evaluate. One resort we stayed at this summer (booked by phone well in advance) required the full week’s payment by credit card with no cancellations within 14 days and no leaving early (if you wanted a refund, that is). Apparently this is quite common.
The hotel industry is much more reasonable. Many hotels require only a partial deposit and allow refunds up to 24 hours before arrival. In chatting with the owner about this he cited the need to recover costs from vandals and deadbeats, and the difficulty of re-booking a site if vacated early. The logic doesn’t add up though. If the campground is busy (and the customer wants to leave early), there certainly will be no trouble in re-issuing the site. And if the resort isn’t busy, well, what’s the problem? There are plenty of sites to choose from for any new customers.
Owners need to remember the best way to recover costs from vandals and deadbeats is to keep your good customers happy and coming back. And making them swallow half a week’s deposit or forcing them to endure three more days of rain-soaked camping is not the way to do it…