Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Power of the Vote

“So. What do you want to do today?”

We were back from Europe, but not back to work. Visiting family in western New York, C and I found ourselves alone one day with a rental car and time to explore.

“I don't know.  Here is a place," pointing to the website for Letchworth State Park, "that was voted best state park in the... country?”

Whoa. That must be some park. We packed the car and hit the road.

Letchworth is not shy about advertising its accolades. “Voted best in the nation” is the first thing you see on the park's website. The electorate? The readers of U.S. Today, surely a discerning bunch of park connoisseurs. They had, apparently, when faced with the entirety of parks to be found across our fifty states, decided that Letchworth was the hands down best. The “Grand Canyon of the East!” We wondered: had we left ourselves enough time? Should we have looked into changing our plane tickets, maybe re-jiggered our schedule to allow a full-day? Two-days? A week to explore?

We pulled into the park, paid our day-use fee, and admired the trees. We came to a pull-off and admired the view (a peak into a pretty typical eastern V-shaped valley, a river running through it as rivers do). We drove the park road, and admired the drive. Eventually, we parked, and walked on a WPA era trail along the canyon rim to admire views of two waterfalls.

It was pretty, don't get me wrong, and a pleasant way to spend a few hours. But best in the country? Consider, for example, just those other state parks C and I visited just between when we left New York and when we, regrettably, went back to work. I submit to the readers of U.S. Today, for example, Chugach State Park, right here in our back yard.

(C, running on the South Fork Eagle River trail, in one of the country's lesser state parks.)

Or Snow Creek Canyon State Park where we spent a few nights watching bats hunt bugs by dusk, listening to owls and gazing at stars by night, and hiking across the Navajo Sandstone by day.

(View from the campground in one of the country's inferior state parks.)

(Out for hike, thinking, "This place sucks.  Where are the waterfalls?")
Or Cathedral Gorge State Park in Nevada, a surprise to us and, I imagine, most of the dozen or so other visitors it gets a year.

(A morning run in one of the state park's that the readers of U.S. Today did not think worthy of attention.)

(C in the slot canyons of Cathedral Gorge State Park, thinking, "Well, it's nice, but it's no Letchworth.")

And those are just the state parks we saw in September this year. Really, readers of U.S. Today, what were you thinking?  The whole thing leaves me a little concerned, given we have a presidential election coming up next year. 

[In the readers' defense, a closer look suggests that the readers were voting from a list of only 20 parks that had been pre-selected by a panel of “experts.” To be fair, I suppose I should be asking the experts what they were thinking.]