Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio and Niagara Falls, Canada

A ski resort.  Power lines.  A golf course.  A railroad.  Residential houses.  I don’t associate any of those things with our country’s majestic National Parks.  And yet Cuyahoga Valley National Park had them all.  Often I wasn’t sure if I was still in the park or if I’d crossed back over into the surrounding suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio.

I might not have been head-over-heels for Voyageurs or Isle Royale, but Cuyahoga Valley was unquestionably the lamest National Park I’d ever visited.  The park was so unexceptional that for the first time I began to consider the politics that must be involved in the decision to grant National Park status.  It was only 11 years ago that Cuyahoga Valley was promoted from National Recreation Area to National Park, and I’m guessing the process was an interesting one.

Searching for a photo opportunity that didn’t involve something man-made, I took my tripod to Brandywine Falls.  It turned out to be a nice spot.  Eager to end my visit on a positive note, I fired off a few shots and then hightailed it out of the park.


Brandywine Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park


Woman at Brandywine Falls


From Cuyahoga Valley I planned to drive east to Acadia National Park in Maine.  A quick look at the map revealed a great opportunity to correct a long-standing oversight along the way:  I’d never been to Niagara Falls.


Niagara Falls from the U.S. Side


Earlier I wrote that the international part of my trip had come to an end.  That claim was a little premature.  After taking a look at the U.S. side of Niagara Falls I decided to walk over the bridge to Canada.  Surprisingly, the border crossing was the most intense I’d experienced since I started traveling.  “Where do you work?” asked a suspicious-looking Canadian Customs agent.

“I’m not working right now.  I’m just traveling.”

“If you’re not working, how are you supporting yourself?”

Slinging rock, I wanted to say.  But if TV has taught me anything it’s to avoid making attempts to joke with Customs agents or airport security personnel.  So for several more minutes I dutifully answered the agent’s questions, resisted the urge to refer to Canada as America Junior, and was finally allowed to enter the country.


Niagara Falls from the Canada Side


Niagara Falls (Video)


Niagara Falls was impressive and I was happy to finally see it.  I could, however, understand why Eleanor Roosevelt said “Poor Niagara!” as soon as she caught her first glimpse of Iguazu Falls in Argentina.