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.
“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.