As far as licence plate slogans go most states don’t strive for modesty. Oregon is Pacific Wonderland, New Mexico - Land of Enchantment, Massachusetts claims - inexplicably to the rest of the country - The Spirit of America. Put on this background Idaho’s Famous Potatoes seems very down to earth. It sounds like a no nonsense state. So we do not expect much. Apart from potatoes in every shape, form and color.
Lowering the pressure in our tires might have helped a bit but it did not help enough. We still found ourself stuck in soft grayish sand on the way to the Medano Lake trailhead. And this time we actually did not try anything stupid. It was not our idea to drive here. I could not even get angry at Natalia who is usually responsible for pushing the boundaries of our comfort zone. This time it was a super nice and extra friendly park ranger. He suggested we try driving unimproved road since wind was too strong to hike the open dunes. I distinctly remember him telling us you can turn back at any point.
We might not have Canada without them. And despite our border experience, Canada is worth having. For one Niagara Falls look much better from the Canadian side. Oh wait, we would not have Niagara Falls without the Great Lakes either. As it stands the lakes became a natural border between Patriots and Loyalists sealing the fate of Canada as a separate country. Canadian side of Ontario Lake is home to royalists who fled the land of the free as soon as freedom was won. Did they know something we don’t?
Grandfather Mountain trails are marked permit required on the map. I thought: finally, someone protects over billion years old (one of the oldest on the planet) mountain from destruction. It turns out it’s only profit that’s protected. The mountain is privately owned and, as such ventures do, offers numerous attractions including road access to the summit, swinging bridge over a gorge and local animals’ habitats. Seemingly in transition toward a more discerning public as selling food to people to feed bears begging for it is being replaced by educational programs called enrichments. It’s not clear who’s being enriched as the entry fee leaves you undeniably $15 poorer while animals, with the exception of overfed bears, don’t look particularly happy.
Kaaterskill Falls are high but, when the water is low, not particularly impressive. Seems like a problem, but nothing that can’t be fixed. 19th century hotelier, inspired by an enterprising miller, decided to build a dam at the top of the falls. To make sure that they make an appropriate impact one could just turn the water on. For a fee of course. The trails above the upper section of the falls are now closed to the public due to safety concerns. It doesn’t stop careless tourists from suing the state. Apparently the barrier needs to be installed to prevent people from falling. It’s amazing no-one is suing to put in the stairs and even better an escalator. Looks like we are not that far from the 19th century crowd and their ideas of taming the nature.
Falls are in abundance in Adirondacks, and Ausable Chasm is one of the largest and prettiest. Or it would be, if not for its economic exploitation. The chasm is fenced, but not to protect its ecology from people, or people from falling into it, but to prevent you from getting a closer look without paying an admission fee. It costs $5 for a peek and $16 to hike around. Despite the price you do have to hike yourself. Although in the season they’ll actually shuttle you back to the parking lot, so you don’t have to walk back and look at the nature for too long. In case you don’t find the chasm and the falls appealing enough, countess related activities are provided: tubing, rafting, lantern tours, historic tours - you get the idea.
Hike to the top of the mountain to gaze at the calm water below, stop by the roaring falls cascading down the gorge, stroll by the quiet lake if you feel it’s too cold for kayaking: Adirondack State Park is great for outdoor activities. Including bizarre ones like catch-and-release fishing (hurting and stressing fish for dubious satisfaction of the angler), gem panning (rinsing a purchased bag of pebbles in a futile hope the seller forgot to remove valuable stones) or making campfire in the woods (too much worrying it may spread).