Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ten Overrated Places to See Before You Die...Part One

I am about to kick a hornet's nest, more or less just for the fun of it. There are so many places to see in the world, and lots of lists and books that describe them, and I am doing all I can to see as many as I can. But some places, to be perfectly honest, felt a bit like a waste of valuable time, especially when some incredible geology was nearby, being missed. These are the 10 OVERRATED PLACES TO SEE BEFORE YOU DIE!!!!

In one sense I REALLY hesitate doing something like this because some perfectly innocent and good people are eking out a living selling trinkets and souvenirs at these places, so, do consider this in poorer regions (I'm thinking of the Navajo Nation, for instance). I got the idea from a book on 101 places NOT to see, but I'm trying to be a bit more nuanced! There are some great alternatives near by!

I would love to see what anyone else's list looks like. Be gentle, and remember who suffers if all the sudden NO ONE visits. Let's get busy kicking sacred cows...

1. Loch Ness, Scotland:
People visit Loch Ness for one reason, and one reason only...to see the Great Glen fault and the wonderful Paleozoic metamorphic rocks! Oh, and there's something about a plesiosaur or something that waited out a million years of ice ages...
The thing is, this is what we did at Loch Ness (above). On the other hand, just a few miles down the road at Loch Lochy the cliffs were higher, more spectacular, and Ben Nevis, the highest point on the British Isles loomed. I say loomed, because 4,000 feet might not sound like a lot, but when it rises from sea level the way it does, it is big. I took a lot of lousy pictures through the bus windows because we couldn't stop at all these incredible sights.


2. Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park:
This is not to disparage Yellowstone National Park, it's just that Old Faithful is, well, overrated, because it follows a schedule so well. People can time their carefully calibrated vacation visits by hanging out in the souvenir store or cafeteria, and then run out and see the eruption as scheduled, and then head back to the store or boutique or whatever. On the other hand, try and take a bunch of students to Yellowstone, and convince them NOT to see Old Faithful.You will not be alone when you watch Old Faithful erupt...
And it is photogenic and all...

The thing is, if your vacation has to be timed this way, you miss out on a heck of a lot of really interesting things. Get out and walk through the Upper Geyser Basin, be patient, and you might see some really extraordinary things that don't involve Old Faithful and giant crowds. On my last visit I got to see two major geysers, Castle and Beehive, going off at the same moment. And no crowds.
And on another trip I got to see an unscheduled eruption of Grand Geyser that was taller than Old Faithful. With about six other people in attendance...


3. Four Corners, NM, CO, UT, AZ (Navajo Nation):
This is one I hesitate to put on the list, for the reasons stated above. It's a line in the sand, an arbitrary survey placed here for no reason other than these lines follow some other arbitrary lines on the globe. If you are in the area, there are other, far more spectacular things to see than a concrete survey marker. How about Monument Valley?Or Canyon De Chelly? (that's a moonlight shot, by the way)Or Navajo National Monument?Or Mesa Verde?The thing is, if you are in this region of the country, take the time to learn something of the people who live there today, or who lived there in ancient times. Why worry about a set of crossing survey lines? OK, I guess it would be kinda cool to put the GPS on the spot...

4. Waikiki Beach, Hawaii:
Yeah, I'll probably get dinged for this one, too, but really. I personally find Oahu to be the least interesting of the four Hawaiian Islands that I've visited, and Waikiki is the 'leastest' interesting of all. Mind you, all things are relative, and if you told me I could go to Waikiki and go nowhere else, I, eh, would take you up on the offer without hesitation. In spades. But consider that as the epicenter of tourism in Hawaii, this is the most crowded spot you can imagine, and just about everyone you see is willing to help part you from your hard-earned money. If you go to Hawaii, rent a car (or borrow one from your in-laws. I have connections!), and get on the road around the island. Quiet beautiful beaches and interesting geology can be found all over the place. Even better, get to one of the other islands. Hawaii is one of the closest places to paradise that I have ever been. But Waikiki...not my cup of tea.
5. The Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy:
Let's put it this way. Would anyone visit if it weren't leaning? Now there are geological issues here, having to do with why it is leaning, but the tourist trappings here are beyond belief. What I really wanted to do was to take our bus 20 miles farther down the road and take a tour of the Carrara Marble quarries. Yes, the marble that Michelangelo carved "David" out of. It's that close. But we only had time to do one or the other, and the students voted...
The Baptistry leans almost as much as the tower does...and in all fairness, the interior of the Cathedral at Pisa was beautiful.
That's it for today...I welcome your tirades and ideas for part 2!

7 comments:

Silver Fox said...

I totally agree with Waikiki, much better things to see or be doing while in Hawaii (like volcanoes).

Most of my places not to see are - places, like Baker, CA. Boring. Terrible food. Uh, maybe Gabbs?

I didn't know you could go to the actual Four Corners locality. Had never thought of that. The whole 4 Corners area is great, however.

coconino said...

It costs, now, as it is cordoned off as a Navajo Nation park. But you can get fry bread and purchase jewelry.

Gaelyn said...

I certainly have to agree with 4-corners. Was there about 35 years ago with no one but a mangy dog in sight and did the foot and hands in 4 states. I understand a new visitor center is being built there and that the old monument was not "exactly" in the right place. However, everything you listed around it is Awesome.

CJR said...

Hmmm. I almost feel an internet meme coming on!

Agree with you about Loch Lochy - if only because of the endless alliterative mileage you can get out of a loch called Loch Lochy. Although as far as I'm aware, there's nowhere in the Great Glen that you can actually 'see' the fault...

On our recent visit, we actually found viewing old Faithful from Geyser Hill to be a much more pleasant experience - the eruption hides most of the crowd, and there was the bonus of the geyser behind our viewing point erupted while we were waiting).

My abiding memory of Canyon de Chelly is some of the most awesome giant cross-beds I've ever seen.

yosemite faith said...

been to all the USA sites but mainly as a child with my parents who believed in seeing the USA by car.

SciGuy315 said...

The hike to the top of Half Dome has to be THE most overrated hike in California. Too many folks not in the right shape to attempt the endeavor clog the trail and also make it extremely dusty. In spots the trail is fifteen feet wide. This is not a trail about solitude and a connection with nature by any means. Don't get me wrong, the view from the top was great, but the amount of naive knuckleheads on he trail was very bothersome to me for some reason. I should be happy so many folks want to experience the great outdoors, but many have no idea what they're in for. One of the most deplorable statistics kept by those who finish the trail seems to be how fast they finished the got up and back. Where's the fun in that? I suggest the Fissures at Taft Point for a stomach churning view of the valley without people.

Garry Hayes said...

I found Loch Garry to be an interesting sight near Loch Ness, as I don't see my name all that often as a landmark.

Also, in regards to Canyon De Chelly, NPR had an interesting piece that can be accessed here:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127575126