Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Down the slippery slope of "excellence"

I'd like to take a moment to quibble over the meaning of the word excellent.

Excellence may be a highly subjective quality, but if someone (such as, for instance, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources) tells me (on an official map showing boating access points on the Muskingum River) that a particular place (such as Big Bottom State Memorial) offers excellent paddling access, then I expect, at the very least, access.  

If your idea of access is the ability to toss a canoe off a sheer six-foot drop into the river, then Big Bottom State Memorial is the place for you! And if you must tie the boat up afterward, you could always toss a rope around one of the many clumps of poison ivy covering the entire bank.

Right: to the DNR (or whatever branch made this map), excellent paddling access means parking beside the road, dragging a canoe a good distance down a hill, and then flinging it off a steep poison-ivy-covered bank. Good luck getting into the canoe yourself--or getting the canoe up the bank again afterward. If that's excellence, I'd hate to see mediocre paddling access. 

So we decided against putting the canoe in at Big Bottom, which is a pity because it's a beautiful stretch of river distant from dangerous low-head dams. Instead, we headed up to Burr Oak Lake and enjoyed a leisurely paddle in the company of great blue herons, ospreys, dragonflies, and about a million cicadas, which can sing better than they swim. If Big Bottom's paddling access qualifies as excellent, then I would describe those bloated floating cicada bodies as demonstrating excellent swimming skills.

I would generally describe Burr Oak's paddling access as excellent, but if I want to follow the scale of paddling-access excellence established by the DNR, I'd have to label Burr Oak superfantastically outstanding, which seems a bit overdone. So let's ratchet things down a bit: Burr Oak is fine but Big Bottom State Memorial offers wretched to nonexistent paddling access. And cicadas, as it turns out, can't swim for beans.

1 comment:

Laura said...

Ha! That's hilarious!