Yesterday, I received a call from a journalist at one of the “biggie” national magazines. She is working on an article about moving to Vermont for the June issue. She wanted to know about kayaking on Lake Champlain.
Hmmm. Yup, I can talk about that.
I took her on a “verbal” tour of my favorite section of the lake – putting in at the mouth of Otter Creek where one might see osprey, kingfishers, turtles, beaver, mink, fox, deer, and dragonflies among the wealth of species that make their home where river meets lake. I described the backdrop of the Adirondack and Green Mountain ranges that flank the lake, the 200 foot-high cliffs that rise from the water where paddlers may sight a rare peregrine falcon, a species that was almost eliminated in the days of DDT and Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring.”
I could hear the reporter yawning from her Manhattan office. “That sounds nice,” she said. “Are there any seals and sea lions?”
Seals and sea lions? On Lake Champlain?
It’s not the first time someone has asked if they might see marine mammals in our freshwater lake. I went on to explain that our lake is not connected with the ocean today, but that Lake Champlain was filled with saltwater for a period after the glaciers of the last ice age retreated 10,000 years ago. I told her the story of the Charlotte whale – bones of a beluga that were found by railroad workers digging a railway bed in the nineteenth century.
I could hear the yawning again.
My naturalist friends have a term for what the reporter was looking for. “Charismatic megafauna” – large animal species with widespread popular appeal. The polar bear. The Asian elephant. The giant panda. The blue whale. That’s what today’s ecotourist wants to see.
I mentioned the increasing number of bald eagle sightings, including the one that flew over the top of Gypsy Rose late last fall.
“That’s nice,” the reporter replied, but I knew that I hadn’t yet uncovered the big one for the story.
Despite our apparent lack of charismatic megafauna, the interview progressed. I moved on to the cultural highlights of the area. I spoke of the many shipwrecks on that section of lake, adding that the paddler can make a stop to learn more at the Maritime Museum along the route.
More yawns from Manhattan.
We’ll just have to wait and see what (if anything) shows up on those glossy perfumed pages when the article goes to print in a couple of months.
I was still pondering the interview when an article in this morning’s New York Times caught my eye.
“For today’s jet set it’s a braggart’s banquet.”
Here are a few excerpts:
“ . . . lately the idea of the trophy trip has reached a peak, as the travel industry keeps offering rarer and more meaningful ways to connect to the world.”
‘‘Most of our clients have ‘been there, done that,’ ’’ says Mollie Fitzgerald of the high-end outfitter Frontiers International Travel. ‘‘People are seeking richer experiences because the ‘flop and drop’ concept is passé.’’
“Trophy hunting comes at a price, of course, and as global wealth keeps expanding, there’s no shortage of punters. ‘For people at the very top, there are not many surprises left,’ says the Cornell professor Robert H. Frank, author of ‘Luxury Fever: Money and Happiness in an Era of Excess.’ Like modern-day Edmund Hillarys, the über-elite are going to the ends of the earth — and beyond — and they want to get there first.”
“Such is the power of bragging rights. As Ann Mack, who monitors trends for J. Walter Thompson in New York, puts it, ‘The more experiences you have — and the more obscure and upscale they are — the more interesting you are at cocktail parties, because you have done something that most people haven’t.’”
Okay, okay, now I get it. If only I could offer an exclusive opportunity to sight Lake Champlain’s legendary lake monster, Champ! Talk about charismatic megafauna! Talk about a Trophy Trip!
Wow! If I could have promised Champ, that upcoming article (and me) might even have had a chance at the front page!