There’s no place like…

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“…Home.”

That’s what Dorothy said. She clicked the heels of her ruby-red slippers three times and said it over and over and over – and sure enough, there she was, back home again in Kansas.

Few movies in the history of American film-making are more iconic of our national personality than the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz. One of the three screenwriters credited with creating the movie was Noel Langley. He later told his fans, “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”

A recent survey by Allianz Travel Insurance reckoned that Americans pony up more than $100 billion for annual summer vacations, nearly $2,000 per vacationer. All simply to leave their own back yards.

Even more impressively, Generation Xers – people between the ages of 35 to 54, the ones most likely to vacation with children – average more than $2,600 on a summer holiday getaway. For those heading out of town by car, the average distance is more than 600 miles, round trip.

That’s a lot of “Are we there yets?” To say nothing of the fast food and pottie breaks that are just not on anybody’s list of favorite things.

But that doesn’t mean vacation travel is all bad. It just means don’t cross off “Right here at home” from your vacation travel bucket list.

This week your Jamestown Gazette invites our readers to consider a Chautauqua County stay-at-home vacation, a Staycation. This week’s returning cover story contributor, Stephanie McCraw, has a travel plan for us.

Among the most popular attractions for vacationers anywhere is a scenic body of water somewhere nearby. For Chautauqua County staycationers, that includes seven lakes: Lake Erie, Chautauqua Lake, Findley Lake, the three interconnected lakes of Cassadaga, and the smallest but most unusual of the County’s lakes, Bear Lake.

Ten thousand years ago (give or take a few weeks?) the last of the great glaciers retreated northward from Chautauqua County. One dropped a departing gift of a billion-ton block of ice on the way out. It made a 16-acre divot near a place now called Kelly’s Corners. When it finally melted, it left a “kettle lake” – Bear Lake – which has since become home to a whole zoo of fish species for local anglers to enjoy. Thank you, glacier.

For staycationing fishers, even this smallest of our lakes offers largemouth bass, northern pike, smallmouth bass, pumpkinseed sunfish, bluegill, tiger muskie, muskellunge, walleye, yellow perch, and black bullhead.

So, if the farthest reaches of Planet Earth are still on your bucket list of must-visit places to see – maybe strange places like Turangi, Waikato, the “Trout Capital of New Zealand,” or the Mount Kilimanjaro volcanoes in Tanzania, or the breathtaking limestone pillars of Hunan Province in China – when you get there, just tell those nice folks to come to see what you saw on your last staycation in Chautauqua County, New York, USA.

And if you think that is a little strange, don’t forget that people are already coming from all around the globe to enjoy our world-famous Lake Chautauqua at Chautauqua Institution.

Irish novelist, George Augustus Moore, reminds us once again, “A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.”

I’m hoping to see you in our own back yard sometime this summer. Enjoy the visit, and while you’re visiting us in the Jamestown Gazette, enjoy the read.

Walt Pickut

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.