Arranging a trip to Washington, D.C. to see the cherry blossoms is like standing out on your deck late into an April night hoping to see the Aurora Borealis, even though you live near the Mason-Dixon line and you know perfectly well that light pollution has ruined sky viewing for most of the country, including your own neighborhood.

Okay. I’ll admit that I’m guilty of all kinds of nature voyeurism, including some pretty desperate attempts to find natural splendor in unlikely locations.  Yes, I looked for the elusive Aurora Borealis this past weekend in Pennsylvania.  No, I didn’t see anything and, yes, I should have known better.  Those seeking the wonders of nature at the Cherry Blossom festival, though, have exceeded even my delusive hopefulness.

First, the festival planners can’t predict when the cherry tree blossoms will open.  This year, hordes descended on the city to admire closed buds.  Last time I was in D.C. for the festival, most of the petals had been trampled underfoot days before the tour buses pulled in.

Second, and most importantly, even if the conditions are perfect, it is nearly impossible to appreciate the blossoms in a sea of tourists.

If you live in D.C. or if you can get down there during the week when you know the trees are in bloom, by all means, check out the cherry blossoms on the basin.  If you want to celebrate the friendship between the United States and Japan, go, show your support.  Awesome idea.  If you want to do something else in D.C., consider going some other weekend.

Otherwise, just come see the cherry tree in my front yard.  There’s plenty of parking.  And, who knows, if you time your trip right, you might see the Aurora Borealis.

Then again, since I’m such a curmudgeon about crowds, you should probably skip the trip to my front yard and visit Cherry Springs State Park instead.  Cherry trees and an international dark sky park!  Nature nerds take notice: