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Virtual Vacation

It was an unusual summer for many of us as trips were postponed and then later cancelled. My own family was not immune as we, very regretfully, were forced to cancel our week-long Maine vacation. However, safety is key and it's important that we all do our part to keep everyone healthy.

Although physical travel is limited, that doesn’t stop us from exploring the global virtually through each other’s favorite vacation photos. Luckily, our wonderful photographers have graciously shared images from their own adventures, allowing us to continent hop through Africa, Europe and North America, finally south to Australia as we set ashore on the island country of New Zealand.

Thank you to featured photographers, John Perry Baumlin, Laurie Kinney, Sarah Darling-Jones, Gina Vaughan, Barry Biddle and Bernadette Meier!

This month's blog is sponsered by Beyond the Print. Winner of the $25 gift card will be announced at the end of this blog. Located in Vestal, New York, Beyond the Print is a photography printing and supply store "committed to offering quality products and expert information for all aspects of film and digital photography."

Africa - Tanzania

Have you ever laid awake listening to lions roar and hyenas yelp in the distance as giraffes munched leaves right outside your tent? Or watched the silhouette of a cape buffalo cast on your wall as it grazed between the front door and porch light? Full environmental immersion in the safety of your own over-sized tent is what is offered by the Mbugani tent camps of Africa. These mobile bush camps are the best way to experience the Serengeti as they offer all the amenities of a hotel, including 24/7 power, WIFI, private bath and flushing toilets. John Baumlin photographed this camp in Central Serengeti, his favorite of all the camps, cabins and hotels visited during a 2016 trip to Tanzania.

Mobile tent cabin of Serengeti, settled between two acacia trees and surrounded by palms.
Mbugani Cafeteria Tent in Central Serengeti National Park

Europe - Sweden

Flowing through the city of Linköping in Sweden, Kinda Canal offers 80 kilometers of “countryside experiences, winding on through wide plains on the north to the scenic forest regions in the south.” Johnson City native, Laurie Kinney now lives in Linköping. Kinney captured this image of the arch art installment, with gulls perched atop, utilizing it as a lookout and roosting spot.

Arch art installment over the Kinda Canal in Linköping in Sweden.

Located only ten minutes out of town and further along the Kinda Canal is the Tinnerö Eklandskap nature reserve. Translated, this nature reserve is the Tinnerö Oak Landscape. The park boasts a rich ecosystem lush with large oak and coniferous forests, flower-rich hay meadows and multiple wetlands. Wildlife is abundant as Laurie points out. Pictured below is a wetland with "two small islands, each containing a resting swan. Numerous ducks and one snake were also observed in this small pond." - Laurie Kinney

Tinnerö Eklandskap nature reserve in Sweden

North America: Wild Ponies of the Mid-Atlantic, USA

We now travel to North American where camping, hiking and wildlife viewing are favored activities in the Grayson Highlands of Virginia. Photographer Sarah Darling-Jones writes, “Wild ponies grace the southern Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia at Grayson Highlands State Park. A short hike along trails, including the Appalachian Trail, will lead you to these beauties. The park hosts an abundance of other wildlife as well, especially during the summer months.”

Thought to be descendants of the Assateague and Chincoteague ponies, these equines were introduced into Grayson Highlands to control growth of the brush throughout the man-made landscape. The Wilburn Ridge Pony Association, established in the mid-1970s, holds yearly colt auctions to balance the population within the environment.

Ancestors to the Grayson ponies live among the barrier islands along the coast of Virginia and Maryland. These ponies were thought to be feral, having escaped domesticity in the 1500s. Gina Vaughan writes, “Assateague Island is the largest natural barrier island ecosystem in the Middle Atlantic states region that remains predominantly unaffected by human development. For me it was pure magic. As the sun set while wild ponies grazed, I was lost in beauty, longing, and laughter.”

North America - New Mexico, USA

Joining our national preserves very recently, Valles Caldera National Preserve (VCNP) was signed into protection in July 2000 by President Clinton. Some 1.25 million years ago, a volcanic eruption created the 13.7 mile wide, circular depression now known as the Valles Caldera. Journey back in time as you visit the 19th century cabins. Continue further back as you explore the prehistoric landscapes. The preserve is known for its mountain meadows, abundant wildlife and streams. Gina Vaughan described her experience and image below with these words, "I feel changed...something in me has shifted. There is a new enchanted beauty nestled in my soul. My head is still in the clouds...clouds so close I felt as if I could gather them into my arms and breathe in their air, moisture and magic."

North America - Costa Rica, Central America

As we head further southward, Barry Biddle takes us to Costa Rica and a recently active volcano known as the Arenal Volcano. Previously thought to be dormant, Arenal came to life in 1968 when it erupted violently, killing 87 people and destroying three villages. Aranal continued its infrequent rage for 30 years, eventually becoming a tourist hot spot. Throughout its infamous, 40 year timeline, this active caldron would erupt every few years, spewing its pyrotechnics and injuring, or killing, climbers and tourists. Barry writes, “Aranal Volcano, in Alajuela Province of Costa Rica, is estimated to be about 7000 years old. Made up of alternating layers of lava and ash, it last erupted in 2010 and is currently considered to be ‘resting’.”

Australia - New Zealand

Our southernmost contribution takes us all the way south to New Zealand, where Bernadette Meier traveled during an Art Safari in early 2020. Meier writes, “The Maori name for New Zealand is Aotearoa, which translates to ‘The Land of the Long White Cloud.’ Aotearoa is illustrated beautifully with this photo taken near Whitianga, on the Coromandel Peninsula, in the Waikato region of New Zealand's North Island.”

Aotearoa, "The Land of the Long White Cloud"

Uninhibited views of the night sky reveal spectacular blankets of stars in the Mackenzie Region of New Zealand’s south island. In the early 1980s, outdoor lighting controls were put into place, greatly limiting light pollution in the region, creating New Zealand’s International Dark Sky Reserve. In addition to providing stellar views from the Mount John Observatory, these controls are also very energy efficient and wildlife-friendly. Bernadette captured this image of “Aoraki/Mt Cook, elevation 12,218 feet, is in the southern alps, which run the length of New Zealand’s South Island. With glaciers and permanent snow fields, the park includes New Zealand’s International Dark Sky Reserve.”

And the Winner Is!

Congratulations to Barry Biddle who is the randomly selected winner of the $25 gift card to Beyond the Print! First names were entered into the online Random Name Picker Utility,

Resource Links



Wild Ponies of the Atlantic Coast

Costa Rica

New Zealand


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