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Bring us back a photo from your vacation
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If you had to be anywhere on the planet, Stanislaus County may not seem like a great place to live as far as vacations are concerned. But wow what an offering of things to do in a short drive from here.

There's the obvious places like San Francisco and Yosemite National Park, not to mention Kings and Sequoia national parks. A little farther and you can be in Reno, or Point Reyes or the coast of Northern California and places like Lassen National Park.

Two days late last week afforded us the chance to get away on a camping trip to Fraser Flat campground near Pinecrest. Camping is one of those cheaper vacations that puts everyone into close proximity without the trappings of modern life. Sure, you have to endure nasty pit toilets, starting your own fires for warmth and enduring dirty nostrils, not to mention all the work of tearing down and setting up camp. But the challenge of making your own entertainment and conversation always draws us closer together again and we always have a desire to go back as soon as we catch a whiff of camp smoke embedded in our soiled clothng that we stuff into the washing machine.

This area has so many things to do that the family who feels trapped without money of going on vacation really has not much of an excuse for a day trip or an overnighter.

I'm dumbfounded at all the locals who have not visited Yosemite National Park for years - or ever. It has to be the most gorgeous place on earth, and it's located in our backyard. A little farther over on Tioga Pass is the town of Mammoth where you can ride to the top of Mammoth Mountain (elevation 11,060 feet) by gondola and feel like you're on top of the world as you look over at craggy Sierra peaks on one side, Mono Lake on the other.

All the excitement of the casinos at Tahoe, Reno and Carson City are north from there.

Closer to home is Columbia State Historic Park and Gold Rush towns of Jackson, Sutter Creek, Jamestown, Mariposa and Sonora. In Stanislaus County there's the fun of rafting down the Stanislaus River from Knights Ferry or hikes in the Del Puerto Canyon on the west side. We're a short hop from the coastal communities of Monterey, Carmel, Aptos, Half Moon Bay and others.

In Sacramento I've taken advantage of seeing the state Capitol, Sutter's Fort, the Crocker Art Gallery and the Leland Stanford Mansion.

I understand the economy is still bad and there's an incredible pressure on people telling themselves that they cannot afford a vacation. Honestly, humans simply can't afford to not take a vacation either. People who don't take vacations are only punishing themselves and shortening their lives. And they often take it out on everybody else.

If you go on vacation, come back and do something for us. Teach us all how to have a vacation.

Years ago I struck upon the novel idea of inviting readers of the Courier to send us their vacation photos to be printed. It was probably the best idea I came up with. Photos poured in from lots of people illustrating their idea of a vacation. We saw kids in front of Mount Rushmore, parents in Hawaii and the family in front of the Grand Canyon.

It created great readership. Seeing how your friends and neighbors spend their summer months was a great thing.

We again invite our readers to submit their favorite vacation photos to be published in the Courier absolutely free. You might inspire us to try out your vacation spot.

If you've taken digital photos, great. Simply e-mail the photo(s) to Please tell me who is in the photo, where you're at, when you were there and anything else that may be interesting about the trip.

Please consider sharing your vacation photos with us.

How do you feel? Let Jeff know at