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Wanted: A photo from your vacation
This photo of Courier editor Jeff Benziger visiting Rachel, Nevada last summer is an example of the types of vacation photos the Courier is seeking to publish in the coming months. Benziger visited the desert town in 2012, which has a special connection to Ceres -- and a bizarre claim to aliens since it located near the celebrated Area 51. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

For most of us here, Stanislaus County is a great place to live. It's quiet, rural, not congested and is inexpensive. But let's face it, most people from Santa Barbara or Napa or Los Angeles are not destined to head to Ceres -- or other places in the Valley like Bakersfield -- for their summer vacation. There are plenty of fun things to do here, of course, but let's face it, we don't have a ocean beach nor any forest so most aren't vacating here.

What Stanislaus County has been shortchanged in a tourist draw is made up by the fact that we are within driving distance of plenty of world class tourist spots. There's the obvious places like San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Yosemite National Park, not to mention Kings and Sequoia national parks. A little farther and one can be in Reno, Tahoe, or Point Reyes, the wine country, or the coast of Northern California and places like Lassen National Park.
The nearby Stanislaus National Forest is replete with camping and hiking opportunities. Camping is one of those cheaper vacations that puts everyone into close proximity without the trappings of modern life. Sure, one must endure pit toilets, starting 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 family closer again and we always have a desire to go back as soon as we catch a whiff of the camp smoke embedded in our soiled clothing that we stuff into the washing machine.

I'm always shocked when somebody local tells me that they've never visited Yosemite National Park or that it's been 20 or 30 years since they did. It has to be the most gorgeous place on earth, and it's located in our own backyard. (This past spring I spotted Half Dome by the naked eye from Keyes Road). A little farther over on Tioga Pass is the town of Mammoth where one can ride to the top of Mammoth Mountain (elevation 11,060 feet) by gondola and feel as though you've reached the top of the world as you gave at craggy Sierra peaks on one side, Mono Lake and the desert of Nevada on the other.
All the excitement of the casinos at Tahoe, Reno and Carson City are close to 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. William Randolph Hearst's famed "castle" is certainly within a day's drive for a tour.

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

Which leads us to ask our readers: How about sharing a vacation photo with us? Each summer the Courier has asked its readers to submit photos of individuals or families enjoying a vacation. We think it's great readership seeing what Ceres area residents are up to. What kinds of photos are we looking for? Any photo that shows you or your family enjoying a vacation spot is acceptable. We could be talking any variety of scenarios, such as fishing or camping, hiking, riding in a hot air balloon, standing on a mountain top, trekking through a desert, panning for gold in the Sierra, standing in front of a blow hole in Hawaii or in front of Mount Rushmore or Crazy Horse, repelling into a cavern, or jumping out of an airplane. Or you might be riding horses into the Grand Canyon or enjoying an ice cream in Old Town Sacramento.
You may even inspire us to try out your vacation spot.
We do not charge but we reserve the right to chose which photos to publish based on content and space available. We ask that you send us digital photos to and tell us who is in the photo, the location, 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