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Moose-Spotting in Sweden

By Linda Tancs

Summer is a great time for moose-spotting in Sweden. And we’re not talking about zoos or farms. You can spot them in their native habitat in a forest in Skinnskatteberg, just two hours from Stockholm. That’s where you’ll pick up a 5-hour moose safari beginning in the early evening, where you may also see fox, deer, owls, wolves or lynxes. The journey begins on foot with a walk through a taiga forest abundant in moss and berry bushes for an orientation of the ecosystem, followed by a minivan safari ride. Although the largest number of moose is spotted in May, June and July offer the best lighting conditions for photography.

Laughing Waters

By Linda Tancs

Karst topography is the result of the dissolving action of water on bedrock and is characterized by caves, sinkholes, springs and natural bridges. It’s the prime attraction at Missouri’s Ha Ha Tonka State Park. According to Ozark legend, the park’s unusual name derives from a Native American phrase meaning “laughing waters.” Located on the Niangua arm of the Lake of the Ozarks, it boasts the state’s 12th-largest spring, discharging more than 48 million gallons of water daily into the stream that flows into the Lake of the Ozarks. Other karst features include the 70-foot-wide natural bridge and 500-foot-long sinkhole. Luckily, the majority of these sights are preserved and viewable from trails and boardwalks within the park’s Karst Natural Area.

Old Man of the Mountain

By Linda Tancs

Spanning Flume Gorge in the south and Echo Lake at the north end, New Hampshire’s Franconia Notch State Park was home to the legendary Old Man of the Mountain, a series of five granite cliff ledges on Cannon Mountain that appeared to be a human face when viewed from the north. It collapsed in 2003, so you’ll have to settle for an old man’s foot instead. You’ll find it at The Basin, a granite pothole 20 feet in diameter at the base of a waterfall. Below The Basin is a rock formation called Old Man’s Foot. Located in the heart of the White Mountain National Forest, the park is named for Franconia Notch, a spectacular mountain pass dominated by Cannon Mountain. You can take the aerial tramway to its summit where, on a clear day, mountains of New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Canada and New York come into view. Be sure to reserve your seat on the tram because it sells out frequently.

Minnesota’s Meeting Place

By Linda Tancs

“Tettegouche” is a French-Canadian term meaning “meeting place.” It’s an apt name for Minnesota’s Tettegouche State Park. Located on the North Shore of Lake Superior, it’s a place where several waterfalls meet along the Baptism River. One of them, High Falls, is the highest waterfall (at 60 feet) entirely inside the state’s borders. Hiking trails along the river provide views of many of the cascades. As a preserved example of the North Shore Highlands Biocultural Region, the park’s features also include rugged, semi-mountainous terrain, one mile of Lake Superior shoreline, six inland lakes and an undisturbed northern hardwood forest.

Iowa’s Backbone

By Linda Tancs

Dedicated in 1920, Backbone State Park is Iowa’s first state park. Located in Dundee, its name derives from the narrow and steep ridge of bedrock carved by a loop of the Maquoketa River that was coined the “Devil’s Backbone.” Needless to say, it’s a sought-after spot for rock climbers, particularly around Backbone Trail. Interestingly, many of Backbone’s buildings were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which was established in 1933 as part of the New Deal program of President Roosevelt in an effort to provide work for unemployed Americans during the Great Depression. Among the CCC projects completed at Backbone were the dams on the Maquoketa River forming Backbone Lake, an auditorium, bridges and roads. Near the park’s west gate is a museum dedicated to the work of the CCC in the state.

A Safe Haven for Birds

By Linda Tancs

With a zeal for conservation of waterfowl and wetlands, Sylvan Heights Bird Park is a birder’s paradise. Its location in the hilly marshlands of Scotland Neck, North Carolina, is ideal for both breeding and exhibition. Hosting over 2,000 birds, you can view waterfowl, parrots, toucans, flamingos and other exotic birds from South America, North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. Much of the conservation work takes place at the avian breeding center, where rare and endangered waterfowl species (currently numbering around 1,400 worldwide) are raised. The lower edge of the park is bordered by a natural wetland, where a safari trail and overlooks give you opportunities to view native North Carolina wildlife. Allow at least two hours for your visit.

A Unique Island Community

By Linda Tancs

The Thames Estuary is one of the United Kingdom’s major estuaries. It extends from the tidal limit of the River Thames at Teddington Lock to the North Sea. The region comprises a cluster of cities, towns and villages. One of those places is Canvey Island, the whole of which is below sea level. Originally a salt marsh before being reclaimed by sea waters in the 7th century, it eventually became home to around 200 Dutch immigrants in the early 17th century, who reportedly sought refuge from the Duke of Alba (Alva), notoriously known as the “butcher of Flanders” for disposing of those who allied themselves with or provided aid to the troops leading the Dutch Revolt against Spanish rule. The island’s Dutch connection is part of the history told in murals along the 14 miles of high sea walls safeguarding the locale against devastating flooding. The journey time from London via rail is about one hour.

Cryptologic History in Maryland

By Linda Tancs

Cryptology is the art and science of making and breaking codes and ciphers. You can learn all about cryptology and those who devoted their lives to national defense at the National Cryptologic Museum in Maryland. Appropriately enough, it’s located adjacent to headquarters of the National Security Agency at Fort George G. Meade. One of the first public museums in the intelligence community, it serves as both a reference library and a tourist destination for those interested in code making and code breaking. The collection of cryptologic history is so comprehensive that the museum is often referred to as “America’s hidden treasure.”

A Beauty in Aveyron

By Linda Tancs

Belcastel is a French beauty. That’s not just mere opinion; it’s been officially annointed by the authorities as one of the most beautiful villages in France (Les Plus Beaux Villages de France). Located in the Aveyron region of southern France, the bulk of the village and its medieval castle are situated on the steep north bank of the Aveyron River. More than just a historical landmark, the castle hosts several art galleries. It even features a royal suite, where visitors can enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the Aveyron countryside, the village of Belcastel, the drawbridge and moat and some of the chateau’s gardens and courtyards.

A Place of Spirits

By Linda Tancs

Fewer than 1,000 people visit Canada’s Torngat Mountains National Park each year. It’s the nation’s newest national park, but its freshman status isn’t the reason for the low numbers. Located on northern Labrador’s Atlantic coast between Northern Québec and the Labrador Sea, it’s quite remote. In fact, the park is accessible only by boat, charter plane or helicopter during the summer. This is the land of the Inuit, named for the Inuktitut “Tongait,” or “place of the spirits.” Most visitors stay within the bear-fence-enclosed Torngat Mountains Base Camp and Research Station located outside the park on Saglek Fjord, where Inuit guides lead excursions. Take advantage of that opportunity because there are are no roads, trails or signs in the park. There are, however, unmarked hiking routes and traditional Inuit travel routes. You’ll likely see polar bears, whales and caribou in their pristine natural environment, an untamed wilderness framed by towering peaks and glistening fjords.

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