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Google Arts & Culture and the National Park Service have teamed up to offer virtual visits to five national parks, including Bryce Canyon in Utah. Photo by Jerry Ondash
Columns Hit the Road

Hit the Road: Virtually visit a national park, spy on jellyfish and more

Our big trip this last week was to Charleston, S.C., via Zoom, for a bris, the Jewish circumcision and naming ceremony for my nephew’s twins. It was our first Zoom journey and we were grateful to be there virtually, as were the other 40 guests, but yes, we REALLY miss being REALLY there.

For now, however, we’ll have to settle for seeing the world via desktop, laptop, tablet and phone. This has prompted me to scour the internet for some virtual experiences to share.

There are few things as fascinating as jellyfish and you can check out these ephemeral creatures on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Jellyfish Cam. At our own San Diego Zoo and Zoofari Park, there are cameras trained on tigers, giraffes, butterflies, penguins, koalas and more at zoo.sandiegozoo.org/live-cams.

For those seeking a really far-out experience, check out NASA’s collection of more than 16,000 spectacular images taken from space through the years.

Feeling the need for a fix of our splendid national parks?

The amount of beauty and serenity offered by these millions of acres is immeasurable, and knowing their gates are closed is hard to fathom. In the meantime, from Google Arts & Culture and the National Park Service , there are immersive (and free) guided tours through five parks at “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks.” Released in 2016 to honor the National Park System’s centennial celebration, the tours include Kenai Fjords in Alaska; Hawaii Volcanoes National Park; New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns; Utah’s Bryce Canyon; and Florida’s Dry Tortugas. Each tour features 360-degree photos of different spots in each park with short narrations from park rangers.

During this countrywide quarantine, we are learning to slow down and take notice of the small things — like the sounds of animals and birds. Check out the National Park Service’s library of park sounds, which includes dozens of birds and wildlife.

In a normal year, there would be thousands of San Diego County residents heading to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the second largest state park in the country. The coronavirus, however, has forced the town of Borrego Springs, located in the park, to discourage visitors from coming. According to one resident, this year’s crop of flowers is no Super Bloom, but there still are plenty of flowers and blooming cactus. See them, as well as award-worthy landscapes, on Anza-Borrego Foundation’s Facebook page (you must be a Facebook member).

We can’t travel to France, but for a few moments of auditory bliss, listen to its National Orchestra perform “Bolero” on AFAR’s website. Each musician recorded himself/herself, then an astutely able techno-engineer created the rich, cohesive performance.

By the way, AFAR is one of the best travel sites and offers many other features for the wanderlust.

At the other end of the spectrum is the Mob Museum in Las Vegas. The free, three-part tour duplicates the order in which real visits are taken. The guide takes viewers through the history of notorious events like the Valentine’s Day Massacre on Chicago’s North Side; the Mob’s rise in Las Vegas; and the Mob’s role in politics and culture.

It’s easier for some of us than others to weather this pandemic and maintain social distancing, so if you’re one of the lucky ones, do help someone you know who is having a more difficult time.

Want to share some past travels? Email eondash@coastnewsgroup.com. For more photos and commentary, visit facebook.com/elouise.ondash.

 

 

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