North Carolina Passport Challenge: Close to Home

Memories. Looking back on my childhood one thing always stands out, Morrow Mountain State Park. Home to some of my fondest memories growing up, this is where my parents used to always take us camping. I can still close my eyes and remember the smells, the trees surrounding our campsite, the bathhouse and how cold the concrete block walls were even in the heat of summer. All of the adventures that my brother and I had there, I love reminiscing about those times.

Now that I have children of my own, I want to create the same opportunities for them to have adventures of their own that they can look back on and remember. That is why travel is so important to me. I don’t believe we were put here to stand still if that were the case I think we would have roots and be planted in the ground. We were made to explore this beautiful world, and I intend to!

My husband and I woke up one Saturday morning and decided to take a day trip somewhere and let the kids run out some of their pent up energy. We didn’t want to go far so we decided to go to Morrow Mountain because it is only about an hour from our house.

When we got there we went to the Visitors Center to get our passports stamped. We try to do that first thing when we arrive so that we don’t forget and leave without getting it done. The Park Ranger was set up out front with a table full of snake skins and mounted animals. They even had a bear skin.

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We got to learn lots of really interesting facts about owls and then he started talking about snakes. He showed us different snake skins and explained to the kids all of the different kinds of snakes we have here in our area and which ones to stay away from.

After a little bit, we went inside and had our passports stamped. We grabbed a park map and decided to walk down to the little exhibit hall they have. It is small, but it’s full of so many really neat exhibits.

The first thing my daughter did when she walked in was go to the gold panning exhibit. They have gold pans laying out that are covered and connected to the table, they are really neat, full of what looks like gold nuggets, you can swish the water around and find them.

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We have been here many times and every time we come back to the exhibit hall because it is so cool! There are Indian artifacts, different animals that live in the area and tons of facts about them, rocks and minerals and even a little set up that shows how the early explorers used to work.

There are many other things to do at Morrow Mountain, especially during the summer. My brother and I loved camping there when we were little because they have a huge pool and we would look forward to that every time! You can also rent kayaks and canoes and can use them to go fishing.

Now we were on to my favorite thing about Morrow Mountain State Park. The homestead of Dr. Francis Kron, a Doctor from the 19th century. He was the first physician in the area. In the 1960s his home, greenhouse,  doctors office and infirmary were reconstructed and very closely resemble how they did in 1870.

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Down behind the house in the woods, not a very long walk is the Kron family cemetery. They were all buried in a section with a small stone wall surrounding it, though many of the headstones have been destroyed by vandals. That really makes me sad, because I can remember going to the cemetery as a kid and just being in awe of how beautiful the headstones were, I enjoyed being able to see where they lived and were buried.

We hiked quite a bit while we were there. We did the Sugarloaf Trail, which was almost 3 miles round trip that took us up the mountain and then back down the other side of it. It was a pretty tough trail but the views from the top are so breathtaking. We also walked some on the trail alongside the lake, the kids enjoyed stopping and playing in the sand also.

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Before you can cross this park off of your list, you have to drive all the way up to the overlook! No matter how many times I have been up there, it still gets me every time! This time we were lucky and made it up there right in time to watch the sunset! We had an awesome time spending the day there and I hope we can go camping at Morrow Mountain State Park this summer!

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Before you act, remember who’s watching

You know the days, the days when every single thing goes wrong. You over sleep, then of course your kids are getting ready at a sloth’s pace. Oh and the oldest one forgot to tell you last night when you were helping him with his homework, that he has another paper due today!

They tell you what they want for breakfast and then at least one of them throws a tantrum because they want something different. So you go back to the kitchen to make something else. Then it’s time to leave, so you have to take it to go.

When you finally get everyone in the car you realize that one of the kids forgot their coat so you have to go back inside to get it. Once you get back in the car, you see that the food you brought has already been spilled all over the seat and more than likely is on the kid as well.

By the time you make it to the first school, that kid is tardy! Which now means that the second one will probably be tardy too, once you get to their school.

You get to the second school and now that kid is in a bad mood, she refuses to get out of the car, so you look like a psycho trying to pull your five year old out of the backseat, while all of the other parents just open the door and their kids hop out and skip along into class! $#%!

Oh yeah, and did I mention that all of this is before 8:30!

Then on the car ride home, you replay the whole morning. “Should I have said this?” or “Why did I say that?” “Did I handle that the way I should have?” I’m not gonna lie, sometimes I’m ashamed! The mom guilt is real y’all!

So here’s what I’ve been working on lately, (drum roll please) patience. I want to be more patient with my kids, with myself and simply in general.

Understanding that how I act, is showing my kids how to act! If I scream and yell all the time, then what else can I expect but for them to do the same!

It’s not fair to tell them one thing and then turn around and act a completely different way. Because honestly, we all know that actions speak louder than words!

I love my kids more than life itself, and it’s my job to teach them. How they act when they grow up depends on who I am right now!

I am trying to keep that in the back of my mind, that they are watching how I handle every situation, sometimes I may not even realize that they are watching.

I want to stop focusing so much on the things that go wrong and just relax, go with the flow and enjoy my little ones, continue having fun with them and try to be the best role model for my children that I can be!

North Carolina Passport Challenge: Six Parks/One Day

Here lately I’ve been reading a lot of blogs and I’ve been following an awesome travel blogger (DeeGees Life) who has all of these great stories and guides on some really cool places! Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Laos just to name a few, and it is making my desire to see the world so much stronger!

I hope one day I can make it to all 7 continents and see all of the different countries that I’ve always dreamed about. But for now I’m really enjoying exploring my own state and seeing all of its beauty, so back to my North Carolina Passport Challenge.

Our next adventure lead us to the mountains of North Carolina, and to some of our favorite areas! There was a good group of parks within a reasonable distance of each other so we were excited to see how many we could get to.

The morning started out nice and sunny and we honestly didn’t even check the weather before we left. I’m not sure if you know anything about Boone, NC but it reminds me of a snowglobe! It literally snows there all the time, all winter long.

The closer we got to Boone, the more fog there was and the darker it got. Then the snow flurries started, and didn’t stop!

The road we had to take to our first park was straight up the mountain and the higher we went, the harder it was snowing. I was starting to freak out just a little bit because the car was sliding and I was begging my husband to just turn around and we could come back to that park later.

We made it to the top and to Elk Knob State Park. Like I said, because of the snow we were pretty much in and out really quick at this one! We didn’t want to get stuck up on top of the mountain.

They had a mailbox set up at the visitors center that had stickers in it for the passports, but there were only three left and we needed four so we went inside and the Ranger stamped them for us.

Elk Knob is one of the highest peaks in NC at 5520 feet tall. Since it is still a relatively new park, there are only a few miles of trails, but they are working on getting more ready.

Despite the winter weather, the park tries to stay open as much as possible. Elk Knob is the only State Park in NC that offers cross country skiing (you must bring your own equipment).

There are also primitive backcountry camping sites available. I wish it wouldn’t have been snowing so much and we could have stayed longer but I honestly don’t feel like we missed too much here.

Next we were on our way to New River State Park. This is one that we have been wanting to go to for years and we just never made it there. We know a lot of people who go there to fish and camp.

The New River runs through some of North Carolina’s best mountain scenery. Once named National Wild and Scenic River, the beauty of this river and park is indescribable.

The visitor center was closed, but I read that they have really nice exhibits inside that are a perfect way to keep your children excited. Mine were really bummed that it wasn’t open. We even had to have our stamps mailed to us.

New River State Park is well known for its camping and fishing. It is also a sought after destination for anyone wanting to use their canoes or kayaks for a fun adventure.

It wasn’t long and we were back in the car, on our way to Pilot Mountain State Park. We’ve been there quite a few times, actually it’s one of my favorite places to go for a day trip and hike.

We stopped in by the visitors center when we arrived and got our books stamped. Then we drove up to the overlooks.

Pilot Mountain is most known for its mountain summit, which is more than 2,000 feet tall. There are numerous trails to enjoy hiking and sometimes you might even get to witness some rock climbers!

Horseback riding and canoeing are some of the main things people come here to enjoy. They also have a campground and paddle-in camping.

If you are ever in the area, Pilot Mountain is one park that you definitely don’t want to miss.

Next we were on our way to Hanging Rock State Park. We have also been here a couple of times before. There is something for everyone at Hanging Rock.

With over 20 miles of hiking trails and 8 miles of mountain bike trails, this is a very popular park and is often crowded. The hikes are relatively easy and many of the trails take you by some really beautiful waterfalls, making them a go-to for many people.

We have discussed going back to Hanging Rock this summer. There is a 12 acre lake with a swimming area that is a hit with everyone in the heat of the summer and I know my kids would enjoy it.

They have a really nice campground and vacation cabins available for rent, as well as canoes and rowboats.

Mount Jefferson State Natural Area was our next stop. There honestly wasn’t much to do here and it was a little disappointing. In all fairness, we couldn’t get all the way to the top because they had everything closed because of the snow.

The park has five hiking trails, and three scenic overlooks. I think we may go back and check it out in the spring because I have heard that many people love hiking here and it has some really beautiful views.

Our last stop of the day was Stone Mountain State Park. I love this park! This is the first place my husband and I went camping when we first got married.

There are so many different things you can enjoy doing here. The actual Stone Mountain is a dome of exposed granite that is 600 feet tall. You can hike all the way to the top and walk around on top of it.

There are lots of different hiking trails, from beginner to strenuous and also horseback riding trails. Looking up at the granite mountain from the bottom is awesome because it’s just massive, but the views from up top are breathtaking!

You really should check out the park’s Mountain Culture Exhibit. They have an old moonshine still, a loom, many animal pelts and a full-size mounted black bear.

My favorite part is the Hutchinson Homestead. It is a complete homestead with log cabin, barn, blacksmith shop, corncrib and meat house, all with many of the original furnishings. The homestead was built in the mid 1800s, and restored in 1998.

I love it because it really shows what the lives of the early settlers to that area lived like. Sometimes I wish we could all go back to living that way, no stores, you grow everything yourself and live off of the land. I think it would be so nice, but I’m sure it would be more difficult than I imagine.

That was the end of our road trip that day and we started home. I always love to reflect on the trip while on the way home. My kids enjoy looking back on the day and we talk about what parks and things that we did and what were their favorites.

Not sure which parks we are going to attempt next, but we can’t wait! Our North Carolina Passports are filling up quickly and I’m loving every minute of it!

North Carolina Passports: Road Trip To Raleigh

If you’ve been keeping up with me, then you know about the N.C State Parks Challenge that we are doing. If not, you should definitely check it out!

We’ve been pretty busy these last few weeks, trying to get to as many of the parks as we can, while still getting to enjoy them as well. We’ve spent a lot of time in the car, but we have had so much fun on this challenge so far!

What we have been trying to do is group a few of them together and do multiple parks each time we go. That way we don’t have to drive to some of the same areas multiple times, we can get them all in one trip.

We decided to take a road trip to the area of Raleigh, NC. For those of you who don’t know Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina, and the traffic there is honestly some of the worst I’ve ever seen. We actually just went to Raleigh for the first time a couple of months ago when I bought my new car there, and we pretty much decided that we had seen it all and had no desire to ever get back in that mess.

So I was a little reluctant when my husband mentioned doing these parks. I know we have to do them all, but I just wasn’t looking forward to that area again. Thankfully, we never actually got close to any of the downtown areas and it was really nice and peaceful everywhere we went.

1. Jordan Lake State Recreation Area

Our first stop was Jordan Lake State Recreation Area in Apex, NC. It took us around an hour and a half to get there from our house. We didn’t get to see a lot here because everything was closed. We didn’t realize the visitors center wasn’t open on the weekend, so we couldn’t get in to see the exhibit hall or get our passports stamped.

Jordan Lake State Recreation Area is made up of a 14,000+ acre reservoir with over 1,000 campsites. There are seven swim beaches throughout the area and roughly 14 miles of hiking trials to choose from. Many people come here to try and catch a glimpse of the bald eagles that fly around the lake.

We were sad that our first stop was closed and we couldn’t get our passports stamped. I checked the N.C. State Parks website and it said if you visit a park and they are closed, send an email to them with your name, which park you need a stamp for and the address to mail them to and they would send them to you. We received our stickers/stamps in the mail a few days later.

2. Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area

Then we were on our way to Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area. It was about a 40 minute drive from Jordan Lake. We were honestly really disappointed with this park.

There is nothing to do there, not even a park office. With only three miles of hiking trials, it offers a quick escape into nature. There are two ponds, where you can fish for bass or panfish.

With this being our second stop of the trip so far, the kids were getting very discouraged and we couldn’t blame them. Don’t get me wrong, we like a good road trip every now and again but we specifically went this time with the purpose of exploring the parks and getting our passports stamped and that just wasn’t what was happening so far.

There was not even anywhere to get a stamp there, but we finally looked in our books and realized that the next park we were going to had the stamps for Occoneechee as well.

3. Eno River State Park

Next on our list was Eno River State Park, and it actually ended taking a little less than 20 minutes to get there from Occoneechee. This park was great, one of my favorites of the day and we will definitely be going back there soon!

When we arrived we went to the visitors center first. The lady who was working was kind and welcoming, I really enjoyed talking to her. We got our stamps for Eno River and for Occoneechee. They even had a craft area set up and the kids were excited to make the paper snowflakes and hang them on the window with the other ones that people had made.

With the river and almost 30 miles of trails, this park has a little something for everyone. Plenty of opportunities for fishing, hiking, canoeing and kayaking.There are backpacking campsites, as well as group camping sites but everything has to be carried in.

The lady in the visitors center mentioned to us that there was a swinging bridge that crossed the river and we just had to find it and check it out. So we hiked down the trails to the river and found it pretty easily.

The bridge is awesome! The kids were so excited when they saw it, and couldn’t believe we were actually going to go across it. It was fun, but a little nerve wracking because the kids have no fear.

We met a couple who were also hiking and they told us about a cabin that wasn’t much further down the trails. We were going to go try and find it but the trails were really muddy and we decided to come back a different time, especially when we could spend more time there.

4. Falls Lake State Recreation Area

From there we drove 30 minutes to Falls Lake State Recreation Area. This was another small place with not much to do, especially in the winter.

There are over 300 campsites, five swim beaches and multiple boat ramps for paddlers and non-gasoline powered boats.

I want to go back there over the summer and camp because this area is well known and people come from all over to take advantage of the great recreational activities there. The fishing there is very popular and I know my kids would enjoy the swimming areas and taking our kayaks out.

5. William B. Umstead State Park

Ok, now last but definitely not least, my favorite park of our trip and one that my husband and I are really excited about going back to soon, William B. Umstead State Park.

Thankfully it only took us 20 minutes to get there from Falls Lake, because the kids were really getting antsy being in the car so much.

The visitors center is awesome! There were many different exhibits set up, including a corn sheller, and a microscope with multiple slides and other things to look at under it like feathers, pine cones, snakeskin and insects. My kids like stuff like that, it makes the trips more interesting for them.

Since we didn’t have a lot of time to hike, because by the time we got there it was only about an hour until dark, we didn’t get to do a lot there. While in the visitors center, we learned about a chainsaw art tree on one of the hiking trails. We had to get there before dark!

Our kids are not very fond of hiking in the dark. We have done it before but it’s not the most enjoyable experience so we were trying hard to get to the tree and back before it was completely dark.

The trail to the tree is a little over a mile round trip. It was a very easy hike and so worth it! Once we got to the tree we were amazed!

The tree is a fallen red oak tree that is around 25 feet long. It is beautiful! The kids enjoyed finding all of the animals in the carving. The owls were my favorite. The pictures just do not do it justice!

There are more than 20 miles of hiking trails, 13 of which are multi-use trails for horseback riding and biking. There are 28 campsites and a many backpacking sites also.

We cannot wait to go back, there were a lot of other things we wanted to do here but ran out of daylight.

On the way home we enjoyed talking all about our adventures from the day and how excited we were that we started this challenge. 7 stamps down, 34 to go! Now to figure out where to go next!?!

Kid Friendly Road Trip Planner

Are you planning a vacation where you will be spending a lot of time in the car with your kids?  If so, you’ve got a lot of planning to do in order to make the best of your trip.  I am going to be sharing a list of road trip ideas to keep your kids occupied and help you keep your sanity!

My husband and I travel with our two kids all the time! One of the most common questions we get is, how do we do it? How do we spend so much time in the car with two kids?

Truth is, it’s not always pleasant. Our kids are 9 and 5, and they fight like cats and dogs. We have gotten really good at tuning them out when they act crazy in the car. But I also like to make sure that I am prepared and ready for these family road trips with a few helpful ways to keep them busy.

Now you could just take my husbands approach and throw on your headphones and listen to some music the whole time (which really aggravates me because I like to talk about stuff that I see when we are driving and when he wears them I basically talk to myself because he can’t hear me).

If you are like me and you want to make the most of these trips without everyone in the car going completely crazy, here is a list of ideas to help make sure you can plan the ultimate family road trip.

Coloring Books – My kids love to color, and it’s a simple way to keep them occupied for a long time. It’s not messy and doesn’t take up much room in the car to pack a few coloring books and a pencil pouch or box of crayons, markers or colored pencils. You can even make it extra special by getting coloring books that fit in with the type of trip you are taking. (Our longgggg 9 hour drive to Disney World – Disney coloring books)

Drawing/Writing – If your kids are like mine, they love to use their imagination and create stories and drawings. They can come up with a whole story and even illustrate it. They really like to make their own books. I can give each of them a notebook and they are pretty happy for a while. Once they get bored with that they also like to play tic-tac-toe with each other.

Activity Books – Books like crossword puzzles, search and finds, and Sudoku. These are for older kids, but they are good to keep in the car because they are a great boredom buster. For smaller kids, you can get the activity packs at the dollar store that comes with coloring pages, markers and stickers. My youngest really enjoys those, she’s always so excited to open it up and find out what’s inside.

Books – Who doesn’t love to read a good story? I’m so lucky that both of my kids enjoy books. My little girl can’t read yet, but she still loves to look at the pictures. We have a lot of books in our house, but I also like to hit up the local library before we take a trip, that way they have fun, new books for the road.

Games – We like to play lots of different games in the car. Some of these I can remember doing with my parents and siblings when I was a child.

  • I-Spy This is one of my kids favorite games to play in the car. It is a little difficult because when it’s my 5 year old’s turn, we will spend five minutes guessing the “something silver” she picked and by the time we all give up, she tells us that it was the car we passed 3 miles ago. So we try to keep the rule to something in the car or more than one of something (trees, sky, clouds etc).
  • The Animal Alphabet – This is one that my mom used to do with us on the way home from the zoo when we were little. We start with A and we all have to say an animal that starts with an A. It’s so much fun and some of the letters are actually pretty difficult.
  • Would You Rather – My son is so into this right now. He wants to play Would You Rather all the time, not just in the car. We take turns asking everyone questions about would you rather do this or that or eat this or that. It’s a neat way to find out things about each other, what they pick over the other. Here is a great site that we use https://conversationstartersworld.com/would-you-rather-questions-for-kids/. You can also just google Would You Rather questions for kids and find plenty or make up your own.
  • Make Up a Story – We really enjoy this one as well. One person starts by saying one word. The next person says another word, then the next person says another word and so on and on. It’s funny because you can say any word you want and sometimes the story doesn’t make sense but they are usually always funny.

Snacks, Snacks, Snacks – Did I mention SNACKS?  One thing I know not to ever forget when we head out on a road trip are the snacks.  We all know that hungry kids equal lots of whining and complaining.  It doesn’t matter if you just got back in the car from eating lunch, the second you get on the interstate and then BAM, they are starving (or they have to pee). Apples, bananas, goldfish, crackers, and popcorn are all good examples of road trip snack ideas.  I also like to keep their cups full of ice water, this eliminates them wanting to have a soda or a slushy every time we stop at a gas station.  My kids don’t like water, but if it’s in their own yeti cup with ice they actually don’t mind.

OK, now its time to talk about the one thing we are all thinking…

Electronics –  I absolutely cannot stand the fact that my children want to be on electronics all the time, and I limit the amount of time they are allowed to spend on them each day.  But, on long road trips, sometimes I am so thankful for them!  Is that bad?  When they are bored and losing their minds, it’s so easy to just say “Sure, you can play on my phone!”  I think it’s all about a good balance and as long as they do other things also it’s not a bad thing.  Some of the electronics we take on road trips are

  • Nintendo Switch – My son got one for Christmas this past year so it’s still new and he is still really interested in the games that he got with it.
  • Nintendo 2DS XL – We have had this one for a few years and since my son has his switch now, he doesn’t really mind letting his sister play on this one.  It is pretty small in size and has a nice case that holds it and a bunch of the games for it.
  • DVD Players – My mom got each of my kids a portable dvd player and they love them.  I like that they each have their own and can watch what they want with their headphones.
  • Phones – My kids each have their own folder of games on my phone.  We also have Hulu, Netflix and YouTube kids on there so they can watch movies if they want to.

Going on a road trip with your kids can be exhausting but you can make some of the best memories while doing so.  Use this time you have all in the care together to talk and learn about one another.  All it takes is a little extra planning to make the experience more enjoyable!

Sure, we’ve gone on some trips where i didn’t plan at all and we made it just fine, but keeping the kids occupied in my opinion is definitely a good thing.  Yes, I still tell them to look out the window when they tell me that they are bored, but I know that expecting them to just sit there and do nothing for hours isn’t really fun for anyone.

I hope these ideas are helpful when you are planning your next road trip with your kids.  If you have any other ideas or tips to add, please leave me a comment!  I am always looking for advice from other parents on how they do things with their children.  It takes a village right!?!

North Carolina Passports: Our First Stamps

Some of the best memories I have of my childhood are from when my family used to go camping at Morrow Mountain State Park.  We would leave on Friday when my dad would get home from work and drive about an hour to the park campground.  Pitch our tent and spend the next few days in the woods.

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I look back on those days now that I have children and I want nothing more than for them to have the same kind of memories when they are grown.  The sense of freedom my brother and I had when my parents would let us ride in the bed of the truck around the campground.  Getting to go explore the old homestead and cemetery from the 1800s that is still there to this day.  Even getting woke up in the middle of the night by my mom’s incredibly loud snoring, convincing ourselves that a bear was growling outside of our tent!  We still laugh about that one!

Sometimes we were lucky enough to get the campsite that had a big clearing behind it and right around dusk the deer would come out into the clearing and you could sit and watch them.  They wouldn’t let you get near them, but they didn’t mind you watching them from a distance.  I can even still remember those cold toilet seats in the block building bathhouse.

Sitting by the campfire at night roasting hotdogs and marshmallows, telling campfire stories.  Making sure Mom and Dad were still going to let us go to the campground swimming pool the next day because we just HAD to! And planning all of our adventures for the next day, which would include us two going off into the woods pretending to be Indians living off the land and then getting “lost” and freaking out until we would hysterically find our way back to our campsite (happened every time).

As I really look back, I was always outside.  We grew up in a cabin in the woods, down the dirt road that my grandparents and cousins lived on too.  We had a creek right in our backyard and a pond our neighbor owned through the woods, who would let us come over anytime and fish.  Things were different back then so we were pretty much allowed to go wherever we wanted to as long as we told mom where we were going.

I guess growing up that way, getting to explore and the freedom that came with it explains the need that I have now to still go as much as possible and see as much as I can.  My Momma always did call me her “Go Baby” because she said that even as a baby I was always on the go.

So maybe that explains why I got so excited when I saw the North Carolina State Park Passport Challenge that I posted about last.  This gives me an excuse to make going to all of the state parks here a priority! Especially because if we complete the challenge in 365 days we will receive the special prize pack which includes an annual pass to all of the state parks.  That means for a year, we can get in free to any park, swim free, passes to ride the ferry’s and also includes equipment rentals like kayaks, canoes, boats, paddleboards and many more.

When my husband and I decided to start the challenge we honestly didn’t know if we were going to even attempt to try to do them all in one year.  But we are both pretty competitive and now we are just determined to make sure it happens.  The kids are just as excited as we are, and keep asking me where we are going next.

So to get to all of the parks, lets face it, we aren’t going to be able to go spend a whole day at each park.  We are trying to group them up and visit a couple that are close to one another each time we go.  What we are doing though is keeping a list of the parks that we want to come back to and what was there so that we can plan to come back and spend more time there, maybe even make it a weekend camping trip! But don’t get me wrong, we are trying to squeeze as much in as we can when we go.

We started the challenge on January 1st at South Mountains State Park.  The park is located in Connelly Springs, NC and was about an hour and forty-five minute drive for us.  Let me just tell you, this park is a must! It is beautiful!

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When we arrived we went straight to the visitors center. The museum exhibits inside were very informative and the kids really enjoyed them.  After we finished up in there we were getting ready to go on our hike, but not before I got my magnet (yes, I am one of those people who gets a magnet everywhere I go).  Next up was our 2 mile round trip hike to High Shoals waterfall.

So just a little heads up, this is a strenuous hike!  My husband neglected to tell me this part before we started.  It is one of those trails that fakes you out, the first half of the hike is a piece of cake but once you hit that halfway point, BAM!  The second half of the trail is almost all stairs!  They are terrible, slick from the overspray created by the waterfall, and you literally feel like you are climbing up into the sky because the steps are so steep and are never-ending.

Honestly though, it is so worth it because once you get to the top, the 80 foot waterfall is absolutely breathtaking! It makes you forget all the stairs you just climbed. This is somewhere we are definitely going to put on the list to come back to when it warms up, because on the observation deck there is a mist that comes off of the waterfall that soaks you.

 

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Now in January, it’s not really that enjoyable, but we did stand in the mist for a minute but it was freezing, but I can only imagine how good it would feel after a hot and sweaty hike in the summer.

Once we climbed back down, we ran back into the visitors center to get our passports and our very first stamps!  We were ready for the challenge. We got some information about the park and then rode through the campground before heading out.

The campground is nice, and has drive up sites and backpacking sites. We also read that the trout fishing is very popular in the park.  My husband is ready to come back and try that out as well.

Now that we had our passports, it was time to see what park we were going to next. We chose Lake James State Park because it was only about a forty-five minute drive from South Mountains to there.

We were actually really disappointed when we got to Lake James because the visitors center was closed. We were so bummed out, just starting our passports and the second place we went was closed.  But luckily for us there was a really nice Park Ranger there and when I mentioned it to him, he was more than happy to stamp our books for us!

Lake James is another beautiful park, and is located in Nebo, NC. The lake is over 6,800 acres and has a nice beach and a swimming area. They even have lifeguards on duty during the summer. You can rent canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards (May through September).  With 25 miles of trails, 15 of which can be used for mountain biking, there are plenty of things to keep you busy there.

We really didn’t do much there because the kids were still pretty tired from the hike earlier and the fact that not much is open there during the winter months, but they did enjoy playing on the beach for a little while.  Making sand castles, playing tag and even a sand fight or two, they had a blast!

 

When we finished up there we rode through everything and we are already planning on going back there in the summer, when more things will be open like the swimming and the rentals. The campground was nice there as well.  They have drive up camping sites and backpacking sites.

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Once we finished there we headed home. We were whooped and so were the kids. We talked about our day and how much fun we had. They couldn’t wait to tell their friends and were already wanting to know what parks we were going to next.  Little did we know, my husband was coming home with a special little surprise all for himself.

The next day we found a tick embedded in his leg.  Then of course when I tried to pull it out, I ripped it and the head didn’t come out.  So he had to go to the doctor and they dug it out. He got a tetanus shot and was sent home on a 10 day course of antibiotics for tick fever as a precaution.

Being as cold as it was, we weren’t thinking about ticks at all and were not checking for them when we got home like we do when its warm.  We are making sure that now we are checking for ticks to be safe.  We definitely don’t want to be seeing any more of those nasty little boogers!

This N.C. State Parks Passports challenge is awesome and I’m so glad we decided to give it a shot. We will be going to some more parks soon and cannot wait.  Make sure to check back in with me to see where we go next, and how many stamps we have collected so far.

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North Carolina Passports: Challenge Accepted

Have I mentioned before that my family loves to travel?!? Yes, we do! We don’t sit still very long. My husband and kids have the same wanderlust I have, we just all want to go and see as much of this beautiful world as possible.

So when we discovered that the North Carolina State Parks were doing a challenge to see if you could visit all the State Parks in 365 days, we were happy to accept that challenge!

The Passport Challenge consists of getting a stamp at every N.C. State Park and one stamp for completing a section of the Mountains to Sea Trail. You need 41 stamps in all to complete your passport.

If you would rather take your time and try and get to all of the parks at a more leisurely pace, that’s fine too! You can still receive the prizes as well, but the only way to get the final prize is to complete them all in 365 days.

There are different levels of prizes that you can receive once completing parts of the challenge. For every ten parks you get stamped, you email them a picture and they send you your prizes.

 

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If you get all 41 stamps in 365 days, you will receive a special prize for completing the challenge.

We are so excited and have already been to quite a few in just a couple of weeks! Check back in to see our progress!!!

For more information you can go to the North Carolina State Parks website by clicking the link below

https://www.ncparks.gov/passport-program