National Park Project, Travel

hot springs national park

While Hot Springs originally seemed a bit out of reach (13 hours from Charlotte), we seized the chance to stop by on our way to Greg’s family reunion in Tennessee. In the interest of gaining more states on our scratch-off map, we planned a circuitous route going from Charlotte -> Atlanta -> Birmingham -> Memphis -> Hot Springs -> Nashville -> Fairfield Glade -> Charlotte. This looked simple on paper but ended up being a lot of driving. By the time we arrived at the family reunion, we had driven the same distance as going to Maine!

We headed out to Memphis on Sunday, August 22, with educational stops along the way. First, a walk around the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta, with a peek at MLK’s birthplace as well as his massive tomb (kind of an interesting circle of life there). Then a drive through the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument at Kelly Ingram Park. We played “I Have A Dream” for the kids to hear in the car, and pointed out that every time our little neighbor James comes over, the vision of white and black children peacefully playing together is fulfilled. Dr. King would be pleased.

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National Park Project, Travel

acadia national park

A couple months ago Gregory and I started chatting about Acadia over a second (third) cup of coffee on a quiet Shabbat afternoon. “Let’s run up there this summer!” we enthused. “We’ll drive overnight and spend a long weekend. Easy!” It became a fun game to work out how we could take our family of seven to Acadia with hardly any time or money involved. We considered flying into Bangor, we checked the length of the train ride from Charlotte, we spent long hours on Google maps looking at distances. To our surprise, it grew into an eight-day road trip hitting almost every major city on the east coast, and somehow we found the time and money to make it happen.

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National Park Project, Travel

virgin islands national park

We celebrated our tenth anniversary in March with a spectacular trip to the Virgin Islands national park on St. John. Admittedly it wasn’t the most romantic trip, since we were covered in children the entire time, but since I am nursing Rachel and needed to keep her with me, we decided to make it a family affair.

After booking six flights (plus one lap baby), a VRBO cottage, and the very last minivan left on St. Thomas, the next challenge was getting the whole family tested for covid. The Virgin Islands run all visitors through a strict travel portal which requires a negative covid test. Out of an abundance of caution we decided to skip the free testing option and schedule appointments with our family healthcare provider, which led to unpleasant nasal swabs, consolatory fruit smoothies, a $125 bill, and negative results across the board.

48 hours before our American Airlines flight departed, all five children came down with a cold. We spent a sad Purim evening sniffling through the Megillah reading and praying for a miracle. Face masks + runny noses sounded like a recipe for disaster. Altitude changes + sinus congestion sounded even worse.

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2020 Berry Adventures, Bartos family, National Park Project, Travel

berry adventure #15: florida national parks, part II

If you’ve talked to us recently and we’ve been like “tortugastortugastortugas,” it’s because visiting Dry Tortugas National Park is a big accomplishment. It’s one of the most inaccessible parks, requiring a 2.5hr ferry or (shorter) seaplane ride to get there. Now that we’ve gone halfway to Cuba and back, we feel like a REAL national park family. We’re doing this challenge! Even if it takes 15 years and most of our life savings.

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2020 Berry Adventures, National Park Project, Travel

berry adventure #15: florida national parks

Date: December 22-24
Difficulty: 10 (out of 10)

What is the most adventurous thing we could do with our 2-month old, we said to ourselves. Well, let’s do a whirlwind 8-day trip that will take us 70 miles into the Gulf of Mexico, deep into the heart of the Everglades, and across Biscayne Bay, involving 40 hours of driving, three national park tours, and two boat cruises. The trip of a lifetime, my husband said.

Surprisingly, it all worked out. Rachel was pleased with new squishy car toys, dipping her toes in the ocean, and lots of snuggles from her grandparents. She does not like 12 hour drives, but then, who does?

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2020 Berry Adventures, Bartos family

berry adventure #14

four turkeys & a zebra…

Our 14th berry adventure (defined as a family challenge that we’ve never done before) was participating in the 32nd Annual Charlotte Turkey Trot! Our local turkey trot is one of the few 5k’s that aren’t always on Shabbat. We jumped at the chance to do a family 5k, and I was pleased to see that a portion of our registration cost went to Samaritan’s Feet, a charity providing shoes for children.

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2020 Berry Adventures, Travel

berry adventure #13

Date: November 22, 2020
Difficulty: 4 (out of 10)

For a while now we’ve been waiting for a good chance to see a bald. “Balds” are bare mountain tops. One of the most popular ones is Max Patch on the Appalachian trail. Almost all of them are 4+ hours from Charlotte. Recently we came across Bearwallow Mountain, which looked like a promising bald only 2.5hrs away.

This should have been a simple drive, hike & picnic, return – but it ended up being a more eventful day.

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2020 Berry Adventures, Bartos family, Travel

berry adventure #12

Date: November 5, 2020
Difficulty: 3 (out of 10)

We took an unintentional break from our berry adventures during September and October. We had planned to visit Bald Head Island to climb North Carolina’s oldest standing lighthouse on the way home from Holden Beach in September, but the lighthouse was closed due to COVID-19. And we probably should have counted Rachel’s birth in October as a berry adventure since it was a real “adventure” for all of us!

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2020 Berry Adventures, National Park Project, Travel

great smoky mountains national park: berry adventure #11

Date: August 27, 2020
Difficulty: 8 out of 10

On our way home from Tennessee (see berry adventure #10) at the end of August, we visited our fifth national park, the Great Smoky Mountains. We’ve driven through this park on the NC/TN border many times but never stopped to explore it. Greg chose a place called Chimneys to have lunch, a scenic spot in Gatlinburg along the Little Pigeon River.

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2020 Berry Adventures, Bartos family, National Park Project, Travel

mammoth cave national park: berry adventure #10

Date: August 25, 2020
Difficulty: 4 (out of 10)

Catching up on posts from the summer: one of our annual trips is an easy drive out to Fairfield Glade, TN for a few days with Greg’s side of the family, and this year we combined it with a visit to Mammoth Cave National Park in KY. Our 4th national park, in case anyone else is counting.

We drove out toward the Smoky Mountains on Sunday August 23, and stopped to picnic at Big Creek. Greg really wanted to hike a few miles out to Midnight Swimming Hole, but at 35 weeks pregnant I asked for a raincheck on that one. Hopefully the swimming hole hike will happen on the way out to next year’s reunion. It’s described as “one of the most scenic and beautiful natural swimming holes in the Blue Ridge Mountains and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.” We stayed closer to the Big Creek picnic area this time, a short walk from the parking lot. Greg and the kids took off their shoes and splashed around while I got lunch ready.

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