Bartos family, State Park Project

singletary lake & jones lake

State parks #34 and #35 were checked off the list last weekend! After laying low for four days to bounce back from our epic Outer Banks trip, we drove out to the coastal region on Sunday to visit a set of side-by-side bay lakes about 40 miles west of Wilmington.

We visited Singletary Lake state park first and found it scenic but completely deserted. It looked like we walked onto the set of an “abducted by aliens” movie. The park office, a dilapidated garage, was locked; the silence broken only by the howl of a lone dog down the road. A small wooden box mounted to the wall held the all-important passport stamp. Continue reading “singletary lake & jones lake”

Bartos family, Planning, travel

if you had one day in the outer banks…

Here’s our “Bartos Family Travel Guide” for the Kitty Hawk/Roanoke Island area:


Go on a Wild Horse Adventure tour! We had a fantastic experience with this company. The cost is completely worth it (and we saved $$$ by booking the first tour of the day, 7.30am). They use a customized Hummer H1, with wide comfortable seats, including boosters for kids. Eva and Aaron Henry used their own car seats for the tour. It’s a little bumpy going over tire tracks on the sand but we felt safe! The Spanish mustangs are beautiful wild horses and itโ€™s amazing to see them out on the beach.ย  Continue reading “if you had one day in the outer banks…”

Bartos family, State Park Project

pettigrew, goose creek, & cliffs of the neuse

We drove home from the Outer Banks on Tuesday with stops at three coastal parks, bringing our total for the trip up to six. The morning started early with a latte from Front Porch Cafe, cheerful kids, and bright sunshine. “Greg,” I said, “can we stay here? Let’s toss our schedule for today and just have fun!” Surprisingly, Greg agreed to this. So instead of hastily packing up, eating breakfast on the road, and having lengthy visits at each park on the route home, we grabbed our swimsuits and drove over to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore for a few hours and soaked in the sun. It was incredible. Continue reading “pettigrew, goose creek, & cliffs of the neuse”

Bartos family, State Park Project

merchants millpond, dismal swamp, & jockey’s ridge

Our adventure this weekend was spending three days in the Outer Banks! This trip was the culmination of months and months worth of planning. It was toward the end of 2018 that we started talking about the State Park passport program, and studying the North Carolina map to figure out how we could visit all of them. We realized right away that we would need to travel to the Outer Banks area because it’s just not feasible to day trip there from Charlotte. We booked a cozy rental house in Manteo, NC on January 13, 2019, and almost exactly six months later here we are.

The original plan for this trip was to travel to Manteo in an upward swoop, visiting Merchants Millpond and Dismal Swamp on our way out, spend the next day climbing sand dunes at Jockey’s Ridge, and then come home via Pettigrew, Goose Creek, and Cliffs of the Neuse. Making kind of a large oval as we cross the state and then return.

Continue reading “merchants millpond, dismal swamp, & jockey’s ridge”

Bartos family, Personal, State Park Project

lake james

Last week we had the privilege of hosting friends from Canada. Over the last few years it’s become a summer tradition to spend a week with David & Julie McDonald, and we love it! They have been a wonderful source of encouragement to us, in our marriage, our parenting, and our faith.

Early Sunday morning, after a busy few days together, Julie & I split like bananas. She and her family headed up to Baltimore to visit relatives on their way back to Canada, and I drove up to Lake James with my family for our 27th state park trip.

Continue reading “lake james”

Bartos family, State Park Project

pilot mountain & hanging rock

Having spent a pleasant Mother’s Day at Morrow Mountain, we searched for an appropriate place for a Father’s Day trip and came up with Hanging Rock State Park in Danbury. Hanging Rock is the state park equivalent of Carowinds, packed with fun outdoor activities. The only catch was that Pilot Mountain State Park is less than 30 minutes away, so this would need to be a double trip.

The weather, which threatened a thunderstorm, cleared up days in advance, so we studied the park maps and put together a plan to see it all (forgetting about the heat factor).

Continue reading “pilot mountain & hanging rock”

Bartos family, State Park Project

fort fisher & carolina beach

The hardest state parks for us to reach are on the coast. In fact, we are planning to take an overnight trip in July to reach a few of the farthest ones, since it is just not possible to daytrip out there (the Outer Banks are about 6-7 hours from Charlotte). We seized the chance, while spending a few days in North Myrtle Beach, to drive up the coast and visit two parks just south of Wilmington. Since we were vacationing with Greg’s parents, we invited them to come along – our first state park “guests!” (even more so since they are South Carolina residents!)

Continue reading “fort fisher & carolina beach”