Bartos family, Berries, Married Life, 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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Bartos family, Berry Adventures, 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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Bartos family, Berries, 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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Bartos family, Berry Adventures

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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Bartos family, Berry Adventures, 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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Bartos family, Berry Adventures, 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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Bartos family, Berries, Berry Adventures, National Park Project, travel

shenandoah national park: berry adventure #9

Date: August 9-11, 2020
Difficulty: 5 (out of 10)

So there we were, hiking around the Virginia mountains with our four children – and the fifth one at 33 weeks gestation. I was supposed to be relaxing at the Grove Park Spa, lounging around in a fluffy robe or giggling in the hot tub with my mom & sisters! (how did this happen…??)

When we pushed the girls’ getaway until next year, hoping to avoid pesky mask restrictions, it freed up our August calendar a bit, and of course, our next thought was “can we fit in a national park trip?!” One of the closer parks to Charlotte is Shenandoah, about 5 hours north of here in western VA. We quickly booked two nights at a homeaway rental in Massanutten, just outside the park area, and made plans to explore our third national park. Continue reading “shenandoah national park: berry adventure #9”

Bartos family, Berry Adventures, National Park Project, travel

congaree national park: berry adventure #8

Date: July 19, 2020
Difficulty: 5 (out of 10)

First National Park of the year!! As places start to reopen, we finally had the chance to visit a national park this past weekend. The closest one to Charlotte is Congaree National Park in Columbia SC, about 2 hours south of us.

At this point we have a little over 9 weeks until our new berry baby is here, so we’re scrambling to fit in as much as we can before then. This was our reason for visiting a swamp in the hottest part of the summer, which otherwise would have seemed somewhat foolish. The temperature yesterday was 97 degrees in Columbia, but the “real feel” was 115, according to the park ranger we spoke with. It actually felt like being in a sauna!

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Bartos family, Berry Adventures

berry adventure #7

Date: June 21, 2020
Difficulty: 4 (out of 10)

Catching up from June…

Father’s Day has become an “adventure” day for us over the last few years. In 2019, we visited Mount Mitchell State Park, picnicked at the summit, and hiked the beautiful Balsam Nature Trail, one of our favorites. This year Greg requested a waterfall, preferably one where we (he) could take a freezing cold dip into the water. 


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Bartos family, Berries, Berry Adventures, National Park Project, travel

berry adventure #6

Date: May 24-25, 2020
Difficulty: 10 (out of 10)

We camped! We’re campers now. Absurdly proud of ourselves for making through an entire night in the woods with all four (five) children.

As you may remember, we booked a campsite at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park a few months ago. We’ve been anxiously watching the park updates all month to see if they would reopen in time for our Memorial Day trip. While the trails are open, campsites remain closed and we had to sadly cancel our reservation (we’ll consider the wildly inappropriate $10 cancellation fee a donation to the National Park Service). Continue reading “berry adventure #6”