I already know that my goals did not align with the reality of my life in 2018. We moved, Troy deployed… I’m going to do my year in review a bit different than in years past. Instead of looking back and seeing how I did versus the goals I set forth I’m going to look at the biggest highlight of my year which was something that we stumbled upon. Beginning in July we officially started the North Carolina State Parks Passport Program. There are 41 total state parks and in 2018 we visited 31 of them!
1. Raven Rock State Parkwas the first park we ever visited but we did so before we knew about the passport program. It is the park that we have attended the most; visiting a total of 8 times since our first visit in April. It’s also where I sprained my ankle on a solo trail run attempt down a trail that was way more technical than I was prepared for. Luckily my family was near by and it gave me a rest that I was needing anyways. Some of the programs we attended at this park included a special event with the Fort Bragg Exceptional Family Member Program [EFMP – aka special needs families] and a program where we learned all about the owls in our area. [outfit – Skirt Sports High Five skirt in black (retired item, you may be able to find it on resell pages or Amazon]
2. Jordan Lake State Recreation Area was a spot we enjoyed for swimming and kayaking. We attempted to go here on the 4th of July but had no idea how insanely busy the lake would be so we ended up having to turn around and go home. Jordan Lake is one of the few places that has a fee to get into the park because of the swimming and boating but it is per carload so it’s not too bad. Plus they offer a military discount or you can purchase an annual pass if it’s a place you plan on frequenting. [outfit – Skirt Sports Cool It Skirt in Aquamarine & Skirt Sports Mantra Trucker Hat by BOCO Gear]
3. Carvers Creek State Park was where we learned about the NC State Parks Passport Program as well as the Kids In Parks Program. July 5th is when we officially began our NC State Parks Passport ADVENTURE! We also learned about the NC 100 Mile Challenge and set out to accomplish some fun goals that included these three things. This park is the closest to our house and is our second most frequented park of the year with 6 visits. They have an excellent staff here and some great programs as well. We’ve attended a pond life program and heritage day, where we got to take a tour of the Rockefeller home that’s on the property. This park is currently small but mighty. It is going through some upgrades and they’re adding more trails; I can’t wait to see what this park will be like in the future. It has an interesting history, the most fascinating thing [to me] is how there is no longer a pond on the property because of a past hurricane. [outfit – Skirt Sports Hover Skirt in black & Skirt Sports Ambassador Trucker Hat by BOCO Gear]
4. Cliffs of the Neuse State Park was the first park we went to where the kids did a moderate trail; the trail descended down to the Neuse River.
[outfit – Skirt Sports Jette Skirt in Tantrum (retired print) Free Flow Tank in Razz & Skirt Sports Ambassador Ladies Trucker Hat by BOCO Gear]
5. Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve was a park we liked to frequent for their programs. This is our third most visited park of the year with a total of 4 visits. Some of the programs we attended included Junior Ranger Badge Course & trail restoration from the hurricanes as well as a wreath making class. This park is also not too far from our home which is why we can easily attend programs there. I learned so much at the wreath making class and am so thankful I had put that program in my phone calendar ahead of time with an alert to leave an hour before the program began because I had totally forgotten about it! This park is also where the kids participated in their first Kids In Parks Track Trail adventure.
[outfit: Skirt Sports Dakota Capri in Razz]
6. William B. Umstead State Park was a park we enjoy taking other people to when we are in the Raleigh area; we brought Troy’s brother Ryan & his wife Jaimie there when they were in town visiting. It has a fascinating piece of art; there is a huge downed tree and they had artists come in and carve animals into the tree; it is so cool to see! This is a park where we often see people out on their horses as well and we were fortunate enough to meet a couple who let Cecilia live her dream by sitting on one of their horses. The kindness of strangers has been something we’ve experienced at each of North Carolina’s State Parks. Whatever trails we’ve been on if we’ve encountered other people they’ve been nothing but kind and we’ve often struck up great conversations with the other adventurers.
[outfit: Skirt Sports Jette Skirt in Frolic (retired print)]
7. Jones Lake State Park was a park we went to after a doctors appointment one day. I figured heck, let’s keep adventuring, this isn’t too far from where we are right now, let’s keep on driving. So we did and then we enjoyed a nice hike around the lake. [outfit: Skirt Sports Gym Girl Ultra Skirt in Enchanted (retired print)]
8. Singletary Lake State Park was the only park we visited this year where I didn’t get a picture with the park sign because it isn’t a park like the others. We went only to get our passport stamp because it’s more of a place for group camping, like if you were to go on a retreat or something. We quickly visited this park after we had finished up at Jones Lake.
9. Eno River State Park was another park we decided to visit after Tedy had a doctors appointment at UNC. This is a park we like to go back to whenever he has appointments up that way if we have the time. It has a really neat suspension bridge (even though it triggers my vertigo whenever we cross it).
[outfit: Skirt Sports Gym Girl Ultra Skirt in Free Love (retired print) & Skirt Sports Ambassador Tshirt]
10. Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area was the park that led us to the ER. We visited this park on the same day that we visited Eno River State Park for the first time. This is a beautiful park but intense. It leads you up to the highest point in the area and you can descend down into the quarry as well. We did nearly 350 feet in elevation change in just a mile and a half of hiking. So how’d the ER play in; on the way back down the trail to the parking area Tedy slipped and sliced his knee open on the rocks. Luckily he didn’t need any stitches but he does have a pretty rad scar on his knee now. It’s also good that this park isn’t too far outside of civilization like most of the NC State Parks are, this one is fairly close to Duke but we went to a UNC ER since he is a patient with UNC (that’s where he sees all of his specialists).
[outfit: Skirt Sports Gym Girl Ultra Skirt in Free Love (retired print) & Skirt Sports Ambassador Tshirt]
11. Lumber River State Park was the first park we went to while Troy was on block leave and it was also our first big hike since Tedy’s injury. This park is so close to South Carolina that we decided to go down to South of the Border afterwards to get some ice cream. [outfit: Skirt Sports Hover Skirt in Shatter]
12. Morrow Mountain State Park was our take a chance on the weather trip. It rained! Luckily though, it ended up clearing up and we enjoyed a few beautiful hikes in this park. One of our hikes at the top of the mountain was one of the most difficult trails we had done yet; for the majority of the trail you’re at a diagonal and trying to not slide down the side of the mountain. We had a ton of fun at the top taking pictures and enjoying the beautiful view.
[outfit: Skirt Sports Gym Girl Ultra Skirt in Free Love (retired print) & Skirt Sports Ambassador Ladies Trucker Hat by BOCO Gear]
13. Falls Lake State Recreation Area was where we went for the day while waiting for my moms flight to arrive in Raleigh. We enjoyed a nice hike along a portion of the Mountains-To-Sea State Trail and then we went to one of the beaches to swim. Falls Lake swimming areas do cost a small fee per carload but again, if you have the NC annual pass, it’s included as one of the places to visit under that pass.
[outfit: Skirt Sports Hover Skirt in black & Take Five Tank in Razz Stardust / Marine]
Parks 14 – 18 were part of our epic adventure to the Outerbanks of NC (aka OBX) and you can read about that here in my Adventures with Autism – Surfing blog post. Those parks included: Goose Creek State Park, Pettigrew State Park, Jockey’s Ridge State Park, Dismal Swamp State Park, and Merchants Millpond State Park.
Parks 19 and 20 were part of our Girls Camping Weekend Adventure which you can read about in that blog post. Those parks included: Carolina Beach State Park and Fort Fisher State Recreation Area.
21. Hanging Rock State Park was where we went to meet up with an old friend of the family, who has literally known me since before I was born. We enjoyed a nice picnic lunch here and a hike down to one of the waterfalls.
[outfit: Skirt Sports Jette Skirt in Frolic (retired print) & Skirt Sports Ambassador Trucker by BOCO Gear. Chaos Coordinator Muscle Tank is one I made]
22. Pilot Mountain State Park we visited after our fun afternoon at Hanging Rock. The weather took a turn though as we were going up the mountain so the kiddos stayed in the van with their Nana and watched a movie while I went up the final little bit from the parking lot to the summit. It was beautiful and refreshing in the rain and is for sure a place I would like to return to on a clear day.
23. Lake Waccamaw State Park was our longest hike as a family, completing a solid 10K (aka 6.2 miles) along the beautiful lake. Most people were out boating since it was Labor Day weekend and a few of the boaters that stopped to talk to us thought we were a bit crazy for tackling the trail that day. Luckily the Take the Lake event had been going on that morning so there was still plenty of water along the route since it was a hot day and we went through our water fairly quickly. The dragonflies were absolutely amazing on this trail and we were able to get some great pictures. This was also the last park we got to adventure to as a family before Troy left for Afghanistan.
[outfit – Skirt Sports Jette Skirt in Tantrum (retired print)]
24. Medoc Mountain State Park was where we reunited with my friend Erin and her kiddos. We had planned on going to this park much sooner but due to Hurricane Florence we had to reschedule this trip. It was so nice to hike and picnic with our friends. Even though we hadn’t seen each other in years it was like the kids had known one another all along.
[outfit: Skirt Sports Jette Skirt in Romance (retired print) & Skirt Sports Mantra Trucker Hat by BOCO Gear]
25. Kerr Lake State Recreation Area was where we went after meeting up with our friends. We did the Kids Track Trail here as well. This is another area that would fall under the NC Annual Pass for swimming if that was open but since it was fall and since the hurricane had done some damage, that was not open. I hope that they’re able to clear everything up and get it running again come the spring. Our state was hit two months in a row this fall by devastating storms.
26. Mayo River State Park was where we went after a month of not being able to go out and adventure due to more storms and school being in full swing. There were two parts to the park. First we did the Kids Track Trail and then we went over to the waterfall. It was a gorgeous fall day and we enjoyed playing in the leaves on the trail.
[outfit: Skirt Sports Sanitas Pant in black, Tough Chick Top in ruby & Skirt Sports Mantra Trucker Hat by BOCO Gear]
27. Haw River State Park was our second park of the day after visiting Mayo River. We had just missed the guided hike with the ranger but they kindly told us the route and we enjoyed a nice loop taking in the gorgeous colors of fall.
28. South Mountains State Park was our stop on the way to Biltmore Estate in Asheville. Another month had gone by since our last visit to a new state park. Here we did the Kids Track Trail with Grandpa Billiam who tagged along for this adventurous week of winter break; the kiddos really enjoyed seeing and playing in a bit of leftover snow from a storm that hit the area the week prior to our visit.
[outfit: Skirt Sports Sanitas Pant in black]
29. Chimney Rock State Park was our first stop on the way home from our trip to Asheville. This area is where part of the movie Dirty Dancing was filmed. Chimney Rock is much different than the rest of the NC State Parks. There is a per person fee to get into the majority of the park but they do offer a military discount and children under five years old are free. It had been raining but we still checked this park off the passport list while we were in the area. We were lucky that the elevator up to the chimney was open since the trails were a bit slick and my dad is afraid of heights. I would absolutely love to return to this park one day with just Troy and spend time going even further up the trails. After taking the kids up to the flag pole of the chimney we went back down to the Kids Track Trail. This was hands down the most interactive Kids Track Trail we have yet to visit.
30. Lake James State Park was the next stop on our travels back home from Asheville. We didn’t do much here because the weather had gotten crummy again and Tedy was in a terrible mood. I would love to return when it’s warmer and enjoy the lake and all the activities it has to offer.
[outfit: Skirt Sports Tough Girl Skirt in black & pony tail beanie by PNW Threads]
31. Crowders Mountain State Park was our final North Carolina State Park for 2018. What a way to cap of the year too. We set out on the Kids Track Trail but missed our turn somehow and ended up going on a moderate trail, hiking up the majority of the mountain, turning around where our trail met the trail for the final ascent up. It was an incredible adventure.
[outfit: Skirt Sports Sanitas Pant in Gray Heather, Coffee & Adventures Long Sleeve, Skirt Mantra Reversible Performance Beanie by BOCO Gear]
I am incredibly proud of my kiddos for tackling these parks with me. They were even featured in the Kids In Parks Newsletter for our summer adventures. When we first started the passport program I thought we might hit 20 or 25 parks before 2018 came to a close so reaching 31 was a HUGE accomplishment to me! We have just 10 parks left to visit and while I would absolutely love to complete the Amazing Adventure Challenge by visiting all the parks before our 12 months is up I do realize that these parks are not simple day trips away and would require overnight stays by either camping or getting a hotel and since Troy is deployed this would mean finding a dog sitter as well. Realistically I would like to have visited all of the parks before we leave North Carolina so by the end of 2019. We will continue to attend programs and revisit some places we’ve already been simply because we have enjoyed being in the parks and are fortunate to have about a dozen parks around 100 miles or less away from where we live.
Cheers to the New Year and NEW ADVENTURES!
Outfits: I am an ambassador captain for Skirt Sports and I do receive a discount on their products however all opinions on their products are all my own and I am eternally grateful that they make such adorable and functional athletic apparel for women. If you like any of the outfits you see please use code: 207DeLi at www.SkirtSports.com and you’ll receive a discount*
I do not work for NC State Parks, I am just a resident of this beautiful state. The Passport Program is FREE and open to all who visit North Carolina State Parks; you can pick up a passport and begin you adventure at any of the State Parks. The Kids In Park Program can be found in various states across the county.
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