Born Geek

Lake Crescent Photos

November 28, 2016

Our last stop in Olympic National Park was Lake Crescent, a remarkably blue lake with some really neat things to see. I have two more photo albums to post from our Washington visit, both of which are really neat!

Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge Photos

November 25, 2016

Photos from our trip to Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge in Washington state have now been posted. I have three more photo albums from this vacation to post, which I hope to get to in the next week or so. Then I’ll be (nearly) caught up!

Rialto Beach Photos

November 21, 2016

Today’s photo album update comes from a trip to Rialto Beach, located on the western shore of the Olympic peninsula. This beach was a really neat place to walk, as the beach was made entirely of pebbles (there was virtually no sand anywhere). Though walking on the pebbles was tiring, the visit was totally worth it.

Hoh Rainforest Photos

November 20, 2016

I’ve posted album number three from our trip to Washington in September. This album details our visit to Hoh Rainforest, one of the rainiest places in all of the United States. It was a remarkably beautiful place.

Hurricane Ridge Photos

November 19, 2016

While on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state back in September, we visited Olympic National Park. One of our stops was at Hurricane Ridge, a popular spot for visitors to the park. The views from this portion of the park were spectacular, as these photos will attest.

Visit to Washington Photos

November 18, 2016

To inaugurate the launch of my new photo album software, I’ve just posted my first photo album from our trip to the state of Washington back in September. This is the first of 9 albums from this trip, and I’m excited to post these albums because we saw lots of cool stuff. Stay tuned for more!

Monkey Album 2.0

November 18, 2016

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been diligently working on rewriting the software that powers my photography site. Today, the new version has officially launched! This rewrite is mostly a bunch of back-end changes to make my life a lot easier, but it also includes some front-end changes as well. Here’s what’s new from a technical perspective:

  • The site is now served over SSL thanks to DreamHost and the Let’s Encrypt program. Security boost for the win!
  • Collections have been replaced with Tags. I’m in the process of tagging things more carefully than they were previously.
  • The site now uses HTML 5.
  • The site is now powered by Python instead of PHP. I’m using the Django framework, which I’ve really come to enjoy. As a result, the number of lines of code have been drastically reduced (the project is nearly 50% smaller!).

As is typical when I launch stuff like this, there are still a few known issues:

  • The site doesn’t yet render like I want it to on mobile devices
  • Swipe support for navigation isn’t yet in place
  • The RSS feed doesn’t work (I simply forgot to implement it) This has been fixed!

I’m sure there are probably bugs lurking here and there. Let me know if you encounter any.

The Best of North Carolina’s State Parks

November 12, 2016

Back in March of 2010, I mentioned that I had a goal of visiting and photographing every single state park in my home state of North Carolina. In May of that same year, I narrowed my definition slightly to be those parks that have public facilities and for which attendance records are taken. At the time, there were 40 such parks (another has since joined their ranks, for a total of 41 as of this writing).

On Saturday, October 29, after over six years of park visits, I finally completed my goal!

My final state park visit was at Hammocks Beach State Park, the only park with ferry-service to its primary land parcel, Bear Island. Photos from this visit are coming in the next few weeks, so stay tuned. Photos from all of my other state park visits can be seen here.

One question I’m often asked when sharing my love of state parks with others is: which park is your favorite? This is a really difficult question to answer, as every single park in our state has something unique to offer (which, incidentally, makes visiting them all so worthwhile). That said, I thought it would be fun to rank some of the state parks from the viewpoint of my favorite park pastime: hiking. In this post, I’ll provide a breakdown of my favorite parks to hike in for all three regions of our state: mountains, Piedmont, and coast. I’ll also post a list of my least favorite parks for hiking.

Best of the Mountains

North Carolina is blessed with terrific mountain state parks. Here are my favorite mountain state parks to hike:

  1. Gorges: The westernmost park in our state, Gorges is my favorite mountains park. It has a particularly beautiful visitor’s center, and though the hikes are very challenging, they offer some of the most beautiful scenery in the state as a reward.
  2. Stone Mountain: Hiking up the giant granite dome is one of the most enjoyable things to do at this fantastic park. Views from the top are great, especially on a clear day, and several waterfalls can’t be missed!
  3. Pilot Mountain and Hanging Rock: These two parks are a tie for me. Both have challenging, but rewarding, hiking trails, fantastic views, and lots to do. Regardless of the season you visit, there’s always something fascinating to see.

Best of the Piedmont

The Piedmont area of North Carolina is typically very heavily forested, which makes for some great spots to walk in the woods. Here are my favorite Piedmont parks:

  1. Eno River: Easily my favorite Piedmont state park (probably because of its proximity to where I live), Eno River has the best network of diverse hiking trails. For an area that has so many people, this park offers a terrific slice of solitude.
  2. Raven Rock: A popular park with some great trails to interesting geological features. The staircase down the namesake cliff is quite lengthy, so come prepared for a climb!
  3. Weymouth Woods-Sandhills Nature Preserve: This small park is a hidden gem. The hiking trails here are very easy, winding through a very unique long-leaf pine forest. Underbrush in this forest is nearly non-existent, which means you can see a long ways through the stands of trees. Definitely a park not to be missed!

Best of the Coast

Some of the most unique state parks in North Carolina are located along the coast. Here are my favorites:

  1. Jockey’s Ridge: Walking up the tallest living sand-dune on the east coast of the United States is something everyone should do. Just be sure to have your shoes on in the summertime: the sand can get quite hot!
  2. Goose Creek: Tucked along the Pamlico River, this park has an impressive boardwalk system. Strolling these boardwalks makes for some terrific sightseeing, and provides a glimpse at what natural life is like in the swamp along a river. Another hidden gem!
  3. Carolina Beach: Have you ever hiked in a forest at the beach? You can do so at this state park, where you’ll also find carnivorous plants in their native habitats. Keep your eyes peeled for Venus fly-traps and pitcher plants!

Honorable Mention

Of all the state parks I’ve visited, I had more pure fun at Merchants Millpond than any other. Canoeing in the millpond there is a delight, especially on a comfortable day. You’ll see plenty of wildlife (including alligators!) and you won’t want the experience to end. This park has good hiking opportunities too, so it’s win-win.

My Least Favorites

Three state parks truly stand out in my mind for least impressive hiking opportunities:

  1. Pettigrew: With only one hiking trail (and a poorly maintained one at that, at least when I visited), this park isn’t for hikers. If you like boating, however, you’ll love the lake at this park, which happens to be North Carolina’s second largest natural one.
  2. Lake Waccamaw: Again, this is primarily a boater’s paradise. Hiking here is difficult (the trails aren’t very well maintained), and the hike isn’t very interesting.
  3. Singletary Lake: This park is only open to large groups, so hiking here is a challenge. The trails that are offered, like many lake-centered state parks, are fairly short.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this round-up of my visits to various North Carolina state parks. I encourage everyone to visit them all, as it’s a great way to see our beautiful state!