Thursday, April 25, 2019

Another Cool App: Pocket Ranger

On our quest to explore all 41 North Carolina State Parks this year, we've discovered some really fun things. Towns we've never heard of. Enchanting ecosystems. Interesting historic sites. Wildlife (lots of snakes) and signs of wildlife (bear prints in the woods!). And, though we use these outings as a chance to unplug, we've also stumbled on a pretty cool app.

The North Carolina State Parks Guide by Pocket Ranger puts a wealth of state park information at your fingertips.

This free app consolidates and organizes all the information you might find on the state parks website – and more. While we've found it to be a little clunky at times, I do recommend the app for several useful features.

The most handy function for us has been the Explore button, which allows the user to search for a park (by proximity, name, available activities and region), then provides the most pertinent details on each. Categories of available park information include:
  • A park overview
  • Photo gallery
  • Park alerts
  • Operational times
  • Contact information
  • Amenities
  • Directions
  • Activities
  • Trail descriptions
  • Park map
  • Educational opportunities and events
  • Park history
  • An ecological overview
Neat, right?

Other features of the app include:

Park alerts, which provides a near real-time listing of closings and other changes to park and amenity status. (Note: The alert link under the News button seems to function better than the Alerts button on the homepage.)

A camping button that lists all overnight stay options by category (drive-to camping, trailer/RV, backpack sites, family cabins, etc.) Each category lists the parks and their specific amenities.

A GPS map on which you can record and save hikes, post “waypoint” pictures, and take pre-populated GPS tours.

A "follow" function that allows you and your friends to track each other's map location.

A weather function and built-in compass.

And, an alert feature that supplies GPS coordinates to designated contacts in case of an emergency.

Again, some parts of this app works better and more reliably than others. But it is a handy resource and I'm glad to have discovered it. I'm sure we'll continue to use it as we work toward our goal -- and beyond. 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Jetton Park

Here are two good reasons to visit Jetton Park, about 30 minutes north of Uptown Charlotte on Lake Norman: The sun and the shade.

The park offers a beautiful 1.5 mile walking trail, a gentle 1.3 mile beginner mountain biking trail, and a dynamic playground under a lush old-growth tree canopy, which makes for a pleasant outing, even on some of Charlotte's most oppressively hot days.

But Jetton Park also boasts a "sunning beach" on the shores of the lake for picnics, playing, and relaxing (sorry, no swimming allowed here).

We enjoy the walking trail (which is also suitable for strollers and other rolling ride-ons), but the 104-acre park also has tennis courts, eating areas, gazebos and a garden.

Parking is plentiful and there is a restroom facility next to the playground.

As the weather warms, consider Jetton Park for some sun, shade and lots of fresh air.

How to get there:
Jetton Park is located at 19000 Jetton Rd., Cornelius, NC 28031.

Don't forget to pack:
  • Comfortable shoes: Enjoy the short pleasant trail options.
  • Bikes and helmets: The short mountain bike trail is suitable for beginners and enjoyable for more advanced riders alike.
  • Water: You can refill at the restroom facility.
  • Snacks or a picnic lunch: Plenty of pleasant eating areas are available.
  • Hats, sunglasses and sunscreen: If you're using the sunning beach, be sure to protect your skin.
  • Bug spray: In the warmer months, fend off mosquitoes and ticks.