I have lived and hiked around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park my entire life, This park has always been here. My passion didn't develop until I moved to Lynchburg, VA though. I had been into photography for about 5 years at the time and was shooting architecture or places of local interests until I made it out to the Blue Ridge Parkway. When I lived in Lynchburg, VA I was only 30 minutes from the James River Visitors Center and I fell in love with a view from the James River Foot Bridge. I ended up going to this two to three times a week and eventually started venturing the entire parkway. I credit this one location with focusing on becoming a better photographer and to really pursue this as a career. Eventually, after a few years in Lynchburg, I became a photographer for the National Park Service and have been ever since. Now I focus on many different parks and have moved back to my original home near the Smoky's and I still visit the parkway a lot.
How many parks sites have you visited?
26 and am hoping to visit 6 new ones this year.
Do you have a few favorites you recommend to everyone?
Wow, that's a hard one. I have multiple favorites, but I want to share one that may not be as well known. The Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, it's basically a tiny Smoky's. It has everything the Smoky's have with none of the crowd. You can stand in three states at once and you can see the most spectacular sand cave around. Speaking of caves, you can also visit the Gap Cave and see the pillar of Hercules.
What’s your favorite park activity?
Hiking/backpacking, hands down. I live very close to the Appalachian Trail, so I am always on the trail. I love the hiking community around here, there is nothing like anywhere else.
How do the parks feed your spirit?
You can come into the parks with all kinds of worries and as soon as I hit the trail and pull my camera out, all of my worries seem to just be irrelevant. It's amazing what it can do for the soul.
Do you have any favorite things you always look for? IE: patch, magnet, passport stamp, etc.?
Yes, I collect the passport stamps, patches & pins. I collect the posters too if the parks have them. I collect a lot of other NPS stuff as well, but that is what I go in looking for at the visitors centers.
What is or are your favorite park memories?
One of my favorite memories was one I experienced last year with my wife and a good friend of mine. I was photographing the solar eclipse last year for NPS and wanted to make a full day of it. We had clear skies, hundreds of thousands of people ventured into the park and I had a killer spot to view it. We had good music, mingled with people from all over the country. Everyone was having a great time. No fussing or fighting from anyone, no politics. It was just a great day to be out and enjoy the event.
What park(s) are next on your bucket list?
Congaree will be my next one, but I am planning on Acadia, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Yosemite & Voyagers.
What should we all be doing to help preserve and protect our parks?
If you see any trash, please pick it up. I could tell you about the many problems, but everyone should know by now. I fell like that is the biggest problem. I pack out the trash all of the time. If you can pack it in, you can pack it out. There are plenty of trash cans around the park, so it shouldn't be that hard.
What does hope the future of our NPS looks like?
I hope it's full of people who care an awful lot because their needs to be a voice. We live in dangerous times and we really can't afford to lose these national treasures to companies.
When not in the parks, what’s your profession?
I am a graphic designer & photographer for a health system in our area. So I photograph the woods for the NPS and surgeries for work.
How do you plan and make your park adventures happen?
Well, I get assignments every now and then from the NPS, but really I just pick a place and wonder. I don't like to study photographs other people have taken, because I want to capture it how I see it. 80% of my trips are just spur of the moment & 20% assignments.
If you could be a park ranger, where and what would you be doing?
I would be a backcountry ranger for the Smoky's. I love hiking and would love to run the trails and get paid for it.
Do you want to give a shout out to any favorite park lovers?
My wife!!! Jody Moore. She puts up with a lot, but for the most part, she is just as much into it as I am.
You can find and follow Joshua in the digital world at these sites-
Joshua also runs a website called HighlandsClub.net
(it's pretty much everything Appalachian)
Thank you, Joshua, For Being a Geek of the Week!