This was a 4 day backpacking trip in the NJ Pine Barrens,a mysterious world of dense pines,sandy roads,and tea colored rivers. My dog,Wesley,and I started from Batsto village on Wed Feb 27 and did a long loop thru the pine barrens,exploring the mysterious cranberry bogs. We returned to Batsto village 4 days later via a different route that led us past a large swamp.
Batsto Lake trail
Day 1. Just under a mile from our start,we passed a side trail that circles Batsto lake. Here is its junction with the pink blazed Batona trail which we were hiking.
Moss and Pines
This is part of the mystique of the NJ Pine Barrens. They are a seemingly endless expanse of dense trees and a forest floor wonderfully carpeted by mosses and soft pine needles.
the pine barrens are crisscrossed by many small grooves or ditches extending off to God knows where! Here I peered down one as it branched off from the Batona trail.
pine tree along the Batona trail
Wes on the trail
Carrying his dogpack is a bit tiring,so my hiking buddy stopped for a rest!
We hiked about 10 miles on day 1,camping at a stealth site in the forest near Apple Pie Hill fire tower. The designated campground was an ugly bare area which sat right next to a public road. Much nicer in the seclusion of the woods!
Bridge at campsite 1
numerous tea colored streams crisscross the pine barrens,usually bridged on wood planking such as this right before our campsite clearing.
Hiking towards Apple Pie Hill
the pine barrens are mostly flat,but in one area there is a modest rise to a small hill. Someone named it Apple Pie Hill. A fire tower sits here. We hiked towards it on day 2. The weather was cloudy and cool but I climbed the tower anyway for the view of the surrounding pinelands. They stretched to the horizon in all directions. Amazing in such a populated state as NJ! I reclimbed it on the hike back the next morning. It was sunny then,so I saved pictures for later.
Shortly past Apple Pie Hill,the Batona trail enters the Franklin Parker Preserve. This area is home to some of New Jersey`s cranberry bogs. It is a mysterious area of narrow water channels,and ponds densely choked with trees.
We signed the trail register here!
The mysterious world of the Cranberry Bogs!
in some areas such as this one,the cranberry bogs resemble a southern swamp. Walk too far back into those trees and you could be wandering lost for some time!
Reaching Rt 72
We reached NJ Rt 72 around 4:15 pm. This marked the boundary of the Franklin Preserve and the cranberry bogs. The Batona trail continues on into the Brendan Byrne state forest for a ways but we had to turn around here and start back. We camped for night 2 on a woods road some miles back into the preserve.
We camped in the Franklin Preserve for night 2. The next morning dawned sunny and breezy. Nice way to welcome in March! Here we hike past one of 2 large lakes in this area. Small grassy islands dot these lakes.
Climbing Apple Pie Hill tower
as described earlier,the NJ Pine Barrens extend to the horizon as seen from atop the fire tower. NJ is one of the most densely populated states in the US but from this perspective,you would never guess that!
Apple Pie Tower
Wes was afraid to climb the open metal stairs,so this was his dog`s eye view from the ground!
Hiking on the afternoon of day 3
Wes on the trail,afternoon day 3
Penny for his thoughts! He seems to be contemplating something?(Like why did dad bring me here when I could be snoozing on a warm couch :) )
On the hike back,we diverted from the Batona Trail to hike a series of parallel trails. Late in the day,we followed one of those mysterious grooves for a short distance to camp in a secluded spot.
on day 4 we hiked along the Mullica river trail. It parallels that river which in reality is a sluggish tea colored stream that meanders thru dense woods. This is an underwater shot from the small beach at the Mullica river wilderness camp.
Wes at the Great Swamp
as we neared Batsto Village,we explored an unmarked sandy forest road. It led past an area labeled on my map as the Great Swamp. What was interesting about this area is that you could cross shallow wet areas and reach isolated islands of dry ground. Mark waypoints with your GPS and you could hike to a wonderfully wild and secluded spot here!