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Well, eight long years ago I started with a dream and a free website.  That dream was to some day ride through the wilds of the West on the back of my loyal cow steed – Lullabell – where I’d foil robberies and find gold.

[Note to editor – insert picture of me riding a cow here]

Anyway, haven’t managed that particular dream yet.  BUT, I have ended up with a website about hiking in South Jersey.  I go out, usually with some number of my four children, and we go on an adventure on a trail in South Jersey.  Then I do a little write up about the trail and put some pictures up.  Occassionally, I even spell words right.

It’s been a blast.  We’ve made lots of new friends, had some great experiences, and made new friends while having great experiences.

So thank you to my wife and kids, my friends who adventure with us, the 18 different beaver we’ve seen on hikes, the people who keep painting pink blazes on the Batona so I don’t get lost anymore, everyone who reads our little write ups (1,600,000 hits?  What the?), and, of course, The Academy.

To celebrate this year, I’ll share my favorite hike in each county in South Jersey.  It might not be the biggest hike, or the most popular, or maybe even the most beautiful, but this is the hike that I love doing the most.

Mercer County – John Roebling Memorial Park – Hamilton Township, NJ

Some days, you just need a nice 2-4 miles of trails.  By a lake.  And a swamp.  With birds.  In the remains of an old amusement park.  And on those, days, there is no nicer place to be than the Spring Lake Trail, which winds through what was once the White City Amusement Park.  The most visible sign of the park is the old staircase that sits inside the old park.  The top is private property, but the stairs are still there, under years of yard waste.  The back end has some nice, swampier areas.

Burlington County – Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge – Medford, NJ

This might be the hardest county to choose a hike in, because there are SO MANY AMAZING ONES (Parker Preserve?  Black Run? Batona?  Whitesbog?  Mt Misery Trail?  Amico Island?  Palmyra Nature Cove? Rancocas?).  But Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge gets the nod here.  Sure, there are the trails by a pretty lake and some nice pine barrens forest and wetlands.  And there is some lovely birding, particularly in the power line cut.  But the highlight here for kids and adults alike is to tour the animal area, where animals that can’t be healed enough by Cedar Run’s animal hospital to be released into the wild find a permanent home.  Seagulls, bald eagles, raccoons, owls, snakes, turtles, deer… there are plenty of new friends to learn about here.

Camden County – Timber Creek County Park – Gloucester Township, NJ

While there are a lot of nice trails in Camden County, this is Tree Rider’s favorite.  When he had “Daddy time”, we usually end up at “Timbur Cweek”.  This old horse ranch has trails through the woods along the creek, a nice pond, and a popular off leash dog area.  It’s good for a few more of quiet walking in the woods.

Gloucester County – Wenonah Woods – Wenonah, NJ and West of the Tracks

We are here all the time, and for good reason – it’s amazing.  Wenonah is only about 1 square mile, but 20% of their land is dedicated as parkland.  And nearly all of that parkland has this amazing 6 mile trail system running through it.  Volunteers from town keep the network of trails, bridges, and an impressive boardwalk in tip top shape, and you never know what magic you’ll find along these trails.

Salem County – Oldman’s Creek Preserve – Auburn, NJ

Sure, trails are nice.  But trails through an old Boy Scout camp are ever better!  This two mile or so trail system on the South Jersey Land & Water Trust Property has some nice views of the creek, remains of old cabins, some fun hills to go up and down, a swampy former swimming area, and more!  We love coming down to hike here.

Cumberland County – Manumuskin River Preserve – Millville, NJ

South Jersey’s old quarries are beloved for the amazing blue colored water in them.  The water looks inviting, but please don’t go swimming, as “blue holes” can be very dangerous.  Luckily, there is plenty to look at here on miles and miles and miles of trails.  Deer, snakes, pines, birds, and some old ruins all await those willing to make the trek to Cumberland County and go exploring!  And there’s an otter here somewhere too, but I haven’t found him yet…

Cape May County – Cameron Wildlife Sanctuary (Cape May County Park North) – Palermo, NJ

Cape May has some amazing hiking with some world class birding, but our favorite hike is this little loop of just over a mile in the northern part of the county.  Maybe its the many birds on the ponds.  Maybe it’s trails that always seem to have another pond to look at.  Maybe it’s just the swinging chairs you can sit in while enjoying the view.  Whatever it is, it’ a rare trip to Ocean City that we don’t end up coming here to go on a little hike.

Atlantic County – Birch Grove Park – Northfield, NJ

Long time readers of the blog know that I am a total sucker for little bridges.  And Birch Grove Park in Northfield might set the record for largest number of little bridges on a trail in South Jersey.  The trails loop around a series of little ponds, where you are sure to find many birds, fish, frogs, and turtles.  It’s well worth going to explore.

Ocean County – Cloverdale Farm County Park – Barnegat, NJ

Ocean County is the other one where it’s incrediably difficult to pick a favorite, because their county park system is simply amazing (plus they have Double Trouble State Park).  But my favorite is one of the smallest – Cloverdale Farm.  This former cranberry farm still has a lot of the buildings that were used when it was active farm, and trails.  The trail loops around and over the pretty cranberry bogs, and we spotted a good amount of animals here on our visit too!

Monmouth County – Monmouth Battlefield State Park – Manalapan, NJ

There aren’t a whole lot of hikes that you can go on where George Washington also walked around, but this is one of them.  Site of one of the largest battles of the War for Independence, this is where the Continental Army (and Molly Pitcher), fresh off their training at Valley Forge, fought the British in a European style battle and beat them.  Today, it’s beautiful farm fields and woods to wander around in.  Don’t miss the annual reenactment or the New Jersey History Fair hosted here, they are great events.

Thank you to everyone for 8 great years!

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