Category Archives: History

Six Pine Barrens Ghost Towns to explore!

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South Jersey Trails is four years old!   In celebration, I highlight an area I’ve been blessed enough to spend the last 24 years exploring – the Pine Barrens.  I started with a post on the Best Hikes in the Pine Barrens.  But hiking isn’t what hooked me on the pine barrens all those years ago (and boy, what great hiking there is there), it was the history.

So when you think of ghost towns, you probably think like me: cowboys, swinging doors, tumbleweeds…

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You know, this. (Note – Bodie State Park in California).

But the pine barrens have dozens of ghost towns of their own.  Sure, there weren’t many shootouts in the pine barrens (except Hampton Bogs that one time).  And they are definitely short on tumbleweeds.  But they all have their own, fascinating history.

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Best Hikes in the Pine Barrens

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So today marks FOUR YEARS of this ridiculous blog.  I’ll type that again for dramatic effect- FOUR YEARS.

Four is an important number for this blog, because, when I started, I figured that was about top end estimate for how many people would ever look that this big, dumb prestigious project of mine (and that was counting on my mother being able to find it on the Internet to see cute pictures of her grandson). But my, oh, my, how we’ve grown up.  In the past four years, nearly EIGHT PEOPLE have read this blog.

Okay, it’s a few more than that, and sometimes I worry about you folks because of that.  But thanks just the same for coming along for the ride.

In celebration, I highlight an area I’ve been blessed enough to spend the last 24 years exploring – the Pine Barrens.  Sure, the pine barrens aren’t as sexy as some natural areas in North Jersey.  You won’t find many clear flowing rivers (just iced tea colored), mama bears followed by lines of cubs, or breathtaking vistas.

Instead, it’s hundreds of square miles of pine trees, the more subtle beauty of a pitch pine, the reclaimed cranberry bog, the carnivorous plant, the nearly forgotten ruins of a once prosperous town.  It’s the wild flowers at Friendship, the collapsing packing house at Whitesbog, the abandoned tracks of the Central Railroad of New Jersey, and the sweeping views from Apple Pie Hill.  It’s the cedar water of the Wading River, the iron slag along the trail at Martha, the cedar swamps at Wells Mills (oh, how I love cedar swamps), and the pine snakes by Bricksbrae.  It’s hearing coyotes howling while camping at Bodine, a dip in the river while backpacking through Lower Forge, watching the American Legion Post carry Emilio Carranza’s body from the woods yet another July day, the beautiful stars in winter above Goshen Pond, looking at the raccoon prints in the fireplace bricks at Buzbys General Store, or the peeping of the frogs in the Spring.

If you haven’t spent time here, or haven’t spent enough time here, or simply are looking for some places you haven’t explored, I’m offering a series of three posts on the pines, starting with ten fourteen trails to get you started (it was really hard to narrow them down)…

I have, of course, ranked them (for fighting with each other on the Internet’s sake), cutting down a list of 46 hikes I’ve done out in Jersey Devil country, but these are all winners!

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12th Annual Lines on the Pines – March 12, 2017

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So, we had our first table at an event today, and it was our favorite event of the year – Lines on the Pines.  We love this event and try to go every year, so when we were invited by Kayak Karl of Pine Barrens Adventures to share his table at this great event (that we were already going to already), we couldn’t say no.

Hence, a whole day spent talking about hiking and backpacking with folks coming through one of the top three pine barrens events of the year, with some time to sneak out and spend all of money on pine barrens books (my New Jersey books are coming dangerously close to taking up an entire tall bookshelf).

Overall, over 100 tables, tons of stuff to do with the kids this year, two live animal tables, music, more history than you can shake a stick at, and tons of great people.

Special thank yous to Linda and Jim Stanton for doing such a great job organizing this event every year and to Karl for putting up with us!  Also a thank you to the lovely people at Jenkinson’s Aquarium and Unexpected Wildlife Refuge, who were super awesome to The Pres all day, who created an estimated 6 frog crafts and about 9 snake crafts.

Also also a thank you to everyone who reads the blog or keeps up with the Facebook page who stopped by to say hello to us!

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Cape May Point State Park – Cape May, NJ

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Cape May Point State Park – Cape May, Cape May County, NJ
Distance – 3.2 miles of trail total
Type – Series of loops
Difficulty:  2 of 10
Total score: 9 of 10

Updated – March 3, 2017

Website – Cape May Point State Park
Open – Sunrise to Sunset.

Terrain – Mostly tidal marshlands with small patches of forest
Surface – boardwalks and dirt

Trailheads –  38°55’59.64″N,  74°57’30.34″W or
38°55’57.43″N,  38°55’57.43″N or
38°55’55.04″N,  74°57’32.34″W

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John’s Woods Preserve and Weymouth County Park – Mays Landing, NJ

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John’s Woods Preserve and Weymouth County Park – ,  County, NJ
Distance –  2.5 miles total (not including wandering around Weymouth Furnace)
Type – Out and back with a branch down to the river.
Difficulty:  4 of 10 – trail not well marked, sometimes all but disappears.
Total score: 5 of 10

If you are looking for information on canoeing the Great Egg Harbor River from Weymouth, check here

Website – Atlantic County Parks
Open – 7:30 AM to 1/2 hour after sunset.

Terrain – woods with some wetlands
Surface – dirt and sand

Trailheads:
Weymouth – no hiking trails
John’s Woods –  39°31’3.69″N,  74°46’47.96″W

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Egg Harbor Township Nature Reserve – Egg Harbor Township, NJ

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Egg Harbor Township Nature Reserve – Egg Harbor Township, Atlantic County, NJ
Distance –  6 miles of trails total (we saw most of the preserve with a hike of 3 1/4 miles)
Type – Web of trails
Difficulty:  3 of 10
Total score: 8 of 10

Website – https://sites.google.com/site/ehtnatres/
Open – Sunrise to Sunset.

Terrain – forest, marsh, lakeside sand.
Surface – mostly dirt surfaces

Trailheads –  39°21’32.48″N,  74°39’4.46″W (parking lot on Zion Road)
39°21’41.77″N,  74°39’21.16″W (parking lot by nature center)

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Hugg-Harrison House and New Saint Mary’s Cemetery – Bellmawr, NJ

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Graveyard, Hugg-Harrison House, and the Philadelphia skyline.

Hugg-Harrison House and New St Mary’s Cemetery
515 W Browning Rd
Bellmawr, Camden County, NJ

Hugg-Harrison House –
Facebook – Save the Historic Hugg Harrison House

St Marys –
Website – www.camdendiocese.org/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pages/New-Saint-Marys-Cemetary/120712084606805

One of my father-son hobbies with The Pres is exploring graveyards.  I’ve always been fascinated by them, and I enjoy walking through a graveyard thinking about all of the things that the people buried there have accomplished, and The Pres seems to enjoy exploring them as well.  So back in the Fall when I was being crushed under a pile of work (stupid teaching middle school now), I took a few hours out to go explore New St Marys Cemetery in Bellmawr, NJ.

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