Tag Archives: Atlantic County

Mill Pond Trail – Port Republic, NJ

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Mill Pond Trail – Port Republic Trail System  – Port Republic, Atlantic County, NJ
Distance – 1.9 miles total (does not include the cut through, nor the access trail to get to other parts of the wider trail system)
Type – Loop
Difficulty:  2 of 10
Total score: 7 of 10

Website – Port Republic Trail System (Facebook page, no website)
Open – Sunrise to Sunset.

Terrain – pine forest with a bit of swamp
Surface – dirt

Trailheads –  39°30’39.03″N,  74°30’15.30″W

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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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Filed under Backpacking, Hiking, History, Outdoors., pine barrens, South Jersey

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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Hammonton Lake Park/Smith Conservation Area – Hammonton, NJ

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Hammonton Lake Park and Smith Conservation Area, Hammonton, Atlantic County, NJ
Distance – 2.2 miles
Type – Two loops connected by a short road walk
Difficulty: 1 of 10
Total score:  6 of 10
Updated: December 30, 2016

Website – Hammonton Parks and Recreation
Open – Sunrise to Sunset.

Terrain – Lakeside forests

Trailheads –  39°37’46.75″N,  74°47’17.37″W (starting at the trail sign near the beach)

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Sheep Shearing – Swan Bay Folk Art Center

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Sheep Shearing
Swan Bay Folk Art Center
Port Republic, Atlantic County, NJ
April 23, 2016

Website – www.handsonhistory.com/
Facebook – www.facebook.com/HandsonHistory/

Gary and Niki Giberson are two very talented folks – carving duck decoys, making baskets, and weaving… helping keep those folk arts alive in South Jersey.  They are also very generous with their time and talent, opening a folk art center in the late 1980s to educate the public about these arts, even holding classes for the community.

They also keep their own flock of sheep, for wool purposes.  Once a year, those sheep get their annual haircut, and the Gibersons kindly let the public come watch the process and learn about sheep shearing.  So in April 2016, the boys and I (along with about two dozen other children) descended upon  the Swan Bay Folk Art Center to learn how sheep get sheared.

We showed up a little before the shearing began, and The Pres and Tree Rider went to make friends with the sheep (who are all named after Star Wars characters… the sheep, not my kids).

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Being two, Tree Rider also tried to make friends with the fish in the fish pond.

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Then, it was time for the shearing to begin.  The fellow who does it was really awesome, talking the kids through the steps, asking and answering questions.  The kids were allowed to touch some of the shorn wool, and to say hi to a baby lamb.

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If you can’t tell, each boy is wearing a sheep shirt.  They were very proud of them.

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Post haircut walk.

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After a little while, it began to rain, but the shearing just moved inside the sheep shelter.

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Didn’t make for as good of pictures (plus, I don’t like it raining on my camera), but the boys watched for another 45 minutes or so until we had to leave.  They loved every minute of it.

BIG thank you the Giberson family for having such a great event and letting the kids of South Jersey attend!  I highly recommend checking out their website and/or friending Swan Bay Folk Art Center on the Facebook,

If you want to know more about the fascinating story behind Gary and Niki Giberson’s Swan Bay Folk Art Center, check out the “Hands-on History” chapter from the excellent book Voices in the Pines: True Stories from the New Jersey Pine Barrens by Karen Riley.

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2015 – Year in Review – 10 Favorite Trails!

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In 2015, I hiked 45 new trails in South Jersey!  Why not take a look back at the highlights of an awesome year?

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