Tag Archives: Batona Trail

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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Batona Trail Reroute – Parker Preserve – Chatsworth, NJ

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Batona Trail Reroute – Apple Pie Hill to Rt 72 – Parker Preserve – Woodland Township (aka, Chatsworth), Burlington County, NJ
Distance: 8.3 miles
Type: One way (out and back is 16.6 miles)
Difficulty: 3 of 10.
Total score: 10 of 10.

Terrain – pinelands, swamps, old cranberry bogs

Trailheads – Apple Pie Hill – 39° 48.442’N, 74° 35.365’W.  Not 100% sure where the other one is on Rt 72, it’s tricky to find.
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Harrisville Pond Lake Trail/Batona/Martha Rd Loop – Woodland Township, NJ

Harrisville Pond Lake Trail/Batona/Martha Rd Loop – Woodland Township, Burlington County, NJ
Distance: 4.15 miles
Type: Loop trail, sand paths
Difficulty: 4 of 10.
Total score: 6 of 10.Terrain – pinelands, lake.

Trailheads – Parking area at Harrisville Pond – 39°39’57.04″N, 74°31’27.97″W

Directions: Located off of Chatsworth Road, Rt 679

Standouts – Harrisville Pond, Martha Furnace, Oswego River, Harrisville ruins

Markings – Start on Lake Trail (Blue), then Batona Trail (pink), then down Martha Road (no markings)

Description: This is a nice, easy 4 mile hike through some lovely areas.  You’ll park at the parking area at Harrisville Pond.  The trailhead is in the back corner of the “lot” to the left of the left-most dam.  There is no map or marker at the beginning of this trail (the Lake Trail), just look for blue blazes.

Start at the Harrisville Pond, where they have lovely dams.

Start at the Harrisville Pond, where they have lovely dams.

Trailhead is at the back of the parking area.

Trailhead is at the back of the parking area.

You’ll start by following the edge of the pond.  You’ll likely see canoes and kayaks floating along.  The trail follows the lake for a short way, then hangs a left to follow an old channel for water for one of the nearby mills.  You’ll parallel this channel for a while, then cross a footbridge and “T” with the pink trail – the Batona.  Overall, the Lake Trail is only 3/4 of a mile long.

Lovely Harrisville Pond.

Lovely Harrisville Pond.

Intersection of the Lake Trail and the Batona Trail.

Intersection of the Lake Trail and the Batona Trail.

Upon reaching the Batona Trail, hang a right and follow along.  This section is well blazed, follow the pink markers and you can’t go wrong.  Keep an eye out, I’ve seen turtles, deer, turkeys, and other wildlife in this area.  You’ll walk for about a mile and a half before you hit your next target – Martha Bridge and the Oswego River.

The Batona.

The Batona.

Martha Bridge (heading the opposite way you'll be walking).  Looks scary, but hasn't collapsed yet.

Martha Bridge (heading the opposite way you’ll be walking). Looks scary, but hasn’t collapsed yet.

Oswego River at Martha Bridge.

Oswego River at Martha Bridge.

Just past Martha Bridge is the fenced in remains of Martha.  The state did an archeology study on them back in the 1960s or so, then covered them over in huge piles of dirt to keep them from being disturbed.  Martha Furnace was active from 1793 to 1845.  Check the ground under your feet and you’ll find cast of bits of iron slag, or leftovers from the iron making process.

Martha Furnace.

Martha Furnace.

Follow the Batona past Martha.  Just a few hundred yards from the ruins, a road will head off to the right in a straight line.  This is Martha Road and your path back to your starting point.  Just walk down it for a mile to a mile and half until it ends at the blacktop of Rt 679.  Along the way, notice the channels dug off to the right of the road to increase water power to the mills.

Martha Road, in a slightly different season than the rest of the shots.

Martha Road, in a slightly different season than the rest of the shots.

When you reach the highway, consider crossing to check out the ruins of the Harrisville Paper mill across the road.  If you aren’t interested, turn right and follow the road back to where your car is parked.

Harrisville Paper Mill.

Harrisville Paper Mill.

Overall recommendation:  Nice easy day hike.  Can combine this with a stop in Chatsworth to visit Buzby’s Chatsworth General Store, a visit to Apple Pie Hill and the firetower, a dog and a soda at Hot Diggity Dog, or a stop at nearby Lake Oswego.  Lots and lots to do around here!

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Batona Trail – Backpacking Day 3 – Lower Forge to Brendan Byrne

The Batona Trail – Backpacking Day 3 – Lower Forge Campground, Wharton State Forest, NJ to Brendan Byrne Campground, Brendan Byrne State Forest (or Lebanon State Forest for us old folk)
Type: One way
Hours: Open 24 hours
Last updated: December 10, 2016

Distance: End to end is 52.7 miles, plus side trips for campsites (our total was 57.2 miles). This is section 3 – Lower Forge Campground to Brendan Byrne Campground, with a side trip to the Carranza Memorial because it’s just that awesome. – 20.0 miles
Section 1 – Bass River to Buttonwood
Section 2 – Buttonwood Campground to Lower Forge
Section 4- Brendan Byrne to Ongs Hat
Difficulty: 8 of 10.
Total score: 10 of 10 (Batona score)

Terrain – Pine forests, cedar swamps, open areas, dirt roads, rivers, swamps, hills.

Trailheads – This day starts at Lower Forge Campground (39°43’33.23″N,  74°40’23.90″W) and ends at Brendan Byrne Campground ( 39°52’20.67″N,  74°31’18.44″W).

Standouts: forests, cedar swamps, Carranza Memorial, Apple Pie Hill (with views of Philly and Atlantic City), Parker Preserve.

Markings – Pink, usually on trees. Sometimes disappear or hard to follow, but much improved the last few years, thanks to the hard work of the Outdoors Club of South Jersey.

Map – Map of the Batona Trail – note that this does not include the reroutes.

Map of the reroute through the Parker Preserve can be found here

Description: Day 3 of the Batona Trail…

The Plan: I’ve been fortunate enough to backpack the whole Batona Trail three times (2011, 2013, and 2016), as well as to have done a few one night trips on it previous to those years. Each time was as an adult with a group of Scouts (five of whom finished in 2011, 13 of whom finished in 2013, and 2 who did the whole thing in 2 days in 2016). I’ll present here our 2013 hike plan, which covered the two new reroutes. If you plan to do the whole thing, you might be faster (2 or 3 days for some folks) or slower (you can space it out over 5 days if you wanted to), but this plan is for four days.

DAY 3:
Lower Forge Campground to Brendan Byrne Campground (via Pakim Pond) – in the neighborhood of 20 miles

Very sad note: As of Labor Day 2016, the Apple Pie Hill Fire Tower is fenced off and only accessible when manned during the day during times of high fire risk.  You still can access the tower, it is NOT completely closed off. To not be disappointed, visitors to the fire tower can call NJ Forest Fire Service Division B Headquarters to find out of the tower is manned. The number is (609) 726-9010.

Day 3! BEST DAY ON THE TRAIL! Also, it’s a 20 mile day. BEST DAY ON THE TRAIL! This is a loooooooong one, but it contains both my old favorite part of the Batona and my current favorite part of the Batona (which doubles as the best trail in South Jersey, in my humble opinion). We have a lot of walking to do, so let’s get started…

Early morning walk.

Early morning walk.

By your third day, you should be getting your backpacking legs and should be ready to go in the morning.  You’ll start with a 5.8 mile walk through some lovely pine forest with some sporadic road crossings and a few small swamps.  This is not the most interesting section of the trail, but it’s flat and will get you warmed up on this long day.

After 5.8 miles, you’ll cross the old Jersey Central tracks…

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…and pop out on Carranza Road (it will be your first paved road for the day).  Here, we generally drop our packs for the short walk (left) down to the Carranza Memorial (or you can cheat and carry them with you).  The was dedicated to Emilio Carranza, a Mexican air force pilot who duplicated Charles Lindburgh’s goodwill flight distance with one of his own, from Mexico City to New York City.  Our his return flight, he flew through a thunderstorm and was tossed from his plane to his death.  This monument, built with change from Mexican children, marks the place near where his body was found.

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After checking out the memorial, you can backtrack to the trail or (if you are a dirty, rotten cheater), walk down the road across Carranza Road, which will take you to Batona Camp and rejoin the trail.  Either way, you’ll hit Batona Camp within five minutes.

Batona Camp.

Batona Camp.

Lovely water pump to the right of this view.

Lovely water pump to the right of this view.

This is a great spot to refill your water at the pump (no filtering necessary!).  The trail itself has been slightly moved of late to skirt the edge of camp, but goes right past the pump and then right past the outhouse.  It does NOT stick to the road past the whole camp.   It’s only been six miles since we started, but if you are feeling tired…

– Batona Camp, Wharton State Forest – 6 trail miles from Lower Forge (Trail Mile 31 on paper, about 32 with the reroute). – This camp is popular, as it’s accessible by Carranza Road. It has pit toilets and a real water pump. It also has the distinction of being the only campground without a walk in, as the trail goes right through the camp.  This is a great alternative if you want to shorten day three OR if you want to try to do the trail in three days.

Back to the trail.  The next section used to be my favorite, a 3.6 mile or so stretch from  Carranza Memorial to Apple Pie Hill and would make a great day hike.  You’ll parallel the road a bit, catch a great view of the swamp, and meander between the swamp and the road for a while.

Heading down the trail.

Heading down the trail.

Swamp view shortly after Batona Campground.

Swamp view shortly after Batona Campground.

You’ll pop out onto the road and cross Skit Branch on a bridge.

Skit Branch.

Skit Branch.

AFTER THE BRIDGE MAKE A SHARP RIGHT IMMEDIATELY.  I’ve missed this turn before, and its better marked now, but don’t miss it!

After you duck back into the woods, you’ll stay there for a bit.  You’ll head through some swamps on bridges, head up Mt. Korbar, head right back down Mt. Korbar (named in honor of Walter Korszniak and Morris Bardock who worked on the Batona Trail at the beginning source) or perhaps Tea Time Hill (why does this hill have two names?), cross a few dirt roads, and then climb Apple Pie Hill.  There is a break in the fence that the trail passes through.

Swamp bridge.

Swamp bridge.

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Sadly, the teapot on top of this was missing as of 2016.

Climbing Apple Pie Hill.

Climbing Apple Pie Hill.

Apple Pie Hill Fire Tower.

Apple Pie Hill Fire Tower.

Fire tower.

Fire tower.

This is pretty much exactly 10 miles into your day, and is a great spot to stop and have lunch.  Enjoy the views from the ground, or climb the fire tower for a chance to see both Philadelphia and Atlantic City on a clear day, as well as a few hundred square miles of woods.  Sadly, due to inconsiderate idiots, the tower is now fenced in and only opened when manned.  If it’s open, don’t miss the chance to climb up.

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View of Atlantic City.

A nice view of the woods.

A nice view of the woods.

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Philadelphia (look close).

When you’re done admiring the view, head out the gap in the fence (the OTHER gap, by where the road at the top of the hill is blocked off).  You’ll head into the Parker Preserve and walk a mile to Route 532.

Way out of the fence.

Way out of the fence.

Now entering the Parker Preserve.

Now entering the Parker Preserve.

Walking through the Parker Preserve.

Walking through the Parker Preserve.

Cross Route 532 and you’re going to hit my new favorite part of the trail, the Parker Preserve reroute.  This used to be a 4.5 mile roadwalk past blueberry farms that was painful on the knees (by which I mean, absolute torture).  It’s now a 7.2 adventure through the woods and swamps.  The extra 2.7 miles are well worth the walking.

Here is a lovely map of the Parker Preserve reroute.

Start of the reroute.

Start of the reroute.

The first stretch is largely along old sand roads.  Some of these are flooded, which makes for fun bushwacking around the flooded areas (2016 note – there are now trails cut around most of the puddles, which makes for much less bushwacking.  Thanks Outdoors Club of South Jersey!).

The road is flooded.

The road is flooded.

So you have to do this.

So you have to do this (but not really, unless you’ve taken your time machine to the trail).

The trail will then alternate between roads and beautiful walks next to Cranberry bogs.

I'm enjoying the view.

I’m enjoying the view.

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And haven’t learned a new pose three years later).

Along the edge of a bog.

Along the edge of a bog.

Another view of the bog.

Another view of the bog.

The trail dives off on onto the old cranberry dikes.

The trail dives off on onto the old cranberry dikes.

Different bog.

Different bog.

Eventually, you’ll come out onto Route 563, roughly halfway through the preserve.

Crossing a nice little bridge at 563.

Crossing a nice little bridge at 563.

The first half of the reroute is nice, but the second half is really awesome.  There are even more swamp walks, more bog views, and some creative bits of trail work, like a long bridge and a swamp hop very close to where you emerge on Route 72.

Coming in from 563 is a tunnel of trees and shrubs that the trail was hacked out of.

Coming in from 563 is a tunnel of trees and shrubs that the trail was hacked out of.

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Another beautiful bog walk.

Another beautiful bog walk.

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Awesome bridge.

Awesome bridge.

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Probably my favorite part of the Batona at the moment, as these short bridges connect little islands in the swamp. I highly suggest checking this part out, I can’t imagine it will hold up to years of use… 2016 – but years in it still looks good!

Once you emerge out of the woods onto Route 72, you’ll turn left and walk down that highway before crossing over the road and entering into Brendan Byrne State Forest, your last set of state land for this hike.  Yay!

Walking along the road.

Walking along the road.

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2016 – now marked with large signs on either side of Route 72.

Getting ready to cross the highway.

Getting ready to cross the highway.

Once you cross the road, it’s 1.4 miles to the paved road by Pakim Pond.  Along the walk, you’ll cross a number of dirt roads, including one that says “Campground” with an arrow.  Ignore this and keep walking on the trail unless you want to backtrack the next day!  When you hit the pavement, you can either turn right and walk 3/4 of a mile or so to the campground or, if it’s early, turn left and walk to the Pakim Pond Picnic area.  Our most recent hike, we covered our 19 miles early, so we cooked and ate dinner at the picnic area.  If it’s late, or you’re tired (hey, it’s been a long day), go right to the campsite, you’ll see the pond tomorrow along the trail.

– Brendan Byrne Campground, Brendan Byrne State Forest – 13.5 or 14 miles from Batona Camp with the second new reroute or 19.5 miles or so from Lower Forge with the walk ins (Mile 45 or so on paper). The camp is at least 3/4 of a mile down the road from where the trail comes out at Pakim Pond. Nicest of the campgrounds, it features real bathrooms with sinks and flush toilets and water spigots (not even a pump, a spigot!)! Group sites are $3 per person, per night (plus $10 fee), regular sites are $20 per night for New Jersey residents (plus $10 fee).

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Backpacking tent at the Brendan Byrne Group Site. The other 14 of us didn’t bother to set up our tents and just slept outside on the ground. It would have been hilarious if someone had walked up to our site.  This was awesome in early April, not recommended for the summer where the bugs are out in force.

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Batona Trail – Backpacking Day 2 – WSF – Buttonwood to Lower Forge

The Batona Trail – Backpacking Day 2 – Buttonwood Campground to Lower Forge Campground, Wharton State Forest, NJ
Type: One way
Hours: Open 24 hours
Last updated: December 10, 2016

Distance: End to end is 52.7 miles, plus side trips for campsites (our total was 57.2 miles). This is section 2 – Buttonwood Campground to Lower Forge Campground, with a side trip into Batsto to pick up permits. – 12.0 miles
Look here for:
Section 1 – Bass River to Buttonwood
Section 3 – Lower Forge to Brendan Byrne
Section 4- Brendan Byrne to Ongs Hat
Difficulty: 8 of 10.
Total score: 10 of 10 (Batona score)

Terrain – Pine forests, cedar swamps, open areas, dirt roads, rivers, swamps.

Trailheads – This day starts at Buttonwood Campground ( 39°37’43.59″N, 74°37’4.35″W) and ends at Lower Forge Campground ( 39°43’33.23″N,  74°40’23.90″W).

Standouts: forests, cedar swamps, Batsto, Quaker Bridge.

Markings – Pink, usually on trees. Sometimes disappear or hard to follow, but much improved the last few years thanks to the hard work of the Outdoor Club of South Jersey.

Description: Day 2 of the Batona Trail…

The Plan:

I’ve been fortunate enough to backpack the whole Batona Trail three times (2011, 2013, and 2016), as well as to have done a few one night trips on it previous to those years. Each time was as an adult with a group of Scouts (five of whom finished in 2011, 13 of whom finished in 2013, and 2 who did the whole thing in 2 days in 2016). I’ll present here our 2013 hike plan, which covered the two new reroutes. If you plan to do the whole thing, you might be faster (2 or 3 days for some folks) or slower (you can space it out over 5 days if you wanted to), but this plan is for four days.

DAY 2:
Buttonwood Campground to Lower Forge Campground (with a side trip to Batsto) – 12 miles

Day 2! You get up, feel really sore, and call for a ride home… no! Don’t worry! Today will be the second easiest day of the trail, only twelve miles!

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The first part is to head right back the way you came, one mile out of Buttonwood Campground, back to the Batona Trail. This road doesn’t look like it’s maintained anymore, so expect lots of mud puddles to walk around.

Walk out of Buttonwood.  I don't think they are maintaining this road much anymore.

Walk out of Buttonwood. I don’t think they are maintaining this road much anymore.

When you get back to the trail, turn left to head north. It’s 3.2 short miles from the camp turnoff until the turnoff for Batsto. You’ll cross a few roads, walk across the Washington Pike, go up and down some small hills, and eventually see the huge fields of Batsto ahead to your left.

On the way to Batsto.

On the way to Batsto.

Batona.

Batona.

Crossing a road.

Crossing a road.

Firetower in the background.

Firetower in the background.

Intrepid backpacker.

Intrepid backpacker.

Getting close to Batsto.

Getting close to Batsto.

Resist temptation to walk up the road to Batsto, you’re only take a few dozen feet off the trail. Continuing up the trail a few hundred more feet, you’ll see a sign and a path to the left.

Turn off for Batsto.

Turn off for Batsto.

Take the left here and you’ll emerge in the picnic area at Batsto, cross the parking lot, and end up in front of the Visitor’s Center. Congrats, you’ve gone 1/3 of the distance for the day!

Walk into Batsto.

Walk into Batsto.

Crossing the parking lot.

Crossing the parking lot.

Dan poses by his Eagle Project - tree planting at Batsto.

Dan poses by his Eagle Project – tree planting at Batsto.

Drying out gear after a nigh of rain.

Drying out gear after a night of rain.

Batsto Visitors Center - camping permits inside.

Batsto Visitors Center – camping permits inside.

While at Batsto, you have to pick up your camping permits. I also suggest grabbing a penny stick or two and dropping your pack for a tour of the complex (especially if you haven’t been here before). This is an old bog iron town turned glass town turned summer home for Joseph Wharton (who has the Wharton School of Business at Penn named after him) turned lovely state park. Take a look around and check out the workers homes, the blacksmith shop, barn, and the mansion.

Batsto Mansion.

Batsto Mansion.

At some point, you’ll have to tear yourself away from Batsto and get walking again. Head back the way you came and turn left to continue on the Batona. Your next landmark is Quaker Bridge, 6.1 miles away. You’ll parallel (but not see) Batsto Lake for a while as the Batona shared the way with the Batsto Lake Trail. Eventually, the other trail will turn left as the Batona continues up and down a few more small hills, goes through some swampland, and meets up with the Batsto River. This is where we usually stop for a lunch break, as it’s such a nice spot (maybe 2-3 miles outside Batsto).

Umm... Lebanon State Forest?

Umm… Lebanon State Forest?  I hear these signs are due for replacement soon, so enjoy the time warp while you can!

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Wading at lunch.

Wading at lunch.

After lunch, you’ll walk the long way around a stream to cross over at a bridge (the old map had this marked as a hilariously short distance), then walk mostly between Goodwater Road and the river until emerging onto Goodwater Road and the five way intersection at Quaker Bridge. Turn left toward the river and check the bridge out, it’s a great place for a short break.

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Crossing the bridge.

Crossing the bridge.

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Quaker Bridge.  The best part of this picture is that the gentlemen on the right has a broken bone in his foot and a torn ligament, damage done the day before.  Don’t worry, he’ll finish the trail.

This was the halfway point before the reroutes!  Now it's just a little short of the mark.

This was the halfway point before the reroutes! Now it’s just a little short of the mark.

Get back onto the trail and head into the woods. It’s a 1.2 mile walk through the pine trees to the turnoff for Lower Forge Campground. Eventually, the trail will turn right, but you’ll go straight. Just follow the sign (straight, straight, and more straight) into Lower Forge Campground.

Between Quaker Bridge and Lower Forge.

Between Quaker Bridge and Lower Forge.  As of 2016, the trail has been put around this tree.

Start of walk in.

Start of walk in.

No cars coming in... hooray!

No cars coming in… hooray!

Once you hit Lower Forge, you’re done for the day!  For those looking to push on, Batona Campground is about 6 miles up the trail.

– Lower Forge Campground, Wharton State Forest – 9.5 trail miles from Buttonwood’s turnoff (Trail mile 25 on paper, about 26 with the reroute). This camp is great (my favorite on the Batona) – walk in only (no cars!), quietly sits on the Batsto River, miles and miles and miles from any paved road. There is supposedly a spring, but I’ve never managed to find it, but you can filter out of the river that’s right in camp. There is a pit toilet here. Most isolated campsite on the trail. You can even swim if it’s nice! $3 per person per night, plus registration fee. Next non-filtered water is six miles or so away at Batona Camp.

Dinner!

Dinner!

Swimming at camp.

Swimming at camp.

River at the campsite.

River at the campsite.

Sunset.

Sunset.

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Nighttime fire in 2016.

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The Batona Trail – Backpacking Day 1 – Bass River and Wharton State Forests, NJ

The Batona Trail – Backpacking Day 1 – Bass River and Wharton State Forests, NJ
Type: One way
Hours: Open 24 hours
Last updated: December 10, 2016

Distance: End to end is 52.7 miles, plus side trips for campsites (our total was 57.2 miles or so with campgrounds and side trips).
This is section 1 – Dan Bridge Road in Bass River State Forest to Buttonwood Campground – 16.4 miles
Look here for:
Section 2 – Buttonwood to Lower Forge
Section 3 – Lower Forge to Brendan Byrne
Section 4- Brendan Byrne to Ongs Hat
Difficulty: 8 of 10.
Total score: 10 of 10

Terrain – Pine forests, cedar swamps, open areas, dirt roads, rivers, swamps.

Trailheads – Southern Trailhead – Bass River State Forest – Bass River, NJ at Dan Bridge Road and Stage Road ( 39°37’28.96″N, 74°26’36.79″W)

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Standouts: cranberry bogs, trees, animals, Martha Forge, bridges…

Markings – Pink, usually on trees. Sometimes disappear or hard to follow, but much improved the last few years thanks to the amazing people at the Outdoors Club of South Jersey, especially this section.

Description: The Batona Trail is South Jersey’s PREMIER long distance backpacking trail. It is South Jersey’s ONLY long distance backpacking trail, but lets not get bogged down by that. I used to think that I was the only idiot that would walk the whole trail end to end in one go, but apparently there are not only people who backpack the whole thing (I met four of them last weekend), there are even people who run the whole thing in one day. This trail doesn’t offer the same views that New Jersey’s other premier long distance backpacking trail (the 70 miles worth of Appalachian Trail in the Northwestern part of the state), but it has it’s own charm.

The Plan:

I’ve been fortunate enough to backpack the whole Batona Trail three times (2011, 2013, and 2016), as well as to have done a few one night trips on it previous to those years. Each time was as an adult with a group of Scouts (five of whom finished in 2011, 13 of whom finished in 2013, and 2 who did the whole thing in 2 days in 2016). I’ll present here our 2013 hike plan, which covered the two new reroutes. If you plan to do the whole thing, you might be faster (2 or 3 days for some folks) or slower (you can space it out over 5 days if you wanted to), but this plan is for four days.

DAY 1:
Bass River State Forest to Buttonwood Campground (16.4 miles)

There used to be a lot of confusion with which way to go at the start, but thanks to amazing volunteers, just follow the arrow and head down Dan Bridge Road.

After a short walk down this road of roughly a mile, you’ll turn left into the start of the first Batona Reroute completed in four years ago.  The trail meanders through a recent burned out areas, crosses come bridges, passes old bogs, and pops out three miles later where the old trail is.  The new trail section is a mile longer than the old trail, but well worth the extra walking.

Road walk to start.

Road walk to start.

Burn out.

Burn out.

Lovely scene.

Lovely scene.  Much nicer than the old route.

Little wet.

Little wet.

End of reroute, which added a mile to the old trail, but is a much nicer walk.

End of reroute, which added a mile to the old trail, but is a much nicer walk.

Once we get back to “old trail”, the Batona wanders for a few more miles, following a flooded out road next to a pond, which is fun.

Through the woods.

Through the woods.

Pond.

Pond.

This road has been flooded out for a bazillion years. Makes a fun little walk.

This road has been flooded out for a bazillion years. Makes a fun little walk.

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Same spot Fall 2016.

Soon after that, it meets up with Martha Road, which it more or less follows all the way up to the site of Martha Furnace. This site (and along the trail preceding it) was once the home to an iron furnace and a village of several hundred that ran it. Check the ground at your feet, and you’ll find bits of iron slag from the furnace days. The furnace is now buried under a massive pile of dirt inside of the chain link fence.

Baby break on the trail.

Baby break on the trail.

Batona Trail.

Batona Trail.

Martha Furnace is visable on your left.

Martha Furnace is visable on your right.

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Closer view of Martha.

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Tree across from the fence along the trail.

A short distance brings you to the Martha Bridge over the lower Oswego River, 7.7 miles from your start.

Martha Bridge, which was not looking so well.

Martha Bridge across the Oswego, which was not looking so good after Sandy.  Still isn’t looking so good in ’16.

From here, it’s a little more than a mile through the woods (watch out, the trail leaves the dirt road, don’t miss it!) to Route 679/Chatsworth Road. A little more than a half mile later, you’ll hit Route 563/Green Bank-Chatsworth Rd. The trail turns left and follows this highway down to Evans Bridge at mile 9.7 for the day. This is a great spot to stop for lunch, watching canoers go by on the Wading River under the bridge, refilling your water from the river if you need to, and enjoying this lovely spot. From here, it’s only 6 miles left into camp at Buttonwood!

Bridges are fun.

Bridges are fun.

Crossing Rt 679.

Crossing Rt 679.

Batona Trail crosses the road.

Batona Trail crosses the road.

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Turn left and head down Route 563.

Turn left and head down Route 563.

Lunch time at Evans Bridge.

Lunch time at Evans Bridge on the Wading.

The rest of the day is fairly uneventful. You’ll cross Evans Bridge, then the highway, walk through some lovely forests, come down through a nice patch of cedar swamp with a tire in it (2016 update – no more tire), hang a right and walk “steps” up then down the trail (not literal steps, the trail does a wonkly little step pattern), then run straight down into Buttonwood.

Crossing the bridge while multi-tasking.

Crossing the bridge while multi-tasking.

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Cedar swamp.

Cedar swamp.

Landmark.

Landmark.

One of the weird “step” parts of the trail.

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Turn for Buttonwood Campground.

The walk into Buttonwood from the trail is 1.1 miles, for a total of 16.4 miles your first day.

Buttonwood Campground, Wharton State Forest – 15.4 trail miles from the start with the new reroute, plus a 1 mile walk in. Water is available across the highway at Crowley’s Landing… if the water is turned on. Otherwise, it has to be filtered out of the Mullica River, also located across the road. There is an pit toilet at the site. Very small campsite, capacity is only 25 people or so on 5 sites. $3 per person, per night plus $10 registration fee. You can refill with fresh water at Batsto the next day, where you have to pick up your permits and can use the beautiful flush bathrooms.

Next campground – Lower Forge – 10 trail miles (12 with walkout, walk into Batsto, and Lower Forge walk).

Entrance from the road (not the way you are walking).

Entrance from the road (not the way you are walking).

Buttonwood Campground.

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