Tag Archives: Batsto

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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Batsto Lake White Trail – Batsto, NJ

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Batsto Lake White Trail – Batsto Village, Wharton State Forest, Washington Township, Burlington County, NJ
Distance: 4 miles
Type: loop.
Difficulty: 3 of 10.
Total score: 7 of 10.

Terrain – Hills, swamp, pine forest, and the shore of a lake.

Trailheads –  39° 38.749’N,  74° 38.790’W.  Back end of the parking lot at Batsto, furthest end from the Visitors Center.

Trailhead from parking lot.

Trailhead from parking lot.

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Mullica River Trail – Atsion to Batsto, NJ – Backpack or hike!

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Mullica River Trail – Wharton State Forest – Atsion, Shamong, Burlington County to Batsto, Hammonton, Atlantic County, NJ
Distance: 9.5 miles (can be done as a one night backpacking trip or as a day hike)
Type: One way
Difficulty:  3 of 10
Total score:  7 of 10

Terrain – forest, swamps, meadows

Trailheads – Atsion –  39°44’30.37″N,  74°43’33.55″W (next to ranger station/general store) –   (5.5 miles to campsite from here)
Batsto –  39°38’33.67″N,  74°39’18.61″W (on dirt Batsto Lake Road) (4 miles to campsite from here)

Note – you can also

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Batsto Lake (Blue) Trail – Batsto, NJ

Beautiful views of Batsto Lake on this one.

Beautiful views of Batsto Lake on this one.

Batsto Lake Trail (Blue) – Batsto, Wharton State Forest, Burlington County, NJ
Distance: 2 miles
Type: loop.
Difficulty: 3 of 10.
Total score: 7 of 10.

Terrain – Hills, swamp, pine forest, and the shore of a lake.

Trailheads –  39° 38.749’N,  74° 38.790’W.  Back end of the parking lot at Batsto, furthest end from the Visitors Center.

Trailhead from parking lot.

Trailhead from parking lot.

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Batsto Lake Trail (Red) – Batsto, NJ

The Pres and Pat enjoying the Red Trail.

The Pres and Pat enjoying the Red Trail.

Batsto Lake Trail (Red)– Batsto, Wharton State Forest, Burlington County, NJ
Distance: 1 mile
Type: Lollipop
Difficulty: 1 of 10.  It’s handicapped/stroller accessible.
Total score: 5 of 10.

Terrain – Almost all flat.  Pine forests and lake.

Trailheads –  39° 38.729’N,  74° 38.815’W

The trailhead begins just at the edge of the Batsto parking lot.

The trailhead begins just at the edge of the Batsto parking lot.

Standouts – Nice view of lake without much walking.

Markings – Traditional red markings.  Pay attention, there are a lot of trails coming together around Batsto, including THREE Batsto Lake Trails (each a different color).

Map:

For a (full) copy, go to the Batsto Visitor's Center, located conveniently at the other end of the parking lot you're going to for this hike anyway.

For a (full) copy, go to the Batsto Visitor’s Center, located conveniently at the other end of the parking lot you’re going to for this hike anyway.

Description: This is a short, sweet, lollipop introduction to Batsto Lake.  Two longer Batsto Lake trails (starting at the same trailhead) take you on longer jaunts up the side of the lakeshore.  This one is great for small kids (it’s more or less all  paved, gravel, or boardwalk) or as a combination with checking out the rest of Batsto.  We did this one after exploring the former ironworks town and doing the Tom’s Pond Trail at the other end of Batsto.

Head out and almost immediately cross the Washington Turnpike. The trail will skirt Goodwater Road and a maintenance building for the park, cross over a bike trail, and then establish itself more independently.  The trail heads off in two directions – don’t worry, it’s looping back to itself. I suggest heading right.

Nice, easy walk.

Nice, easy walk.

You’ll come to some sections of boardwalk, which will eventually put you out by the lake.

Lake.

Lake.

Before you know it, you’ve backtracked to where the trail split.  Head back to where you started.

Overall recommendation:  This hike is short and sweet.  Well worth combining with any number of activities nearby, especially exploring Batsto or any of the other numerous trails around Batsto.

Other options: The Batsto Lake Trail (Blue) is 1.8 miles.  The Batsto Lake Trail (White) is 4 miles.

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Tom’s Pond Trail – Batsto, NJ

Tom’s Pond Trail – Batsto, Burlington County, NJ
Distance: 1.8 miles round trip.
Type: Lollipop.
Difficulty: 2 of 10. – Great hike to do with kids.
Total score: 8 of 10.

Map:

Trail Map (orange trail).

Trail Map (orange trail).

Terrain – Swamps and pitch pines

Trailheads – 39°38’37.13″N,  74°39’17.00″W (Batsto Lake Road, just past the end of the old workers cabins).  NOTE – if you park at the visitor’s center lot, you’ll have about a mile to walk through Batsto Village before you get to the trailhead.  It’s a lovely walk, just be warned it makes this a three mile trek.

Standouts – Mullica River, swamps with pitcher plants, scrub pines.

Markings – Orange blazes.

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Description: A nice short hike of just over a mile, the Tom’s Pond Trail packs a lot into a little.

The trail heads out into a swamp immediately, before coming to the Mullica River, which it crosses on a footbridge.

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Start in a swamp.

Start in a swamp.

 

The Mullica.

The Mullica.

 

Footbridge over the river.

Footbridge over the river.

After the bridge, you’ll walk along the edge of this river through some lovely pine forest.  The yellow Mullica River Trail splits off to the right, but stick with the orange.  Just after this is a lovely view downstream.

Pines.

Pines.

 

Lovely little view.

Lovely little view.

From here, the trail crosses another swamp (look here for pitcher plants.  You’ll know you’re in the right spot because there is a giant educational signboard talking about carnivorous plants) before starting a short loop through the pines.

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Boardwalk over swamp

Boardwalk over swamp

 

 

Look for awesome plants.

Look for awesome plants.

Once you complete this loop, simply head back the way you came, 0.4 miles or so back to the trailhead.

Overall recommendation: This is a short one, but a beauty.  I love bridges, rivers, and carnivorous plants, so I loved this hike.  Many thanks to the wife and kid and my buddy Pat for trooping along on this one.

Check out nearby:  This is right on the edge of Batsto Village.  If you’ve never been there (or even if you have), it’s a must-see for the Pine Barrens.  Explore the old outbuildings, see the movie at the visitor’s center, and tour the mansion if any slots are available.  If you’d like to expand your hike, several loops through Batsto Lake start at the Visitor’s Center lot (will be posted at some point) or the 53 mile Batona Trail runs through the picnic area, which you can hike a section of.

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