Tag Archives: Rancocas Creek

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

Wishbone Trail paddle – Rancocas Creek – Mt. Holly to Hainsport, NJ

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Wishbone Trail – Rancocas Creek National Water Trail paddle – Mt. Holly to Hainsport, Burlington County, NJ
Distance – roughly 8 miles
Time – usually 3 to 4 hours (took us just over 3)
Type – down the North Branch of Rancocas Creek, then up the South branch!
Difficulty:  7 of 10 (for paddling against the current the last mile and a half)
Total score: 10 of 10

Website – Ranococas Creek National Water Trail (proposed)
Open – Sunrise to Sunset.

Terrain – the river passes through the middle of town, as well as through forests and swamps.

Launches – 
Mount Holly – Launch at 39°59’24.58″N, 74°46’46.55″W (end of Wollner Drive in Iron Works Park) OR just the other side of the dam at Iron Works Park at the footbridge at 39°59’31.00″N, 74°46’55.59″W. We chose the first put in, which required taking the canoe out to portage around the dam.

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Take out –  Hainsport at Walnut Ave and Spruce Ave – 39°59’5.79″N,  74°50’37.40″W

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Filed under Canoeing, Outdoors., pine barrens, South Jersey

Little Woods on Rancocas Creek – Moorestown, NJ

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Little Woods on Rancocas Creek – Moorestown, Burlington County, NJ
Distance – Just about 1 mile exactly.
Type – Lollipop trail
Difficulty: 3 of 10 – little bit of ups and downs, a few small downed trees to navigate.
Total score: 5 of 10

Website – S.T.E.M – Save the Environment of Moorestown homepage
Open – Sunrise to Sunset.

Terrain – Small hilly area, forests, creekside swamp

Trailheads –  39°59’54.60″N,  74°53’24.05″W (right next to the deer crossing sign!)
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Filed under Fishing, Hiking, Outdoors., South Jersey

Amico Island – Riverside, NJ

Amico Island County Park

Amico Island County Park

Amico Island County Park – Riverside (or Delran), Burlington County, NJ

Distance: 2 trail miles, can string together something slightly longer.  (We walked a mile and a half this day, completing the blue trail and wandering after birdies along the shoreline)
Type: Interlocking loops leading from one parking lot
Difficulty: 3 of 10 (The Pres rates it a difficulty of 10 of 10, but that’s because he has little toddler legs and doesn’t like to walk in the snow)
Total score: 8 of 10.

Terrain – Beautiful woodlands on an “island” (Note: you’ll notice from the map it’s not really an island).

Trailheads – All trails lead from the parking lot at 40° 2.264’N, 74° 58.697’W

Trailhead at the end of the parking lot.  The blue trail starts up on you left and right.  The red trail starts off the blue trail to the right.

Trailhead at the end of the parking lot. The blue trail starts up on you left and right. The red trail starts off the blue trail to the right.

Directions: 81 Norman Ave, Riverside, NJ. Very close to Rt 130.

Hours: 8 AM to sunset

Standouts – Beautiful views of the Delaware River, birds galore, deer (saw plenty of tracks, didn’t see any live ones), picnic spots, and fishing.

Markings – Posts and paint marks.

Map?:

This map can be picked up many places around Burlington County.  I got mine at the County Store in the Moorestown Mall.

This map can be picked up many places around Burlington County. I got mine at the County Store in the Moorestown Mall.  Click for a bigger image.

Description: Cabin fever, the promise of decent temperatures, and a crushing loss of the US hockey team to Canada drove us out for our first real hike of 2014.  The Pres and I decided to check out Amico Island County Park, which we had picked up a beautiful map of last Spring and hadn’t gotten to yet.

The good news was that it was already in the mid-40s, heading for the mid-50s.  The bad news…

"Why are we walking in this?"

“Why are we walking in this Dad?”

Nevertheless, we had an awesome two hours, just at a slower pace than usual (and the only time I’ve seen him hike without running).

Having picked up a beautiful map of the trails, I left it at home by mistake.  So we took a left onto the blue trail because that’s the direction a dog was heading (Needless to say, I didn’t pick the direction).  The blue trail weaves through marshier areas, mixed in with lovely clumps of trees.  You’ll have half a dozen stairs to climb at one point (or be carried up, if you’re so lucky).

Blue trail heads left!

Blue trail heads left!

Lovely marshier areas (no mosquitoes with the snow!)

Lovely marshier areas (no mosquitoes with the snow!)

Bridge.  The stairs are just after this.

Bridge. The stairs are just after this.

After the stairs, we quickly arrived at a point where you can walk out onto the shoreline to check out what’s going on.  This day, it was tons of birds hanging out on or next to the ice.  The only bird I could definitely identify was the seagull (The Pres’s favorite… he doesn’t get that from me), but those ones with the necks might be herons.  Or might not.  We spent a half hour or so here pointing and saying “dir-dee” over and over again.  Time well spent.

Plenty of stay pieces of when this island was not a peaceful county park.

Plenty of stay pieces of when this island was not a peaceful county park.

Dir-dees.

Dir-dees.

Getting back on the trail, I figured it was around the corner to the parking lot.  My sense of directions today was as bad as my map-remembering skills.  It was time to give The Pres a lift, and we strolled down the snow covered trail, around a little cove, up on a bit of a ridge, past a pair of lovely overlooks complete with benches, and down a steeper hill than I expected on such a small peninsula.

Lovely little cove on the south end of the "island".  The Talcony-Palmyra Bridge can be seen waaaay in the distance.

Lovely little cove on the south end of the “island”. The Talcony-Palmyra Bridge can be seen waaaay in the distance.

Down the hill!

Down the hill!  Mikaela Shiffrin took the gold, but The Pres and I put in a good showing.

The blue trail finally hooks back toward the parking lot.  We stopped for a sit and a drink at the beach at this point, checking out more (but much further away) birdies.

Lovely little beach.

Lovely little beach.

Lovely little bench just above the lovely little beach.  I wish we brought some sandwiches for this spot.

Lovely little bench just above the lovely little beach. I wish we brought some sandwiches for this spot.

After a while hanging out there, someone was really, really tired.  He fell half asleep on my shoulder as I carried him the rest of the way to the parking lot.  Along this stretch, the red trail split off twice (it’s a loop).  Somewhere off to our left, the yellow trail split from the red trail to take you to the northern-most part of the “island”, where Rancocas Creek comes in (that part is in hindsight, after checking out the map when we made it home).  Someday soon, we’ll be back to tackle those trails and see what the island looks like when it’s green.

Overall, it was a perfect day.

Until the USA lost to Finland in the Bronze medal game on the way home.  My radio is in pieces somewhere along Haddonfield Road as we speak.

Overall recommendation: Beautiful park, I should have visited sooner! As I said, we will be back (when the snow melts) to check out the northern half of the island.  Also, if you are a little too obsessed with hockey, make sure to become a Canadian citizen so you have a remote chance of seeing your team get a gold medal.

Also check out about Amico Island:
South Jersey History & Adventures (aka Yummygal’s Blog) – great post with pictures without snow.  Also great historical information passed along from historian Paul Schopp.
Official Park Page
South Jersey Sun: Amico Island Park

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Boundary Creek – Moorestown, NJ

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Boundary Creek Natural Resource Area, Moorestown, NJ
Distance: 1.3 miles total, we went a little over 1 this day
Type: Interlocking loops
Difficulty: 2 of 10.
Total score: 7 of 10.
Website: http://www.co.burlington.nj.us/pages/pages.aspx?cid=586

Terrain – Flat, marshland, creek, forest

Trailheads –  40° 0.567’N,  74° 54.344’W

Directions: Park is at 601 Creek Road, Moorestown, NJ

Map:

Boundary_Creek_Map

Standouts – Very nice views of Rancocas Creek, birding blinds.

Markings – None, but you really can’t get off of the trail.

Description: Not much to describe route-wise here, just a figure 8 of trails with short boardwalk walks to viewing areas for birds.  The trail is nice and level, no problem for me or the kid.  Lots of benches, beautiful viewing deck areas with built in binoculars.  The Fall colors were beautiful.

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Overall recommendation:  A nice, easygoing stroll with some nice views.

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