Haddon Lake Trail – Haddon Township, NJ

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Haddon Lake Loop – Haddon Lake County Park, Haddon Township/Audubon, Camden County, NJ
Distance: 1 1/2 miles – 2 miles.
Type: lollipop
Difficulty: 1 of 10.
Total score: 4 of 10.

Terrain – lakeside.

Trailheads – Parking lot at  39° 52.733′N,  75° 4.470′W or at  39° 53.144′N,  75° 5.100′W

Standouts – lots of birds.

Markings – None, but has mile markers every 1/4 mile.

Description: After one of the first warm days of Spring, the Pres and I set out to explore Haddon Lake.  Sadly, this wasn’t that warm day, but it was nice to get fresh air anyway!

We parked in the lot at the far end of the park, near the playground and the amphitheater.  The Pres went up and down the slides a bunch before we started our walk.  The trail follows a small stream/creek/drainage ditch.

Nice, paved trail.

Nice, paved trail.

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After 0.4 of a mile, you’ll cross over Rt 551 and arrive at the lake proper.  The trail immediately splits.  It doesn’t matter which way you go, you’ll end up back here.  We went left.

Lake right after you cross the road.

Lake right after you cross the road.

It’s a little less than a mile around the lake.  While walk, keep an eye out on the lake.  There were tons of birds out the day we were there, especially ducks.  The Pres was pretty happy to see the ducks, although the ducks did not seem as happy to see him.

Lake.

Lake.

"HI DUCKS!!!!"

“HI DUCKS!!!!”

There’s not much more too it, just a nice little walk around a lake filled with birds.  Just a nice day to walk through the park.

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I’ll have to come back here in the Fall, the leaves should be pretty good!

Overall recommendation: It’s not a wilderness trail, but it’s nice for a county park in a very populated area.  It’s not far from our apartment, so we’ll come back here for short hikes and duck stalking (I’ll walk, The Pres will stalk).

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Manasquan Floodplain Trail – Allaire State Park – Wall Township, NJ

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Manasquan Floodplain Trail  – Allaire State Park – Wall Township, Monmouth County, NJ
Distance: 0.5 miles (with another mile around the buildings that are not on the trail)
Type: Horseshoe (loop if you use the green trail)
Difficulty: 3 of 10 – for trail blazes disapearing.
Total score: 3 of 10.

Terrain – Swamp, swamp, and more swamp.

Trailheads – 40° 9.318′N,  74° 7.603′W or  40° 9.367′N,  74° 7.730′W.  Second trailhead is where we started.

Directions: Follow directions to Allaire State Park

Standouts – Manasquan River, lots of fun mud in the flood plain

Markings – Yellow paint markers, orange tape tied to trees.

Yellow.

Yellow.

Description:  I start with a warning:

The warning.

The warning.

Not noted on the sign is that this trail took some pretty bad damage during Hurricane Sandy.  Like, you can see one of the footbridges on its side in the middle of the swamp damage (didn’t get a picture, didn’t have a clear angle).  Just keep that in mind.

So you’ll come into the parking lot at Allaire Village and head right at the sign for Historic Allaire Village.  Walk down past the little pond, where you’ll cross the road/Green Trail.  Keep an eye out for the yellow trail.

What the trailhead looks like.

What the trailhead looks like.

You’ll drop down a bit, cross a nice foot bridge, and come almost immediately to a little stream with all sorts of dire warnings.  I can’t tell if they are jokes or not.

Cross the bridge.

Cross the bridge.

Possibly not a joke.

Possibly not a joke.

This must be a joke.

This must be a joke.

You’ll follow the yellow trail markers along the stream until you reach the intersection with the Manasquan River.

Trail.

Trail.

Creek and river collide.

Creek and river collide.

At this point, keep a close eye out, because the yellow trail markers are going to mysteriously disappear.  I think it’s hurricane damage.  They’ll be replaced by orange flagging, a fact that took us a little while to figure out.

Where the heck did the trail go?

Where the heck did the trail go?

Look for these when you run out of trail markers.

Look for these when you run out of trail markers.

Soon you'll see something few the trees.

Soon you’ll see something few the trees.

As quick as you started, you’re almost done your short hike.  The last stop is the the old furnace stack at Allaire Village.

The last remaining bog iron furnace stack in New Jersey.  At least I think I read that somewhere at some point.  It may not be true.

The last remaining bog iron furnace stack in New Jersey. At least I think I read that somewhere at some point. It may not be true.

You’ll then exit the trail at the edge of the historic village area.

Its only been a half mile, so I heartily suggest taking a walk around the village, then the Pine Creek Railroad area on the other side of the parking lot.  It added an extra mile to our morning walk.

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Railroad area.

Railroad area.

Overall recommendation: Nice little walk, at least without the mud.  Great walk when you add in a stroll around the village.  Plenty of more trails here, Green Trail (4 1/2 miles), Red Nature Trail (1 1/2 miles), Pink Trail (???), and the Orange Trail (16.5 miles).

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Blue Hole Trail – Winslow, NJ

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Blue Hole Trail – Winslow Wildlife Management Area – Winslow, Camden County, NJ
Distance: 1.6 miles round trip
Type: Out-and-back
Difficulty: 3 of 10. – Mostly due to giant puddles you have to navigate around in the road (which the trail is on)
Total score: 5 of 10.

Terrain – Mostly sand roads through the pines, with a bit of marsh.

Trailheads –  39° 37.196′N,  74° 53.797′W

Directions: Off of Piney Hollow Road, behind the archery range.

Standouts – The Blue Hole.

Map: photo

Markings – White circles with a blue blaze in the middle.

Blazes.

Blazes.

Description:  So years ago, I got into the “Weird NJ” of the 1930s – the books of Henry Charlton Beck.  They quickly became some of my favorite books of all time, and remain so more than a decade later.  For those of you who have never heard of Beck, he was a reported for the Courier Post 80 some years ago.  The story goes that, on a slow news day, his editor sent him out to run down the story on one of those tiny crossroads that has an interesting name, but that no one seems to know about – Ong’s Hat.  He grabbed a photographer/mechanic and hopped into his Ford Model-something or another and went off to figure out about Ong’s Hat.  He got there, discovered a tiny hamlet of a couple of buildings and only one guy, but a fascinating history/story/folklore.  His article came out, and he was hooked.  He’d venture out scores of more times, traveling the length and breadth of New Jersey tracking down interesting places and people to write about.  Eventually, he’d author a series of books based on those articles, the first two of which are titled Forgotten Towns of Southern New Jersey.

The fascination with the Pine Barrens and the State of New Jersey was not Beck’s alone, and 70 years after his first book came out, my buddy Mike and I (all of my friends are named Mike, just like me) started exploring the Pine Barrens in earnest.  We’d both had a lot of exposure as Boy Scouts, but owe wanted to go rediscover those places we’d seen as Scouts, and find ones we’d never seen.  We both dove into Beck.  One of the first places we decided to visit was the famous Blue Hole of Winslow (as covered by Beck in his book More Forgotten Towns of Southern New Jersey).

Apparently, it was 1973 when we started doing this.  My hair was even longer than his at the time.

Other Mike at the Blue Hole in a year ending in 3.  Apparently, it was 1973.  My hair was even longer than his at the time, but he had much better hats.

The Blue Hole is legendary.  According to Beck (who never let a good story get in the way of the truth), it was bottomless and cold year round, yet never froze over all the way in winter.  Many folks had drowned swimming in it, pulled down into it’s icy depths (perhaps by the Jersey Devil).  The water was supposed to be bring blue, as contrasting with the usual iced tea colored Egg Harbor River within ten steps or so of the Blue Hole.  How could we not go find it?  So find it we did. And it was a great day.  We even had a crappy website on angelfire called “Adventures in the South Jersey Woods” where we shared our pictures (haha, remember angelfire?).

Eleven years later, I was in the area, so I figured I’d stop in a visit the Blue Hole.  Crappy phone cameras on track phones were better than the camera I’d owned at the time, so I figured I could snap some quick pictures.  Problem is, despite the upgrades in technology (Mike and I used to get by on memory, county maps, a few topo maps we sprang for, and a healthy amount of “I’m sure we’ll see it.”), I couldn’t figure out where it was.  I remembered you had to park at the gun range (I remember hearing shotguns the entire time we explored back in 2003), but I couldn’t find any gun range!  After a half hour of aimlessly driving down dirt roads in the Winslow Wildlife Refuge, I couldn’t seem to end up on the correct side of the river.  While I had fun driving around back there, I had to give up on the Blue Hole, and I headed home.

The next week, armed with some help from my favorite pine barrens message board, and backed by my two year old, I went back in search.  He fell asleep in the car right before we got there.  Thanks dude.  Anyway, I found the correct lot!  The gun range is gone (apparently long gone), but I knew I was in the right place as soon as I parked.  Mom sat with sleepy head in the car while I tried to retrace my steps.

Parking lot.

Parking lot.

Headed the right way!

Headed the right way!

Once I was on the trail, it was easy.  Just follow the road (complete with massive trail markers) down a ways.  The road is definitely more chopped up than I remember it.  There were times I had trouble walking it, and I definitely, definitely, definitely recommend NOT driving down it.

Because of this.

Because of this.

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It was the first really beautiful day in months (and months and months), so I took my time coming up the road.  I hadn’t been in the pines in two months, so all the more reason to go slow.  Eventually, the road splits left, and the “trail” goes right.  Just follow the ridiculously massive blazes, you can hardly miss them.

Trail goes right!

Trail goes right!

Once the road ends, you end up on a very wide and spacious trail, which leads maybe 1/4 mile to the Blue Hole itself.

I knew I was close by this point.

I knew I was close by this point.

Finally, there.

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Now, the Blue Hole ain’t what she used to be.  For starters, she isn’t very clear (although still not the same brown color that most pine barrens waterways are).  She is quite obviously not bottomless either.  The thought is that she might have filled in a bit over the years.  I’m not sure, but the walk is still nice, no matter if the Blue Hole doesn’t blow you away.

A couple paces away is the Egg Harbor River.  Once upon a time, a bridge crossed it, but it’s been washed out at least as long as I’ve been alive.

Stumps of the bridge supports.

Stumps of the bridge supports.

Back in 2003, there was more of it left, but still not a whole lot.

Back in 2003, there was more of it left, but still not a whole lot.

When you’ve had your fill of waiting for the Jersey Devil to come take a bath, it’s right back the way your came.

Overall recommendation:  The Blue Hole is hardly spectacular, but the walk through the woods on a nice day is worth the effort anyway!

Other pics from 2003, because I took them, I might as well share them.

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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.

 

Handy, dandy sign.

Handy, dandy sign.

Directions: 31 Batsto Road, Hammonton, NJ 08037

Standouts – Some nice pine forest, but mostly beautiful lake views.

Markings – Blue marks, both painted on trees, and on metal posts.  Lots of of markings, to easy trail to keep track of.

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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:  It was such a nice day out, we took a drive to Batsto.  While the wife hung out enjoying the sunshine and fresh air, The Pres and I decided to walk the Batsto Lake Blue Trail.  We’d previously walked the Batsto Lake Red Trail, so I was expecting something similar, only longer.  I was in for a surprise, this trail was harder, but also awesomer.

Anyway, the three Batsto Lake Trails all start in the same exact spot – the picnic area next to the parking lot at Batsto.  The Blue Trail and White Trail have head two ways from the picnic area, I highly suggest take the right split.  This will go a short distance, then join up with the Batona Trail (blazed pink).  Turn right.  For the next half mile, the blue, white, and pink trails overlap exactly.  Enjoy the pitch pine forest on either side of the road, the slight ups and downs as the trail climbs tiny hills.

If you see this sign, you follow directions well.  Head left toward Lower Forge.

If you see this sign, you follow directions well. Head left toward Lower Forge.  The trail is slightly longer than the sign states.

Lovely pitch pine forest on either side throughout this part of the hike.

Lovely pitch pine forest on either side throughout this part of the hike.

 

Crossing the Washington Pike.

Crossing the Washington Pike.

 

The Pres loves the woods.

The Pres loves the woods.

 

And also picking up big piles of pine needles and throwing them into the air.  Weirdo.

And also picking up big piles of pine needles and throwing them into the air. Weirdo.

 

Scenery.

Scenery.

 

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After a half mile, the Blue Trail will split off to the left, while the white and pink trail continue to the left.  Stick with the blue trail!  If you take the white trail, you’re doubling your hike to four miles.  If you take the pink, you have more than thirty to the end of the trail… then you have to turn around to come get your car.

So seriously, turn left.

So seriously, turn left.

The trail immediately gets much narrower, with more brush and taller trees.  Follow it down, passing over Goodwater Road.

After the Gold Rush, err... split.

After the Gold Rush, err… split.

 

Much larger pines.

Much larger pines.

 

Use your Jedi powers to battle clone troopers while you're on this section of trail.

Use your Jedi powers to battle clone troopers while you’re on this section of trail.

Shortly after crossing Goodwater Road, the trail will merge onto a road whose name I don’t know.  Keep right and walk along the road.  WARNING:  A car did come down this road while I was on it, but it doesn’t look like many do.

Merging onto the road.  Yes, this is a road.

Merging onto the road. Yes, this is a road.

You’ll pass into a clearing and, as the Blue Trail bends slightly to the left, the White Trail will merge back into one trail.  These remain the same trail until the end of your hike.  Within a minute of this merger, you’ll start catching glimpses of Batsto Lake through the trees.

Clearing.  White Trail is back!

Clearing. White Trail is back!

 

First glimpses of the lake.  There will be lots more.

First glimpses of the lake. There will be lots more.

 

Also, you can opt for the "ride on a tree trunk" option at this part of the trail.

Also, you can opt for the “ride on a tree trunk” option at this part of the trail.

For the next half mile or so, you’ll have many chances to glimpse the lake, as the trail climbs and dives at the edge of it, from lakeside to 20 feet above, and back again.  The trail is narrow, full of roots, and super fun at this part.

Lakeside view.

Lakeside view.

 

Cedars?

Cedars?

 

Lots of views.

Lots of views.

 

Trail has gotten a lot more fun!

Trail has gotten a lot more fun!

 

The Pres battles a hill.  He won.

The Pres battles a hill. He won.

 

I love this hike.

I love this hike.

 

Trail.

Trail.

At some point, all hikers need a nice view, …

Nice view.

Nice view.

… a nice bench, ….

Nice bench.

Nice bench.

… and some water and goldfish crackers.

Water and goldfish time.

Water and goldfish time.

So don’t neglect that.  This is labeled on the map as “scenic overlook.”  I won’t argue with them.  From here, you’ll soon encounter a short bridge, then almost immediately merge into the Batsto Lake Red Trail.  The red trail is ADA and stroller accessible, so you have easy walkings from here on out.  Enjoy the little boardwalk, the interpretive plant signs, and the last views of the lake.

Bridge.

Bridge.

 

Here, the Blue, White, and Red Trails come together, just like Voltron.

Here, the Blue, White, and Red Trails come together, just like Voltron.

 

Almost done!

Almost done!

 

Boardwalk.

Boardwalk.

The trails will hit a road (a real road… or at least realer), and will turn left and follow it.  Follow up to the gate, then follow the blazes to the right.  You can see where you started now.  Enjoy the last few hundred feet of this great hike.

Turn onto the road.

Turn onto the road.

 

Stay right.

Stay right.

Then get your daddy to carry you on his shoulders those last few hundred feet.  To be fair, he was worried that we had left Mama at the beginning of the hike, and that we had better backtrack the almost two miles to get her.  Two year olds don't understand loops.

Did I say enjoy?  I meant, then get your daddy to carry you on his shoulders those last few hundred feet. To be fair, he was worried that we had left Mama at the beginning of the hike, and that we had better backtrack the almost two miles to get her. He kept trying to backtrack on his own, hence the carrying.  Two year olds don’t understand loops.

IMPORTANT MILESTONES!  The hike marks two important milestones!!!  1) The is The Pres’s first 2 mile hike!  Hooray!  The general rule for kids (if you’re a nutcase parent) is that a kid can hike as far as their age.  He turned 2 only six days ago, but he’s already there.  I can’t wait until he turns 17.  2) South Jersey Trails has been sharing for exactly one year now.  Yay!

Overall recommendation: This is my new favorite trail at Batsto.  Slightly more rugged than either of the other trails I’ve walked, with lots of payoff in the ways of lake views and typical pinelands scenery.

Nearby:  Don’t miss the opportunity to check out the old iron village at Batsto at the other end of the parking lot.  Beautiful old buildings, open to peak in most of the year.  The Mansion is open for tours for a couple of bucks, well worth it.

And The Pres likes the dog dog in the Visitor's Center.

And The Pres likes the dog dog in the Visitor’s Center.

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March – the most wonderful time of the year!

It’s March, my favorite time of the year.  Not because it’s Spring.  Not because it’s St Patrick’s Day.  Not even because my kid turned two.  Why do I love it?

Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker Season is upon us.

For those who not acquainted, AT Thru-Hikers are completely insane people who decide to spend anywhere from 4-8 months walking 2,100 miles from Georgia to Maine (or Maine to Georgia) on the Appalachian Trail.  I used to think that they were  totally insane and wasting their lives.  Because backpacking is stupid.  But then I caught the bug.

Years ago, my future mother-in-law began reading thru-hiker memoirs.  Then my future wife began reading thru-hiker memoirs.  Then I made fun of my wife for reading thru-hiker memoirs.  Because backpacking is stupid.

I’d backpacked a bit years as a Boy Scout back in 1997 or so.  My pack weighed something like 50 or 60 pounds (I weighted 130 at graduation).  It rained… a lot.  I fell in the first mile and cut a nice four in gash into my arm.  The first night, my tent washed out.  Now everything I had was wet and weighed even more.  I had crummy knees at that age (too much butterfly goalie in street.hockey), and they acted up.  Rocks were everywhere and it wasn’t so much walking as hopping.  The Appalachian Trail is stupid.

Then in 2009, one of my Scouts said words I had never wanted to hear, “We should backpack.”  I told him backpacking was stupid.  He insisted that we should do it.  I told him that if he convinced more Scouts to go backpacking, that I would be one of his adults.    There is no way that he could ever convince a bunch of kids that didn’t want to wake up in the morning that backpacking was a good idea. I figured that was the end of that.

Then he suckered found a bunch of younger Scouts, plus a few of his buddies, into doing a 50 mile trip over Christmas.  It was cancelled due to lack of adults.  He tried again the next Christmas.  Cancelled due to 10 inches of snow.  Some things just aren’t meant to be.

Then this happened.

Then this happened.

Then, instead of relaxing over Spring Break, I found myself hefting a 45 pound, poorly put together back and trudging through the pine barrens of New Jersey on the Batona Trail.  The trail is (was, God bless the men who reblazed it recently) poorly blazed.  We walked the wrong way for almost two miles the first day.  Of our four older Scouts, one got horrible blisters 7 miles in and had to get picked up, one twisted his ankle and had to get picked up, and one got heat exhaustion.  IN APRIL!  A bunch of 12 year olds realized that they’d be hoodwinked and got picked up that night.  And the only other adult on the trip broke his foot at the end of the day.  At the end of the day 1 (14 miles), we’d gone from 13 Scouts to 5 (four of them only 12 years old), from 4 adults to 2, one with a broken foot.  My feet didn’t feel good, I had horrible chaffing in areas that aren’t discussed in polite company, and my sides and shoulders were being chaffed like crazy.  Three days later, the last seven standing staggered out of the woods, 51 miles from where we started.  Even the guy with the broken foot (I’m completely serious).    I walked funny for a week, and my shoulders and hips were rubbed raw.  That should be the end of backpacking, because backpacking is stupid.

Two and half months later, we backpacked up to Sunfish Pond on the AT.  13 more miles.

I carried a backpack up here... why?

I carried a backpack up here…

Oh, this is why.  It's his fault.

Oh, this is why. It’s his fault.

A month later…

Why am I here?

Why am I here?

…it was 53 miles of the Laurel Highlands Trail in the Allegheny Mountains.  At least I shed stuff, my pack was down to 39 pounds.  But it was HOT.  With long climbs.   I hated backpacking.  It’s stupid.  How’d I end up doing 117 miles of it in a year?

Cooking food in a bag is stupid.

Cooking food in a bag is stupid.

Awful chaffing is what the magazines never show you.

Awful chaffing is what the magazines never show you.

They also don't show you leaves and mud coming out of a pump.

They also don’t show you leaves and mud coming out of a pump.

I soon had bigger problems then chaffing.  I acquired a subscription to Backpacker Magazine.  I acquired a membership in the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.  Worst of all, I started borrowing Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker Memoirs from my mother-in-law.

First, it was just one – Southbound.  Written by a pair of sisters who thru-hiked the whole trail… barefoot.  Obviously crazy people.  Then I read their other book – Walking Home..  Because what better way to recover from a thru hike than to turn around and go back?  At some point, I stopped borrowing and started buying –  Jeff Alt’s wonderful “A Walk for Sunshine” where he raises money for the home his disabled brother lives in and Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods”.  I read the classics – “Walking With Spring” by Earl Schaffer (first man to ever thru-hike) and Appalachian Hiker – Adventure of a Lifetime by Ed Garvey (first published thru hiker memoir… wife got it for a quarter at a yard sale).  I even went out to see Paul Molyneaux  and his son talk about their thru-hike (his son Asher was 9 when they finished.  Yes, 9.)

This might be a bad sign.  Also, they are totally awesome people and super nice.  I highly suggest following their facebook pag - the Barbarian Utopia.

This might be a bad sign. Also, they are totally awesome people and super nice. I highly suggest following their facebook page – the Barbarian Utopia.  Buy their book!  Buy their book!

And then one day, you find yourself at 10,000 + feet elevation, starting a six day adventure that you aren’t entirely sure you’ll last one day on.

Really, really high up.

Really, really high up.

And it's a long way down.

And it’s a long way down.

But day by day, you do it, even if you think you can’t.

Spotting moose grazing over your campsite.

Spotting moose grazing over your campsite.

Watching amazing sunsets over alpine lakes that you couldn't get to any other way.

Watching amazing sunsets over alpine lakes that you couldn’t get to any other way.

Encountering places you couldn't have imagined existed.

Encountering places you couldn’t have imagined existed.

Inching over glacier covered trails.  Then sweating as your kids do.

Inching over glacier covered trails.

And the sights are amazing, and the experiences are amazing, but more amazing part is the people you share it with.

Old friends.

whether it’s old friends.

Especially when said old friends refrain from breaking their foot this time.

Especially when said old friends refrain from breaking their foot this time.

Or folks with everything ahead of them.

Or folks with everything ahead of them.

These are the times, places, and people that you’ll think about until you’re old and gray.  And somewhere along the line, what you hated has become what you love.  I assure you, it isn’t any less stupid than it used to be (it’s really, really stupid).  And it doesn’t hurt any less than it used to.  But you’ve caught the bug.

It's views out the window of your tent.

It’s views out the window of your tent (Sunfish Pond).

It long climbs up hills to beautiful views.
It long climbs up hills to beautiful views on the AT.

It's the experiences that don't happen to normal people.  Like the time we almost walked into a bear.  You don't see the four people behind me, glad that I'm at the front.  Because I didn't zoom in here, I was too busy getting ready to run for it.

It’s the experiences that don’t happen to normal people. Like the time we almost walked into a bear. You don’t see the four people behind me, glad that I’m at the front. Because I didn’t zoom in here, I was too busy getting ready to run for it.

And before you know it, that pain in the neck kid who forced you to backpack is backpacking with you… only he’s not a kid anymore… and you invited him along.  Sure, you’ll blame him as you walk clear across Maryland, but it’s your own fault by this point.

Because I can't see this at home.

Because I can’t see this at home.

And middle aged women who take your picture will tell their disbelieving children that people will put a pack on a go for a walk for days or weeks at a time.
And middle aged women who take your picture will tell their disbelieving children that people will put a pack on a go for a walk for days or weeks at a time… for fun!

And by the end of your little 45 mile walk, you're already thinking about your next one.

And by the end of your little 45 mile walk, you’re already thinking about your next one.

So why do I love thru-hiker season?  Each new year, thousands of folks set out to walk the AT because they’ve  caught the bug.  As the kid and I are stuck inside the apartment on another ridiculously freezing day, or I’m at work dealing with another crazy day, there’s a place deep inside that is super excited, because once again, folks are setting off from Springer Mountain.  Once again, day by day, mile by mile, they are having an adventure of a lifetime while inching ever closer to the end at Mt. Katahdin.  I might never get to go, but out there this very moment, other people are, and that’s amazing.

This year, I’m following a few of them, and you can too.  None of them have paid me off, but if they want to retroactively, I won’t argue with them:

Beau – “Water Tower Graffiti – on the trail already for a bit more than a week

Kristin and Eric – “Trail Mix and Dirty Underwear” -  – a couple on on the trail for over two weeks already.

Sarah – “Appalachian Trail 2014″ – starting her hike today (Saturday)!

Dr. Dave Rough - Hike It Forward – Hiking the trail starting in another month and half.  He’s hiking because it’s awesome, but also to help raise money for scholarships for needy students to attend Christian Schools in Ohio.

All have interesting blogs so far, so I’d imagine they are going to stay pretty interesting.  Best of luck to all of them!

Grand Teton National Park - Wyoming.  Best Scout trip ever.

Grand Teton National Park – Wyoming. Best Scout trip ever.

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Long Bridge Park – Hainsport, NJ

Rancocas Creek... so we meet again...

Rancocas Creek… so we meet again…

Long Bridge County Park – Hainspoirt, Burlington County, NJ
Distance: 2.5 miles of trails (I did 3 miles by being a little OCD and walking every bit of every trail, which required some overlap)
Type: Intersecting loops and lollipops.
Difficulty: 2 of 10.
Total score: 5 of 10.

Terrain – woods, marsh, river.

Trailheads –  39° 59.528′N,  74° 48.909′W

All trails lead from the parking lot.  And the neighborhood next door.  But go into the park and use the parking lot.

All trails lead from the parking lot. And the neighborhood next door. But go into the park and use the parking lot.  Get map from board.

Directions: County Road 541, Hainesport, NJ 08036

Standouts – beautiful swamp views, well maintained trail system, nice river area.

Markings – Trails well marked with posts and painted blazes.  Signs at every intersection.

Signs at intersections.

Signs at intersections.

Marks on trees.

Marks on trees.

Map:

This is a map.  Found it pretty accurate.

This is a map. Found it pretty accurate.  You can get one at the trailhead at the board.

Surface: everything at some point – wood bridges, gravel, dirt, grass, sand, pavement.

Description: It was just too nice today to go home and take care of the house, so it was exploring time instead!   This is a very nice park that has no idea what it’s doing.  It has every type of trail except sheer rock – boardwalk, mud, dirt, sand, gravel, paved, stone, and grass.  It will be a hardwood forest one second, a glimpse of the pine barrens the next.  It has trails that are super finished (yellow trail) and trails that are rustic (orange trail).  It feels like a million miles away, and also goes almost into people’s backyards.  It has rough benches and super-nice picnic area pavilions.

Fortunately, I had a pretty awesome case of ADD, so I took it in stride.  I decided to walk every bit of every trail, because it was 65 degrees out today and I really didn’t want to get to back into the car, and so I did.  A more reasonable hike would be thus (probably around two miles, use the map to help you!):

From the parking lot, cross the road onto the red trail and take the trail perpendicular to the road.  This will quickly put you on a lovely, recycled bridge.

Very well built and recycled.

Very well built and recycled.

At the first intersection, take a right to stay on the red trail.  Check for the bench on the right, across from the picnic area.  There is a nice swamp to check out.

Hopefully less ice when you go.

Hopefully less ice when you go.

Backtrack to the intersection that you just left and take the blue trail this time.  Almost immediately, take the orange trail to the right.

This will lead you down a nice bit of wooded section.  Keep an eye out for the wildlife blind on the left, and maybe check it out.

Orange trail

Orange trail

Nice day.

Nice day.

Wildlife blind.

Wildlife blind.

The orange trail will go near the baseball fields, then loop around for the payoff – the swamp.  Swamps are awesome.

Boardwalk.

Boardwalk.

Swamp of awesomeness.

Swamp of awesomeness.

At the end of the orange trail, make left onto the blue trail, then stay right at the fork (both left and right fork are blue trail).  This will keep you near the river/swamp areas.  There are a few decent views on the right side through the trees.

Blue Trail.

Blue Trail.

Also blue trail.

Also blue trail.

Weird half tree on the blue trail.

Weird half tree on the blue trail.

Just for fun, the blue trail will again intersect with, you guessed it, the blue trail.  At a “t”.  Meaning the blue trail goes three directions.  You want to take a right toward the gravel, which will almost immediately link up with the yellow trail.  Make a right onto the yellow trail, then stay right at the immediately split.  You’ll walk the yellow trail trail in a loop back to where the trail split.  This section might be the nicest in the park, culminating with a great view of the Rancocas Creek proper.

Yellow Trail from pretty much it's intersection with the blue trail.

Yellow Trail from pretty much it’s intersection with the blue trail.

Rancocas Creek from the Yellow Trail.

Rancocas Creek from the Yellow Trail.

When you get back to the yellow trail, stay right to backtrack where you’ve been, hitting that gravel intersection where the blue trail came in.  This time, stay on the yellow trail.  In a short bit, you’ll intersect with the orange trail again.  I suggest taking a left onto the orange trail, because this was the most “rugged” section of trail I came across (rugged is a relative term, my two year old would easily be able to do this without taxing himself).  It’s a nice, wooded bit with a bit of a hill to the right side of you.

Yellow Trail.

Yellow Trail.

Orange trail (this section).

Orange trail (this section).

At the end of this, you’ll be at the same blue/orange/red intersection that you hit at the very beginning of your hike.  Make the right onto the red trail, walk back across the bridge, and you’ll be back at the parking lot.

Or feel free to completely ignore my suggestions and go your own way.  It’s a nice park to explore!

Nice playground and picnic pavilions.

Nice playground and picnic pavilions.

I took a bunch of pictures of these, so you have to look at one now so I feel as if I didn't waste my time.

I took a bunch of pictures of these, so you have to look at one now so I feel as if I didn’t waste my time.

Overall recommendation: Nice place to spend an hour!  Took me 20 minutes to get here, was well worth the drive to wander on a beautiful day.

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Timber Creek Trails – Glendora, NJ

Is Spring here yet?

Is Spring here yet?

Timber Creek Trails – Timber Creek Park – Glendora, Camden County, NJ
Distance: Varies greatly, we hiked about three miles this day, with a stop the mandatory stop at the playground.
Type: Interlocking loops
Difficulty: 3 of 10.
Total score: 7 of 10.

Terrain – Hilly, nice views of the creek.

Trailhead -  All trails lead from the parking lot – 39° 49.901′N,  75° 3.460′W

Trailhead toward the dog run.

Trailhead toward the dog run.

Map:

Here it is.  Good luck making sense of it!

Here it is. Good luck making sense of it!

Directions: Chews Landing Road, Glendora, NJ

Promotional Video: Sure

Standouts – Timber Creek, beautiful groves of trees, lovely nature walk.  Also a jogging track and a playground for those less

Markings – Cute little signs.

Adorable!  Couldn't keep track of where they were going, cut cute makes up for it.

Adorable! Couldn’t keep track of where they were going, cut cute makes up for it.

Description: So, we hiked this LAST Spring when winter was coming to an end, but I couldn’t find my pictures.  But today, I did.  So 11 months after the fact… Timber Creek Park!  We can all do ourselves a favor, pretend it’s a few weeks later than it is and that Spring has arrived (it’s MUCH easier to pretend that this weekend with the beautiful temperatures).

timbercreek01

To start, this might be the best county park in Camden County for hiking.  It’s more secluded, has WAY more of a wilderness factor than other parks like Greenwold, Cooper River Park, Pennypacker, or any of the other lovely-but-not-particularly-woodsy parks in the Camden County Park system.  We had no idea how to follow the trail map, but the wife, the Pres, and I had a great time wandering the many trails back.

timbercreek03

This is the part where I describe where we went.  Except that I have no idea.  We were on a trail with a little duck on it, and one with a turtle.  We went most of the way around the fenced in dog park.  We saw the creek, some trees in bloom, and waved to dog dogs.  We went three miles according to my handy GPS ap (helpful when there is no trail map) and there was definitely a whole end of the park that we didn’t see.  It was awesome, and we’ll be back!

Well made trails.

Well made trails.

Many thanks to Jo Ann (whose wonderful blog on South Jersey History can be found here) for pointing me in this direction sooner than I would have gone otherwise!

timbercreek07

Overall recommendation: Best park in Camden County so far by a long shot!  Definitely recommended!

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