Category Archives: Backpacking

State Parks Closed!? Beautiful alternatives for hiking in South Jersey!

So New Jersey has shut down its state parks until… well, we don’t know when (see the full list of closures ).  My only comment about this is “Ladies and gentlemen, your state government at work!”  And we’ll leave it at that.

The good news?  County, local, and private parks to the rescue!  Below is a sampling of parks and trails that are open for business as usual (note that this list is not definitive, just some of my favorites).  So shake your fists collectively in anger toward Trenton, then work out that anger by going for a beautiful hike this weekend anyway!

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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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Two days to complete the Batona Trail = terrible idea. Also, fun!

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So, I had the worst idea I’ve had in at least the last several months… why not do the Batona Trail in two days?

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South Jersey Outdoor Clubs!

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So folks reading this absurd blog routinely tell me they are a bit worried about hiking, canoeing, or otherwise adventuring alone.  They wish there was a group they could go with.  Well, there are lots of them!

Outdoor Club of South Jersey – hiking, backpacking, camping, canoeing, kayaking, biking, and more, both in South Jersey and in nearby areas, as well as trail maintenance. While I’ve never been a member, I know folks who have been and they love it.  You can try a hike or canoe/kayaking trip for free (except for any costs associated with the trip) before having to register as a member ($20 for an individual or $25 for a family as of 2016).

Gloucester County Nature Club and meetup.com group – holding two activities each month (mostly hikes), one for families and one open to anyone.  All activities are open to the public, but I encourage you to join up if you find yourself attending a few of them ($20 if receiving an electronic newsletter, $25 if you want a print one). Did a hike with this group at Ceres Park and had a blast!

Hike It Baby! Burlington County – group for parents with children to get out and hike. Multiple hikes each week. We’ve done some hikes and led some hikes with this group, great for small kids and their folks! $10 per year per family.

Evesham Cycling Club – cycling club that has regular rides. Membership (2017) is $25 per person or $40 per family. Rides are rated by speed.

And, of course, yours truly leads a few Daddy-Kid Hikes every year.

Meetup Groups:

Women Only Hiking Meetup

Crazy Monkee Hikers and Outdoors Club

Philly Women Outdoors

Outdoor Groups for Youth:

Boy Scouts of America – Cub Scouts for boys Kindergarten to 5th Grade, Boy Scouts for Boys aged 11 to 17, and Venture Crew for Boys and Girls Aged 14 to 20.

Girl Scouts of Central and Southern New Jersey – for girls aged ? to 17.

And if your son aged 11-17 is looking to try some backpacking, hiking, canoeing, and camping, he can always come join the Boy Scout troop I run – Troop 48 – Berlin, NJ. Camping every month of the year and more backpacking than any troop in the area!  Who better to have in charge of a troop from that old person who hangs out with The Pres and Tree Rider on that internet hiking type site? If your son aged 5 to 10 is looking for hiking and camping, well, one more year until The Pres is old enough for Cub Scouts…

If you know other groups out in South Jersey or want to get on the e-mail list for future Daddy-Kid Hikes, please comment below or e-mail me at southjerseytrails@gmail.com so I can add them to the list!  Please make sure suggestions are based in South Jersey!

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

Across the Roof of New Jersey – Day 3 – Pochuck Shelter to Wawayanda State Park

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Backpacking Across the Roof of New Jersey – Day 3 – Pochuck Shelter  to Wawayanda (Hewitt, NJ)
Type: One way (either direction)
Hours: Open 24 hours

Distance: 12.2 miles (11.7 on the AT), 26.1 trail miles total, and maybe another mile in side trails  (3 days)
Difficulty: 9 of 10.
Total score: 10 of 10

Terrain – Mountains, forests, swamps, streams, fields, cows, and cows

Trailheads –
Start – Pochuck Shelter – roughly –  41°16’5.60″N,  74°30’31.72″W
End – Northern Trailhead (side trail at parking atea to the AT) –  41°11’53.75″N,  74°23’50.32″W

Parking – Parking available at Wawayanda and High Point State Parks.  At each park, you must register with the park ahead of time to overnight park.  Offices closes at 4 PM, so plan accordingly!

Standouts: Huge variety of trail conditions, Vernon Boardwalk Trail, “Stairway to Heaven”, amazing views including Pinwheel’s Vista.

Markings – The famous white blaze.

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Across the Roof of New Jersey – Day 2 – High Point Shelter to Pochuck Shelter

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Backpacking Across the Roof of New Jersey – The Appalachian Trail from High Point (Sussex, NJ)  to Wawayanda (Hewitt, NJ)
Type: One way (either direction)
Hours: Open 24 hours

Distance: 12.6 miles (12.4 trail miles on the AT) (26.1 trail miles total, and maybe another mile in side trails  – 3 days)
Difficulty: 7 of 10.
Total score: 10 of 10

Terrain – Mountains, forests, swamps, streams, fields

Start – High Point Shelter – 41.31575,-74.65725
End – Pochuck Shelter – roughly –  41°16’5.60″N,  74°30’31.72″W

Parking – For our parking and shuttle plan, see our Day 1 plan

Standouts: Vernie Swamp, beautiful views across fields

Markings – The famous white blaze.

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Across the Roof of New Jersey – Day 1 – Set up and High Point

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Backpacking Across the Roof of New Jersey – The Appalachian Trail from High Point (Sussex, NJ)  to Wawayanda (Hewitt, NJ)
Day 1 – Set up and High Point Parking Area to High Point Shelter
Type: One way (either direction)
Hours: Open 24 hours

Distance: 2.7 miles (1.7 on the AT) on day 1.  26.1 trail miles total, and maybe another mile in side trails  (3 days)
Overall difficulty: 7 of 10.
Total score: 10 of 10 (this section – 8 of 10)

Terrain – Mountain!

Set up information:

Trailheads this trip – Southern Trailhead –  41°18’9.33″N,  74°40’3.90″W (Hikers lots on Route 23 in High Point State Park)
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High Point Shelter – 41.31575,-74.65725
Pochuck Shelter – roughly –  41°16’5.60″N,  74°30’31.72″W
Northern Trailhead (side trail at parking atea to the AT) –  41°11’53.75″N,  74°23’50.32″W

Parking – Parking available at Wawayanda and High Point State Parks.  At each park, you must register with the park ahead of time to overnight park.  Offices closes at 4 PM, so plan accordingly!

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Hiker parking lot at High Point State Park.

Standouts day 1: High Point monument and viewing platform before the monument

Markings – The famous white blaze.

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