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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