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b s
(smyth) - F
Batona Trail (NJ) on 03/25/2009 12:59:09 MDT Print View

Ahhh, Jersey. I love my home state, but aside from a few gems in the northwestern reaches, it isn't exactly a hiker's paradise. This past weekend I set out on the Batona Trail, a 50-mile path through the heart of the Pinelands National Preserve. There is little written about this trail which I stumbled upon during a day hike a few years back. Finally catching a window of opportunity, I decided to give it a go and see what it had to offer.

Batona1

I set out this past Sunday evening from Bass River State Park. The first six miles of trail mostly followed dirt roads through dense forest passing the occasional stream or pond.

Batona3

As the sun got low I found a spot to stealth for the night near the border of Wharton State Forest. Officially, the trip requires a permit and camping is only allowed at designated campsites. However, with the park office closed on Sundays in the off-season and with the designated campsites situated more than 25 miles from the southern trailhead, I decided to take my chances.

I slept the first night under the stars as the forecast was clear. Night time lows were in the upper 20s and I awoke to ice in my platys. I stayed pleasantly warm in a silk baselayer, WM Megalite, and Vapr bivy. I was happy to see only slight condensation near the inside top of the bivy where I had presumably been exhaling all night. The rest of the bivy and my bag stayed perfectly dry.

Vapr Bivy1

Not much change in scenery during day two. The trail is incredibly flat with only a few hundred feet of elevation gain along its length. The trail itself is mostly wide and sandy and makes for easy miles. I'd estimate that 50% of the trail is designated "footpath only" and is connected together by a loose network of dirt roads, motor bike trails, fire breaks, and paved roadways.

Batona2

Daytime highs were in the upper 40s and low 50s. I found walking in my BPL merino hoody and Houdini to be the most comfortable combo and provided great temperature regulation as I hiked in and out of shade and as the breeze came and went. After the easiest 24-mile day of my life, I found another nice spot to set up camp for night two. The wind had picked up so I set up my BMW Stealth Nano for a little added protection. Temps again dipped into the 20s. A small length of dental floss helped lift the bivy away from my face and eliminated the condensation observed during the first night.

Batona4

After a quick few miles the next morning, I reached the Apple Pie Hill fire tower, the only vista on the trip. Unfortunately the tower was locked but great views could be had from the upper staircase landings. Pitch Pines as far as the eye could see.

Batona5

The remaining fifteen miles included lots of road crossings, hiking adjacent to residential backyards, and a few miles of road walk.

Batona6

However, among these unfortunately inescapable Jersey trail features were a few peaceful little ponds and some nice sections of trail in Brendan Byrne SF.

Batona7

I reached my car at the northern terminus Tuesday afternoon. Fifty miles of Pinelands in under 48 hours. You can make that kind of time when the walking is easy and there aren't too many things to stop and see. It was nice little escape from everyday suburbia. The weather was good, the insects were few, and the omnipresent hum of tractor trailers faded out at times. What else could you ask for in Jersey?

Overall, the trail is what it is. The brochure boasts that "The Batona Trail was planned as a wilderness trail, and it is exactly that." Sure, at times you feel like you're alone in the woods, but I would hardly consider this a wilderness experience. I wouldn't expect anyone to hop the next flight to ACY and hit the trailhead, but I can see a few practical uses for anyone living nearby:

1) Dayhiking. The wide and level trails would make for nice day trips with the kids or others not looking to stray too far from civilization. The sections around Batsto Village in Wharton SF would be ideal for this as you could make several loops with other side trails.

2) Shakedowns. This would be a great weekend trip for an ULer to test their gear and stretch their legs without burning oneself out prior to a long trip.

3) Winter. The wide flat trail would be ideal for an extended snowshoe or cross country ski trips (well, if it ever snowed that is). Several inches of snow would also help to cover up the tire tracks and random litter that take away some of the enjoyment of the trail.

Edited by smyth on 03/26/2009 15:37:21 MDT.

Brian Markey
(bmlaw) - MLife

Locale: Northeast
Batona Trail on 03/25/2009 18:43:59 MDT Print View

Nice report Brad!

Joe Geib
(joegeib) - F

Locale: Delaware & Lehigh Valleys
Re: Batona Trail on 03/26/2009 10:15:35 MDT Print View

Awesome TR. My wife and I are from NJ, and her family is from Gloucester County. I definitely need to check this out. I've heard about it before, but never really read a nice TR about it.

Maybe even do a DIAD trip? Start early, end late.

b s
(smyth) - F
Batona Trail DIAD on 03/26/2009 21:56:19 MDT Print View

Thanks guys. This was my first trip out this year and I was easily doing 3+ mph on this trail with my gear. I'd think if your legs were ready for a long day, it could easily be DIAD.

Joe Geib
(joegeib) - F

Locale: Delaware & Lehigh Valleys
Re: Batona Trail (NJ) on 04/09/2009 09:00:44 MDT Print View

I've got some time off work coming, and I'm thinking about giving this a shot. According to the TR, you did it in under 48 hours, but it was actually 2 nights out? You started like late on a Friday and finished on a Sunday? Can it be done in 2 days, like start early Saturday, and finish Sunday?

How did you arrange the shuttle? I got the "maps" from the NJ State Parks. Any other maps out there?

Thanks.

b s
(smyth) - F
Re: Re: Batona Trail (NJ) on 04/09/2009 10:58:29 MDT Print View

Exactly. I started late on a Sunday and was finished early Tuesday afternoon. If you got an early start on Saturday, finishing Sunday evening shouldn't be a problem.

The only map I had was that NJ State Parks two sided fold up pamphlet with five map sections. The trail is fairly well blazed (pink) but you just have to keep your head up. It crosses so many dirt roads, fire breaks, and other trails that a few times I walked an extra hundred yards or so because I missed a turn off. It's pretty easy to follow though. Following the blazes might be more of a problem in mid-summer when foliage fills in.

As far as a shuttle, I parked my car at the north end (Ong's Hat) and my gf drove me down to Bass River SP. I live about 20 minute from Ong's Hat so I might be able to do the same if you need a ride.

On a side note, make sure you check yourself for ticks. I found a couple on me a few weeks back and from what I hear they can be pretty bad in that area during peak season.

Joe Geib
(joegeib) - F

Locale: Delaware & Lehigh Valleys
Re: Re: Re: Batona Trail (NJ) on 04/09/2009 11:02:52 MDT Print View

Thanks for the elaborated info. I may take you up on the shuttle offer.

Nathan Baker
(Slvravn) - MLife

Locale: East Coast - Mid Atlantic
Re: Re: Re: Re: Batona Trail (NJ) on 04/10/2009 06:50:25 MDT Print View

Joe,

Just to reinforce part of what Brad stated - BEWARE OF TICKS DURING PEAK SEASON. I have been through that area many times and deer ticks in South Jersey are plentiful once the weather starts warming up.
Sounds like an interesting DIAD, but it would probably work better as a 2 nighter. Water is not scarce on the trail with pumps in certain campsites and a few flowing water sources (Mullica River)to collect from so you may be able to drop your water weight a bit.

Joe Geib
(joegeib) - F

Locale: Delaware & Lehigh Valleys
Re: Batona Trail (NJ) on 04/10/2009 12:44:53 MDT Print View

Being from NJ, and having Lyme last summer, I'm well aware about ticks - especially in the Pine Barrens. I wish I could get out now to do it (lower tick count), but if anything, I'd have to wait until May or so.

This is a well-established trail, and often along fire roads. How can one pick up so many ticks? My guess is not from brushing your side against foliage, but more from the stalks of grass. Unless they just jump off the trees. I'd probably wear pants anyway.

b s
(smyth) - F
Batona Trail (NJ) on 04/10/2009 15:23:02 MDT Print View

Although the trail is mostly sandy and wide, some sections do narrow and you'll be brushing up against the undergrowth. I'm not sure how well the trail is maintained but I'd think that will be more of an issue as the foliage starts to fill in over the next few weeks. Also, if you choose to stealth, there aren't too many clearings in which to set up. You'll likely be bushwacking off trail a few hundred yards through some dense stuff. If you're going to hit the Batona Camp or one of the other established sites, that won't be an issue.

As far as water, there are plenty of streams. The pumps at the Batona Camp and Pakim Pond picnic area were not working a few weeks back but probably only because it was offseason.

Chris Morgan
(ChrisMorgan) - F

Locale: Southern Oregon
Batona this weekend on 12/16/2009 21:43:33 MST Print View

Last minute - I'm probably going to do Batona this weekend (Sat and Sun, maybe Friday night) since I am back in Jersey and I've always been curious about it. If anyone is interested, shoot me a PM.

CM

george carr
(hammer-one) - F

Locale: Walking With The Son
Re:Batona this weekend on 12/17/2009 17:32:34 MST Print View

We're supposed to get snow Friday/Saturday, so come prepared for wet and cold :).

Chris Morgan
(ChrisMorgan) - F

Locale: Southern Oregon
...1060 on 12/18/2009 18:12:27 MST Print View

KYW said up to 6 inches. I think I'm going to postpone until the week after new years.

Jason Lee
(jasonthelee) - F
Re: Batona Trail (NJ) on 12/19/2009 12:27:07 MST Print View

Wow! This brings back memories......I used to live in South Jersey from 1993-2004 and the Batona Trail was really the only "long" trail in the area. Never got to thru-hike it but did section hikes. Just a word of warning to anyone hiking out there in late spring, I did a 15 mile section hike one day and started counting the first ticks I pulled off of my body. By time I made it home and stripped down I was up to 163. I probably found more than that on my dog. So winter is a great time of year to be out there.

george carr
(hammer-one) - F

Locale: Walking With The Son
RE:...1060 on 12/19/2009 23:10:28 MST Print View

Shows what they know - I've got 16" on my deck with 3 foot drifts in the yard. The trail would be awfully pretty right about now, but don't forget your snowshoes :).

Edited by hammer-one on 12/19/2009 23:10:58 MST.

Andrew Wilson
(andreww) - MLife

Locale: Vosges
Batona ticks on 12/22/2009 09:58:01 MST Print View

I did the Batona in 2007 at the end of May. Foolishly setting out in shorts, my buddy and I flicked off 400+ (not a typo) ticks from our legs in the first three hours. That's just the big ones we saw; the little ones we had to deal with later, and in private. I feel lucky not to have picked up Lyme's disease. The trail is frequently encroached by various bushes.

It was not the right time of year to avoid ticks, to be sure. But any time hiking in the woods in NJ I'd recommend permethrin treated pants tucked into likewise treated socks. Remember, deer ticks were named by deer hunters who were surprised to be picking up ticks in hunting season; they are active year round.

Hugh MacMullan
(hughamacmullaniv) - F
DIAD & Chiggers on 08/03/2012 15:08:18 MDT Print View

DIADed it last year (failed with a wonky foot a couple of years before that). Noon to 8am at a leisurely pace.

Track here:

http://www.attackpoint.org/sessiondata.jsp?sessionid=1830004

Main reason I wanted to post was regarding ticks and CHIGGERS. Wear long pants, preferably with gaiters, and lather on the DEET! First attempt in shorts I got slaughtered, second attempt with those precautions I had none of either.

I have a nice PDF map with the trail if you are interested, as well as a GPX track.

As has been mentioned, it's a bit underwhelming view-wise, but read McPhee's The Pine Barrens first and you will enjoy the history. A great, gentle shakedown DIAD.