I recently ventured out to hike the Batona Trail on Thursday morning from The Lebanon State Forest office (Ong's hat) to Bass River. I got motivated by reading other posts on the trail and decided to pack my gear and see for myself what the trail had to offer. As an educator I have the summer months off and everyone I know had to be at work so I decided to go on a solo mission through the NJ Pines.
The start of the trail through Pakim pond was a nice little stretch of narrow trails wrapping around Pakim pond and across route 72. Pakim pond provided beautiful scenery and one of the best restrooms I have ever seen in the woods. The camp site had a water pump to fill up before hiking out to the next camp site at Batona.
I crossed 72 and was greeted with hoots and hollers from motorists on there way to LBI, it made me feel like a rock star and gave me some extra motivation to venture further into the wilderness.
The trail continued up a wide dirt road, which was being worked on as I tramped along. I passed the Hedger House to my left, a beautiful logged house that is on the Batona map I had but I am not sure what the landmark represents. I believe it might be a meeting area for a hiking group or a rest stop for scouts hiking through. i am not really sure. Anyone know? I would have loved to take a dip in their in-ground pool.
The trail was well marked with its pink blazes but I did get lost passing an old trailer park and had to back track about a mile. I discovered this as I entered someones back yard off of the trail I was on. I eventually made my way to Apple Pie Hill and took a few pics of the tower. The view was nice but the sand floor was littered with smashed tvs, glass bottles and graffiti was written all over the tower. To say the least, it wasn't really that impressive.
My intentions were to hike up to the first camp, the Batona camp. I made it there and was able to re-fill my hydration pack and my water bottle from the well. The first person I ran into was at this camp. I met John as he was collecting fire wood for his camp. He was a vet and had his yamaha 850 cycle attached to his rain fly. He told me some interesting stories about how he hangs out and waits for campers so he can help with their tents. He began to get a little weird and seemed off, so I ventured up to the Carrenza memorial to take some pictures.
Instead of camping the night I decided to hike up to the Lower Forge Camp and stay there for the night. The hike was mostly flat with a few up hill and down hill trails. I didn't see another hiker until I reached the camp site. I ran in to 3 teachers from Pinelands HS who had about 7 students out on a canoe trip. I set camp and introduced myself. As soon as the kids knew my name (Bill) they started in with the "Bill Nye the Science Guy song" for about 45 min. They were fun. we all swam in the cedar water creek and had a good time. I made them a fire with my flint and in return they gave me 3 bottles of ice cold water from their cooler. YES! What a treat that was.
The night was beautiful. A full moon cascading through the pines and into my tent made a perfect night to catch some Z's before hiking down to Batsto camp grounds. I wasn't sure if I was going to trek down towards Batsto because I kept getting tornado warnings for the area i was in but not until later in the afternoon, so I humped my 35lb pack down to Batsto. I saw my friends off as they left on their canoe trip, broke down my camp and set off.
At this time the blisters on my feet were annoying me. I stopped and put the mole skin on several toes, ankles and heels. The mole skin helped out and I was feeling refreshed on the trail. It is sometimes hard when you are by yourself and motivation is lacking to carry forward in the pain you are experiencing. My brother would text me saying, "go forward dude, when do you get the chance to do this kind of thing? I'm at work playing with my nut". with that said, i was a little more motivated to carry on, despite the burning in my legs, back and neck. My pack has the tendency to leave bruises on my hips and cut in to me.Not pleasant.
I finally made it to the Batsto sign, which said 6.9 miles or so. i rested there for a minute, took a picture and returned to walking through. Almost out of water and desperately awaiting the view of the Batsto office and camp grounds a bus came passing by with a bunch of kayaks and a load of girls! They stopped and chatted with me for about 5 minutes then started to unload at the bridge there. We spoke about the bad weather approaching and the possibilities of a tornado cruising through tabernacle.
I finally made it to Batsto and found the people inside the office to be ignorant to the surrounding area. I had some questions about trail, camp sites, mileage, water pumps and so on, but no one could answer me. They wouldn't let me even fill up in the bathroom. I was sitting there drinking gatorade, which i bought from a vending machine (2 bottles)and a man came walking by to go into the office. I stopped him and asked him where could I get water and where could I camp for the night. He mentioned a few camp sites off of the trail about 5-6 miles off of the trail, which didn't really interest me. I just wanted to get to Bass River. My feet were bleeding at this point, not to mention the rash i developed and I seriously could not walk another step. He told me that he would drive me to any camp site I wanted. So I jumped in his car and he took me to three sites where he had friends. we searched for water and a place to crash. He eventually drove me to Bass River and dropped me off.
I found Bass River to be disappointing to say the least. I made reservations to camp for the night and then was asked for $20. I didn't have the money on me and the girl asked me to leave. Unreal! The ranger stopped me and asked if I was going to camp for the night and I told him I didn't have the $$$ for the site. He grinned and drove off but everywhere I went from that point on, there he was in his truck spying me. it began to get very annoying.I humped it over to the beach and set down at the concession stand. I made friends with the family who ran it for the summer and they fed me really well. i had a cheeseburger, fries and a coke. It was exactly what the doctor ordered. The ranger parked his truck there and watched as I devoured my meal.
I hung out for awhile, relaxed with Nicole and her mom and daughter while I waited for my ride to pick me up. I didn't have a car down there to take back. I just made a call and my dad drove an hour to grab me to take me back to Ong's Hat. We actually drove right into the storm (tornado) they were calling for all day and it was crazy. Wind, rain and no visibility (fun) Anyway, the trip wasn't all that good and wasn't all that bad. I could have prepared better and could have avoided the rash and blisters. Next time. the worse part was picking over 35 tics from my legs, stomach and arms. I'm still picking them off as I am writing this. I got tagged by mosquitoes so much that I am swollen. If I decide to go again it will not be in the summer months. I think October/November will be a whole lot better out there.
I have been on long hikes in the past, most recently, hiking 60 miles in towards Mt, Whitney then taking the mountaineer's route to the summit and this was less strenuous but presented so many outs that it almost took all the adventure out of it. However, not seeing anyone on the trail was during my time out there was a nice change from hiking trails like the AT, which are over crowded at places.
If you like hiking flat sand trails and don't mind tics, or mosquitoes, then go for it....For me, it was too much of the same scenery everywhere you looked. I think next time I'm going to put the mountain bike out there and just go fast.