Corrections or additions?
These articles were prepared for the May 12, 2004 issue of U.S. 1
Newspaper. All rights reserved.
From the Temple of Literati, a Trek into the Heart of the
The books are still there, arranged in stacks, but everything else
about the Princeton Public Library is new. If you enter from the main
door and wander through the building, you see that one half – the half
that looks out on Witherspoon Street – ricochets with light and
energy. Light pours in from the huge windows through the glass-walled
staircases. Shaped like the prows of a boat with steel columns for
masts, the staircases float in a space that opens, like an atrium, to
the third floor.
At the opposite end from the entrance, where the windows look out over
Princeton Cemetery, the pace slows. Here are the chairs for
contemplative reading, and even a gas fireplace. On the second floor,
a glassed-in corner conference room is visible from the ground floor
entrance. In that same corner on the third floor, the architects
carved out a glassed-in round room for story time. The windows on that
floor open out onto a terrace with tables and umbrellas overlooking
In the middle of each floor are the book stacks, and once you are in
them, everything seems to quiet down. The first floor has fiction and
multimedia, and the second floor has nonfiction and biographies. The
third floor is dedicated to children’s books and media, with a special
corner for teens.
Even quieter is the space on the far wall, the wall opposite
Witherspoon Street, where rooms with glass walls are labeled "group
study." Two are on the third floor and four on the second floor. One
can imagine a myriad of uses for these rooms, from children doing
homework to a nonprofit committee meeting to a job interview. The
rules for reserving the rooms are still in flux, says a library
spokesperson, as are the guidelines for using the snazzy-looking
conference room or the J. Seward Johnson Community Room. Both will
require a fee.
Computers for surfing and looking up book locations are sprinkled
everywhere, as are the commissioned art works, including the huge
mosaic wall that incorporates hundreds of Princeton memories on the
first floor, the third floor aerial sculpture of E.B. White’s
trumpeter swan, and an elegant doll house. Princeton Public Library’s
renowned reference department and business reading room each have
their own spaces.
Hillier architect Nicholas Garrison (Princeton University, Class of
1980) designed the three-story, 55,000 square foot building with glass
walls so that it would feel accessible and open. "The old library was
designed to bring daylight from above but to be solid along the
street," he says. "We wanted to invite people in, so that what goes on
inside the library is part of the town’s vitality – a see and be seen
quality. But we created ways to get away from that if you wanted to."
Princeton University is providing the library with a T3 connection for
the 101 public access computers and 150 plug-in ports and
administrative computers. George and Estelle Sands, owners of Hilton
Realty, donated $5 million of the building’s $18 million cost. The
ribbon-cutting ceremony and a street party to celebrate the opening is
scheduled for Saturday, May 15, 9:30 to 5:30 p.m. See page 24 for the
complete list of events.
A first time visitor to the new building, meandering through the first
floor, not looking for anything in particular, might encounter the
sign that says "Quiet Room" and another sign that says "No laptops
please." This room, like the group study carrels, has glass windows
and a door, and armchairs for reading. The object on the far wall can
take one’s breath away. It is a layered hanging, and barely visible
through the layers is a shape. Is it a book? Yes, barely discernible,
the shape could be a book, but with the layers, it all seems very
mysterious, and it seems to say "h..u..s..h..h.."
This hanging turns out to be the work of Princeton’s Margaret Kennard
Johnson (see story page 31). It has yet to get its proper lighting,
but go and see it for yourself. See if you think it represents the
contemplative spirit that permeates the nooks and crannies of a good
— Barbara Fox
Princeton 08540. Leslie Burger, director. 609-924-9529; fax,
609-924-7937. Home page: www.princetonlibrary.org
New Jersey readers, voting for the one book to be read throughout the
state in 2004, chose a classic look at an under-appreciated part of
the state by a celebrated native – but just barely. In the One Book
New Jersey (www.onebooknewjersey.org) voting, 23 percent of
participants chose The Pine Barrens by John McPhee. Close contenders
were A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, Pay it Forward by Catherine
Ryan Hyde, and Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.
The Pine Barrens, one of the first books written by the prolific
Pulitzer Prize winner and Princeton resident, is spawning discussion
groups all over the state in the One Book New Jersey program, an
initiative of the state’s public libraries. In Princeton McPhee
himself will read from his work on May 15 at 11 a.m. at the public
When the book was published, in 1968, it received rave reviews from
publications all across the country. A Newsweek reviewer praised
McPhee’s "fine eye, great ear, and good heart." A Kansas City Star
reviewer wrote that the book "tells how this geographic anomaly has
come to be, describes its people and their distinctive folklore, and
captures something of the dreamlike quality of this incredibly quiet
land in the midst of the noisy clutter of mechanical civilization."
The Pine Barrens was the third book written by McPhee, a Princeton
native. Born in 1931, he is a graduate of Princeton University and of
Cambridge University. It would be hard to find a more appropriate
writer for a state-wide read. McPhee teaches writing at Princeton
University, and has lived in Princeton for most of his life. His first
book, A Sense of Where You Are, written in 1965, was a portrait of
Princeton basketball phenomenon – and later U.S. Senator – Bill
The author of some 30 books, McPhee received the Pulitzer Prize for
Annals of the Former World, an ambitious four-part work on the
geological history of North America. He began the work while writing
for the New Yorker, where he has been a staff writer since 1965.
An essayist with the ability to make everything from oranges to levees
to bark canoes endlessly fascinating, McPhee also excels at creating
portraits of people going their own way in a homogeneous society. In
The Pine Barrens, he blends observations of unique people and a unique
landscape. His work has helped to draw untold numbers of state
residents into the back roads that lead to the heart of a wild
treasure in the heart of the country’s most densely populated state.
Here – from the opening pages of The Pine Barrens – is how McPhee
describes the metes and bounds of this vast state treasure:
"The picture of New Jersey that most people hold in their minds is so
different from this one that, considered beside it, the Pine Barrens,
as they are called, become as incongruous as they are beautiful. West
and north of the Pine Barrens is New Jersey’s central transportation
corridor, where traffic of freight and people is more concentrated
than it is anywhere else in the world. The corridor is one great
compression of industrial shapes, industrial sounds, industrial air,
and thousands and thousands of houses webbing over the spaces between
the factories. Railroads and magnificent highways traverse this
crowded scene, and by 1985 New Jersey hopes to have added so many
additional high-speed roads that the present New Jersey Turnpike will
be quite closely neighbored by the equivalent of at least six other
turnpikes, all going in the same direction.
"In and around the New Jersey corridor, towns indistinguishably abut
one another. Of the great unbroken city that will one day reach at
least from Boston to Richmond, this section is already built. New
Jersey has nearly a thousand people per square mile – the greatest
population density of any state in the Union. In parts of northern New
Jersey, there are as many as forty thousand people per square mile. In
the central area of the Pine Barrens – the forest land that is still
so undeveloped that it can be called wilderness – there are only
fifteen people per square mile. This area, which includes about six
hundred and fifty thousand acres, is nearly as large as Yosemite
National Park. It is almost identical in size with Grand Canyon
National Park, and it is much larger than Sequoia National Park, Great
Smoky Mountains National Park, or, for that matter, most of the
national parks in the United States. The people who live in the Pine
Barrens are concentrated mainly in small forest towns, so the region’s
uninhabited sections are quite large-twenty thousand acres here,
thirty thousand acres there-and in one section of well over a hundred
thousand acres there are only twenty-one people. The Pine Barrens are
so close to New York that on a very clear night a bright light in the
pines would be visible from the Empire State Building. A line ruled on
a map from Boston to Richmond goes straight through the middle of the
Pine Barrens. The halfway point between Boston and Richmond – the
geographical epicenter of the developing megalopolis – is in the
northern part of the woods, about twenty miles from Bear Swamp Hill."
Two writers who have fallen under the spell of the Pine Barrens are
Carolyn Foote Edelman and Bart Jackson. In the articles that follow
they provide accounts of Pine Barrens pastimes – complete with
detailed driving directions.
The Pinelands have never been barren to me. Like so many readers, I
met "The Barrens" with John McPhee’s excellent book as guide. I
thrilled to his quirky characters; yearned for mysterious sandy
reaches; shuddered at the prospect of a proposed jetport. A lengthy
Smithsonian article, with vivid fall photographs, fueled my passion
for "The Pines". But every single treatise on this region was awash in
warnings about (1.) getting lost; (2.) being trapped in sugar sand;
and (3.) meeting the Jersey Devil. Over too many decades, I would
instead take myself to wild reaches of Cornwall, or Brittany’s
Finistere before setting foot[e] in the Pines.
In the decades since McPhee’s Pine Barrens first saw print, the
jetport has been canceled. Piney rumor has it that the author played
Princeton tennis with then-Governor Brendan Byrne, raising government
awareness of the Pinelands’ uniqueness.
This region, whose boundaries are ever in dispute (political?
emotional? geographical? traditional? – all of the above) was named an
International Biosphere Reserve in 1983. The designation means that
the Pinelands is of global importance. Unfortunately, this honor
arrives bearing no legislative clout. McMansions and mega schools now
worm their way into woodlands.
Astronauts are said to identify our Pine Barrens from outer space.
Beneath its unspoiled stretches percolates the Kirkwood-Cohansey
Aquifer – 17 trillion gallons of unmatched purity. In whaling days,
captains put in at Tuckerton – the Colonies’ third-most-important port
in the 1700s – for barrels of Barrens’ water. The deep red water’s
tannins negated spoilage on three-year voyages. Equally vital were
scurvy-preventing wild cranberries from nearby bogs.
Fears of becoming lost in the Pines evaporated once I became a birder.
This, the fastest growing sport in America – $2.4 billion was New
Jersey 2002 take from birders – "took me by the scruff of the neck"
sometime in the 1990s. Our state possesses any number of meccas for
the bird-obsessed. Two prime sites are in the Pines. They are Cape May
and Brigantine/Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.
Off Route 9, near Smithville, the Refuge shimmers all too close, on
non-fog days, to "the topless towers" of Atlantic City across Absecon
Bay. Even so, the Refuge’s eight-mile dike road beckons among bays and
impoundments, magnetizing in all seasons. Even in winter it is
possible to sit stunned in the car as mute swans taller than the
driver stretch and crane on the sand road outside, and a zingy great
blue heron arrows past marsh weeds to become invisible in a ditch. In
order to get to the Brig – which sometimes harbors snowy owls, catlike
on the ground; secretive king and yellow rails; and elusive American
bittern – I had to learn Pine roads.
These stretches have much to teach, not the least of which is that it
doesn’t matter if I get lost. Most important is that the journey is,
indeed, the destination. Getting to know these unique stretches of
Atlantic, Burlington, Ocean, Cape May, Camden, and Cumberland Counties
will bring nearby riches beyond wildest imagination. The Brig, for
example, is a mere 75 miles from my US1/Alexander Road apartment. "The
road not taken" is never more alluring than in this region formerly
That name was, obviously, appended by farmers, who despaired at all
that sand, with its strange pH and swift absorption of rainfall. It
took Lenni Lenapes to capitalize on cranberries, and the Whites of
Whitesbog, especially daughter Elizabeth, to render the Pines the
Cranberry Capital of the world. Elizabeth then partnered with
scientists and Pineys to create the blueberry industry. Most of this
crop throughout America now fruits from cultivars that she developed
from wild ones on all sides, each bush proffering fruit of a different
size, shape, color, texture, and taste.
How do you get to "The Pines"? How do you glean its treasures in any
season, discover new levels of mystery and solitude among gleaming
pines, sturdy little blackjack oaks, occasional groves of radiant
laurel? How to drive empty stretches of macadam (even on major
holidays!) framed by scintillations of sugar sand? Come with me.
Take Route 1 South to Route 295 South. Get off at the
Bordentown/Burlington exit, taking Route 130 at Bordentown. After
about a block, turn right/east on Route 545 (Farnsworth Avenue); and
right/south onto Route 206. After the Route 70 Circle, bear/turn left
at sign for Tabernacle. At the four-way stop (Russo’s Market ahead on
right), turn left/east onto Route 532. At Chatsworth, turn right/south
onto Route 563. Stop at Buzby’s General Store
(thepinebarrens.com/buzby_house.asp) for some refreshment in an
historic setting, and then follow Route 563 South to the turn for New
Gretna. Turn right onto Route 9/Garden State Parkway (for a stretch,
no toll) to the Smithville exit. You will have been in The Pines since
the Tabernacle turn-off.
If you’re pressed for time – and try not to be – you can catch a quick
fix with a hike around the Carranza Memorial in Tabernacle. Go
straight across Route 532 at Russo’s and keep going until you find the
pale stone tribute to a Lindbergh-era goodwill pilot who perished in a
Pinelands thunder-tempest. Trails thread in many directions and a
campground awaits. Under the boughs of Wharton Forest pines (yes, the
industrialist for whom Pennsylvania’s renowned business school is
named), you will hear nothing but the whisper of distant winds, and
the twitters of unseen birds.
In Chatsworth, current heart of the cranberry industry, nestled among
shimmering bogs, Buzby’s General Store presides. This is Pine Barrens
"Information Central," past and present. Proprietress R. Marilyn
Schmidt saved the crossroads emporium from oblivion, purchasing it at
a tax sale. She chose a Pinelands builder for the sensitive
restoration. Their efforts have just been rewarded in the form of
designation on both the New Jersey and the national Register of
Marilyn is a human dynamo with an elfin sense of humor. Beware her
answer, should you ask where to find the Jersey Devil. She does sell
his footprints, by the way. Her Morris-clone totem cat, Punkin,
actually runs this roost. People come from all over, newspaper and
magazine articles in hand, to meet the feline celebrity.
Media from as far as London have sung the praises of this site. Here
you can collect anything from hewn oak furniture of earlier days to
hand-wrought bird decoys; from strong watercolors of Pinelands
creatures to Jersey Devil cranberry hot sauce. Everything in the shop
is Pine-linked, and Marilyn has stories to go with every piece. She is
the artist behind vital oils on various walls, precise drawings in her
information-rich books, as well as the essential – and only –
Buy this no matter what, before setting out! You won’t have to worry
about becoming lost in the Pines. Anything you wonder about, such as
what Pineys think of certain cranberry barons and assorted authors and
politicians, you might just discover from the muse of Buzby’s. Music
of the Sugar Sand Ramblers or Pine Barons may be playing – and is for
sale. Marilyn can even direct you to Albert Hall, where you can hear
the locals live.
Never go to the Pines with a deadline. Too many intriguing roads lead
off in all directions. If you’re rushing, you’ll miss signs near New
Gretna to Bass River State Park, with its exquisite Lake Absegami. In
summer, lifeguards preside over cordoned swim areas. I trek around a
corner to dabble and bask in teak-dark water. Silken, electrifying –
immersion here or in Whitesbog’s back reaches or in tiny Lake Oswego
off off Route 563 – is like sinking luxuriously into champagne. You’ll
never touch chlorine again after an afternoon’s soak in
The lake is forest-fringed as in topmost Maine. Trail walks in
springtime yield a sense of magical solitude, Livingston-courage, and
determination as you bushwhack through assorted blueberry bushes. Be
sure you’re long-sleeved, long-panted, well hatted, and supplied with
water and strong bug repellent in season. More pleasurable winged
companions than ticks great and small could be the towhees and
grosbeaks murmuring on all sides.
The Pinelands is legendary for exceptional wildflowers. At Easter
time, you can discover spikes of exceeding rare golden club erupting
below the compact dam. Demi-lune beaches beckon for a short rest or a
lazy picnic. Hefty cabins with generous woodstoves are tucked under
the evergreens at various points. These can be reserved – but only
well in advance – at Absegami’s headquarters building, near the entry
Do not limit yourself to wheels and feet, however, for Pinelands
explorations. Exit your vehicle at any kayak and canoe rental,
especially Bel Haven (www.belhavencanoe.com) near the restored village
of Batsto. You will be ferried either to the luxurious and expansive
Mullica or the secretive and sinuous Wading River. The kayak is my
vessel of choice. Canoeing, of course, goes back to Lenni Lenapes,
whose land this was, although they were nomadic, for centuries before
Europeans came, saw, and conquered.
You’ll be dropped off for two,three, or even eight-hour journeys.
Rivers, unlike our D&R Canal, have currents so delightful that
kayaking is like a Disney ride. All you have to do is steer, and
occasionally back yourself out of tinkly gravelly ripples. You’ll
maneuver among old bridge abutments and under downed pines. Waders and
fisherpersons wave from dappled banks. You’ll be picked up too soon,
refreshed as never before. I have traveled to a good many of the
world’s prime recreation spots, learning that no outdoor pleasure
anywhere exceeds a day on Pinelands rivers.
Now you’ve seen a handful of my favorite sites. If you require
highways, you could catch the Garden State Parkway back where it melds
with Route 9, at New Gretna. Note Chestnut Neck Bridge – where
Revolutionary soldiers and townsfolk were bayoneted and burned in the
days of West Jersey. Piney spirit waxed, not waned, from that battle
onward. Locals intensified their harassing, appropriating, and
scuttling of British vessels, and their sabotage of the Kings’ men at
every turn. Crossroads taverns were hotbeds of Revolutionary fervor
The water skills of these natives and their indomitable valor served
George Washington well at Valley Forge and at the battles of Trenton
and Princeton. Historians insist we would not have our free country,
had locals not smuggled those cannonballs and wagon wheels forged at
Atsion and Batsto, from "Iron in the Pines."
Thank heavens for those soft pink blazes on the shaggy barked pitched
pine. Windswept isles of tawny fallen needles part before me enticing
me on. Trails stray in from all sides. Perhaps they’re old abandoned
iron roads, used for hauling chunks of dark hematite ore to
17th-century iron forges. Perhaps they’re highways for white-tailed
deer, or merely carvings by wind across this open forest floor.
Garden Staters call these pinelands the Barrens.
When the Prohibition boys came down this way in 1919, they took axes
to over 500 wineries – and that’s just the ones they could reach;
where their wheels did not get mired in the soft, sugar-white sand.
Grapes, which crave dry feet and a high water table, loved this porous
sand. So did the cranberries and blueberries. Those tough flora
venturing out into this glacially formed sand plateau either withered
quickly or absolutely flourished.
My wife, Lorraine, and I had selected the short trail segment from the
Caranza Memorial north to Apple Pie Hill. One of our favorite walks
along the Batona Trail’s 50 miles, it takes us through one of the most
scenic and varied pieces of the Pine Barrens landscape. And, amazingly
rare, it boasts a high viewpoint. After parking our car in the lot
behind the Caranza Memorial, verdantly set in Wharton State Forest,
about seven miles southeast of the village of Tabernacle, we located
the trailhead nearby.
Famed flyer Emilio Caranza, in attempting a goodwill flight from New
York to Mexico City in 1928, crashed onto this remote swatch of sand.
Thousands of Mexican school children donated pennies in order to erect
the monument. And every year an astonishingly ebullient festival
blossoms – then vanishes back into the land – to memorialize his loss.
Shortly past the wide sandy swell of the nearby Batona Campsite, the
forest closed hard around us, pushing our steps tightly on the edge of
the Skit Branch, a creek that feeds the Batsto River. At this point,
the Skit ambles as a sluggish swamp weaving around a phalanx of tall,
grey cedar pikes impaling the horizon. A hairy woodpecker hammers
vainly at one of these dead cedars, and is noisily answered by the
issue of a romantic frog, seeking mates with a moan like a knife
prying open a rusty tin can. Fragile skimmer bugs trace broad meanders
on the Skit’s glassy surface, riding just above the lurking cedar
knees, which always surprised my canoe when I was young.
Evidence of beaver gnawings have become increasingly prevalent in the
Barrens this past decade, and dams now proliferate on many creeks. But
today, as chickadees and red wings chorused in the thickets, Lorraine
spied a beaver dragging a fresh hewn birch toward his lodge. By the
time the camera shutter had clicked he was gone, and we continued
northward along the Batona’s pink blazes.
The concept of the Batona Trail sprung in 1960 from the imagination of
veteran hiker Dale Knapschaefer. By early 1961, members of
Philadelphia’s Batona (short for Back-To-Nature) Hiking Club had
readily adopted his idea and were hard at work with the State Forest
Service charting locations, gaining easements, and clearing pathways.
Today the Batona’s 50 miles runs from Route 72 at Ong’s Hat south,
then east, to Lake Absegmi in Bass River State Forest.
Eager to maintain the maximum wilderness feel, planners placed most of
its mileage within protected parks and forests. It cuts by two
accessible fire towers, several swimmable lakes, the scenic Batsto
River, and the intriguing living history of the restored iron-forging
village of Batsto. It is maintained jointly by the Batona Hiking Club
and the State Parks Service. Those interested in trail maintenance can
get more information at www.batona.com.
A mile upstream from the open Skit Branch, the sky fades under a full,
dark cedar swamp. Barrel-thick, indomitable cedars rise arrow straight
from the black waters, their bark swirling in perfect spirals. Their
scent is awesome. Beneath these masters of the grove peep swaths of
fiddlehead ferns and small yearning birches stretching from the grassy
hummocks. Well-watered vegetation thrives in primordial display.
In my own youthful logic, it always made sense that it was these huge
trees that stained the Batsto and Wading rivers’ sweet cedar water to
a deep brunette hue. They were so prevalent as I paddled by, while the
limonite and hematite, the real elements responsible for south
Jersey’s "tea-water," lay buried beneath my view. But they were not
lost on the early Jersey colonists who, as early as the 1670s,
gathered the ore and refined it in furnaces fueled by the hot-burning
pitch pine. Throughout Colonial times and into the early 19th century,
Pinelands forges such as the Batsto Iron Works supplied most of our
young nation’s iron.
Though some parts can get a bit muddy and some of the sand pathways
can engulf the feet up to the ankle, almost all of the Batona is easy
sneaker walking. You can hike it with the same swift pace you would
give the Millstone Towpath. But you will not want to. There are too
many interesting twists through too many styles of life-choked forest.
Pitch pines hem the trail tightly just beyond the cedar grove, so
dense they almost become oppressive. Thus this forest’s passage takes
on the tenor of a Manhattan alfresco cafe. Scores of pines move past
your vision, each with the story of its own striving writ on its own
writhed limbs. Much of the scaly bark shows black – residue of the
frequent forest fires, which serve only to help proliferate the pitch
pine by loosening its heat-sensitive cones.
Toward Apple Pie Hill the forest broadens and a see-through forest
opens to shades of kelly and logan green. The sun lightens heathery
white slashes of flowers amid the pine needle and sand floor. Oaks, as
tough and springy as the pines, range from low scrub to high trees
draped in catkins. They call them blackjack oak, perhaps because of
the shape of the leaf, or the sheer tenacity demanded by those that
survive these environs.
Beckoned by the lure of this open forest, Lorraine and I opt for one
of the broader unmarked pathways that wander west, toward the Batsto’s
headwaters. Swiftly, we begin wading the numerous small creeks that
cut the open sand forest. Water is never but a few feet below this
fast-draining Pine Barrens soil.
In 1876, entrepreneur Joseph Wharton began buying up lands over the
huge Pinelands aquifer. His plan was simple and fabulous: quench the
thirsts of both Philadelphia and New York with conduits from these
pristine, iron-dark waters. Everyone got excited about the idea,
including the New Jersey State Legislature, which nixed the plan by
formally announcing: "New Jersey is not a keg to be tapped at both
ends." Wharton retired to his Batsto village, where he endured as
gentleman farmer until his death in l909.
Since then, and on up through my childhood, the Wharton Tract just
continued quietly, home to a few "Pineys" and playground to those few
campers and paddlers who knew of it. By the mid ’60s, as my family
launched our paddling trips down the tea-colored meanders of the
Wading and Batsto rivers, I began to notice that the label "Wharton
State Forest" took on some meaning. Nature centers and formal camping
areas had been established. At Batsto, the stagecoach we’d clamber on
for imaginary soirees had been put in the barn and a nature center had
been erected. Folks labored to restore the huge house and the old
But the land with all its furtive byways and history has been
preserved. A triumph.
At last our compass directs us back to those pink blazes and we walk
north up towards Apple Pie Hill. Now please understand, the term
"hill" in south Jersey is a very, very relative term. My wife, a
native of Boulder, Colorado, still scoffs. But when one makes a rapid
ascent to Apple Pie’s less than dizzying 205 feet of elevation, the
results are astounding. The view is explained by the fact that if the
eastern sea level were to rise 100 feet, here would be one of only
four hills still standing above water in southern New Jersey.
Climbing the metal frame fire tower above the tree line one obtains a
vista of over 100 miles. On a clear day, the Atlantic can be spied on
the horizon. Oceans of dark pines marred only by slender river cuts
sprawl into the mist. So much in our populated state is still green.
The gulls call from above while finches dart on branches beneath. This
fire tower was erected in l950, when human habitation in the pinelands
was at an all time ebb. One of a series of manned towers and fire
trenchings, it was all part of a program to prevent the common
seasonal pinelands fires from engulfing this entire wilderness. Today,
controlled burning and airplane surveillance have retired it.
Slowly, Lorraine and I descend the hill and decide to retrace our
steps only somewhat. Selecting an intriguing side path and taking a
careful compass reading, we are soon totally lost. Wandering by an
abandoned cranberry bog, a couple of old charcoal pits, and countless
landmarks that we swear we remember, we finally return to the Batona
As we enter the Batona Campground, just before the Caranza memorial,
we hear a native fisherman telling some Boy Scouts of what treasures
can be pulled out of the pines. He tells them of his youth in this
untrod area, of finding Lenape arrowheads, and of an almost-sure
sighting of the Jersey Devil. The boys listen entranced. It’s nice to
know that a setting still exists somewhere where youngsters stand
wide-eyed before the tales of a sage.
— Bart Jackson
Most good New Jersey road maps indicate the Batona Trail and where it
crosses local roads. Starting at Ong’s Hat on Route 72, the trail
slices 32 miles south through Lebanon and Wharton state forests, where
it then swings east, ending at Bass River State Forest’s Lake
From the north, Routes 72, 70, 563, 532, Caranza Road (Route 648),
Route 542 (Batsto), and Route 679 – along with a host of local roads –
all provide excellent access points. While the trail is always level
and the walking comparatively easy, the interest and landscape varies
enormously. Some parts between Lebanon State Forest and Wharton State
Forest have recently been uglified by gobbling developers. Many follow
rivers, including the north of Batsto, and cedar swamps, which run
from Batsto east to Evan Bridge.
Maps can be obtained free at the Lebanon, Atsion, or Batsto ranger
centers, or by mail from the State Park Service, CN04, Trenton 08625.
A full book of events and adjacent historical sites is available from
the Pinelands Commission, Box 7, New Lisbon 08064.
Camping is only at designated sites; permits are available from any of
the ranger stations for $8 per person per night, and the stations stay
open late, until dark on weekends to issue permits.
Caranza to Apple Pie Hill: The short, four-mile hike depicted here,
takes only two leisurely hours each way and involves only about an
hour’s drive from your seat at Thomas Sweet’s on Nassau Street. Take
206 South straight through the Route 70 traffic circle. One mile below
the circle, veer left off 206 onto small road with a sign for
"Tabernacle" and "Caranza Memorial." Go 3.5 miles into Tabernacle,
then proceed straight on Route 648 (Caranza Road) for 6.7 miles later
to the Caranza Memorial, which has parking behind it. The trail begins
100 yards down the roadway. To make the trip one way, spot a second
car at the trail crossing at Route 532, three-quarters of a mile
beyond Apple Pie Hill.
John McPhee, Princeton Public Library, 65 Witherspoon Street,
609-924-9529. John McPhee, author of "The Pine Barrens," is featured
guest at the day-long celebration of the Grand Opening of the new
Princeton Public Library. Day features activities for all ages,
including author readings, music, dance, tours, demonstrations and
more. John McPhee, Princeton author of "The Pine Barrens," the One
Book New Jersey selection, is featured guest at 11 a.m. Free.
Saturday, May 15, 11 a.m.
Howard and Doris Boyd, Buzby’s General Store, 3959 Route 563,
Chatsworth, 609-894-4415. Author of "A Field Guide to the Pine Barrens
of New Jersey," Howard Boyd has a booksigning. His wife, Doris,
displays her photography, paintings, and weavings. Both close to 90,
they recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. Their passion
is nature, the outdoors, and conservation of the Pine Barrens. Free.
Sunday, May 16, 2 to 4 p.m.
The Pine Barrens, Princeton Public Library, 65 Witherspoon Street,
609-924-9529. Film screening of "The Pine Barrens: Up Close and
Natural," a documentary by the Pine Barrens Preservation Alliance. The
program, which focuses on this year’s One Book New Jersey selection,
"The Pine Barrens," by Princeton native John McPhee, will contrast the
state of the Pine Barrens, then and now. Free. Monday, May 24, 7:30
Jim Murphy and the Pine Barons, Princeton Public Library, 65
Witherspoon Street, 609-924-9529. A musical look at New Jersey’s Pine
Barrens. Part of the library’s "Unquiet Fridays" series. Free. Friday,
July 23, 7:30 p.m.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.