With the art of walking as the cover story of this issue, it is fitting to point out that the New Jersey Pinelands has hundreds of miles to hike, with the following being a few choice and easy spots to start exploring this fascinating region of our state.
First, consider Whitesbog Village. It is the early 20th-century agricultural community where Elizabeth White developed the first cultivated blueberry in 1916, marking the location as an important part of the state’s history. It comprises 3,000 acres and offers more than 18 miles of sand roads through cranberry and blueberry fields, forests, and wetlands.
The park is run in cooperation with the Whitesbog Preservation Alliance and features a monthly moonlight walk. There is also a unique natural occurrence in December and January when the tundra or “whistling” swans stop over on their way to winter migration and fill the bogs and sky with a dazzling display of white plumage.
Whitesbog Village is located in Browns Mills. It can be reached by accessing Route 70 between highways Routes 72 and 537, turning on Route 530/Lakehurst Road, and then following to the entrance a 1.2 miles ahead on the right. Go to www.whitesbog.org.
Another hiking choice is the formal Brendan T. Byrne State Forest, formerly known as the Lebanon State Forest. Its entrance is one mile east from the traffic circle where Routes 70 and 72 intersect. Here visitors will find more than 25 miles of marked trails that range from long single track hiking trails to a trail accessible for people with disabilities. One of the paths loops around scenic Pakim Pond. Go to www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/byrne.html.
The more adventurous may want to consider the 50-mile long Batona Trail through the Pinelands. Taking its name from the first two letters of the phrase “Back to Nature,” the trail was established by the Hiking Club of Philadelphia in 1961 and connects Bass River State Forest to both the Wharton and Brendan T. Byrne state forests. It is maintained by the New Jersey State Park Service and the Batona Hiking Club.
One of the many highlights on the Batona Trail is the Carranza Memorial, the monument dedicated to the Mexican aviator Emilio Carranza, whose plane crashed in the Pinelands during a goodwill flight to New York City. To find out more about the Batona trail, go to www.nynjtc.org/park/batona-trail.
For more information, visit the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s website www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks or call 800-843-6420 or 609-984-0370.
While certainly not the roads most taken, these Pinelands trails promise a vision of New Jersey that most state residents will never consider. It is, after all, the state’s real invitation to walk on the wild side.