Sunday, September 2, 2012

Batona Trail, Carranza Memorial, Atsion Lake, Franklin Parker Preserve: New Jersey Pine Barrens Camping

This would be the only post without mention of fishing, but we
drove to Atsion to get our camping permit & stopped to check out Atsion Lake, not fishing actually, but thinking of this. Tea water tends to turn those of us familiar with clarity away, but pickerel love it, and plenty of Pinelands waters have lots of largemouths.

Having got to the Atsion office at 3:30, we couldn't register for Lower Forge, which would have allowed us a five-mile hike on the Batona, full packs. So we hiked the half mile into Batona Camp after paying our respects at the Carranza Memorial, erected after Carranza, the Mexican Lindberg, crashed here in a thunderstorm in 1931.

This third time I have camped in this immediate area--1972 and 1979 besides--we left the car parked along the road and the pack felt real good on my back, my not having actually backpacked since 1999. But we found two families with SUVs, kids on bicycles and such. So we took a site and I walked back to get the car. Why risk it to rowdies in the night?

Matt had fetched just a little firewood; he had taken other interests with his camera, and as I pitched the tent, he wandered far off and I knew that his independent explorations made it all worthwhile. Later he returned with reports of fence lizards and leopard frogs, a Fowler's toad, and possibly a ribbon snake he didn't get a good look at. He had found--at water's edge--what he told me he had almost taken for quicksand, but determined it was very deceptive muck, the sort someone unaware could walk right onto and sink to his knees. (And from what I've heard elsewhere--perhaps deeper than this.)

The families left before sunset! I guess biting flies were just too much. So much for an idyllic evening by the fire in the wilderness. But we had a nice night ourselves with cool temperatures and whippoorwills. In the morning we fixed lobster bisque and sphagetti and meatballs of all things, took a short hike to this fabulous waterway--I suppose native pickerel have haunted it for millenia--and headed to Franklin Parker Preserve afterwards.

My dive arched over 10 feet of water and the angle took my body deep. It wasn't yet 9:00 a.m. and we were swimming and enjoying the makeshift diving board. We love swimming in the wilderness and this isn't our only spot. It's nothing special really; that's what's so appealing. You feel no lack at all for pleasure and you don't feel any grand evaluations either.

We checked a building foundation for pine snakes; Matt found a small pine snake I photographed after he finished with his SLR. More fence lizards--Matt shot at least 60 or 70 photos of these total. We have found five lined skinks and brown skinks in the past, but fence lizards seemed almost everywhere these last two days.

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