My love for the Pine Barrens has led me to crave hiking more now than I had ever before, and when I decided I wanted to complete all five legs of the Batona Trail this winter I instantly asked my father, who, after two knee surgeries and one achilles tendon re-attachment surgery, still manages to run, hike, and adventure with the best of them to join me. Although he's already done all of the legs both solo, and with his running group, the Pineland Striders, he's never actually hiked them at a pace most people would call "normal", so the experience is fresh for both of us! (Did I mention he's 50 and is frequently mistaken as my older brother by strangers, because that's a thing that happens, as well.)
The second leg was recently re-routed through the Franklin Parker Preserve, and at 13.5 miles, it is now the longest section of the Batona Trail. It has everything that I love in a trail; boardwalks over swamps, footbridges haphazardly cris-crossing meandering creeks, some over-grown cranberry bogs, hills (including my ever-favorite Pine Barrens spot - Apple Pie Hill, which I've written several posts about on here already), and of course, pines!
Unfortunately for my brother, father, our two dogs and I, this particular leg also included anywhere from 0 - 12+ inches of snow, ranging from the wet and slushy variety, to a thick, crunchy crust. For most of the trek, the only other footprints aside from our own were from an errant deer or two crossing paths, choosing to take an easier trail from grazing spot to cozy hideout.
The snow turned our nearly 14 mile hike in to a painful 6 hour excursion. By the second mile our "waterproof" boots proved to actually be "not-at-all-waterproof" boots, and by mile 4 I could feel water running from the heel of my Timberlands to my toes. Despite this being a slow going, cold, wet portion of the trail, it proved to be a great day, and definitely my favorite section of the Batona thus far. I fully plan on checking it out again in the spring when there's more to be seen, but this was definitely an experience for the books!
There was a trail registry at one point shortly after a creek-crossing, which I eagerly signed. (Geocaching is one of my favorite past-times, so this registry was a nice way to slip something similar in.)
At about mile 9 Apple Pie Hill was a welcome sight. It's always been one of my favorite places in the Pines, and hiking to it proved a lot more satisfactory than driving down one of the many dirt roads (one of which we actually ended up hiking down) to get to it.
And shortly past Apple Pie Hill we ran into another oddly-named hill. This one was Tea Time Hill, and it came fully equipped with a tiny tea-cup and adorable teapot sign to boot!
The remaining (roughly) 4 miles of the hike were, for the most part, already broken in by past-hikers (perhaps heading from Carranza to Apple Pie Hill), so it was a bit easier going, although I use the term 'easier going' pretty loosely here, but we successfully made it back to Carranza to the much-needed warmth of dad's Mazda just as the sun slipped beneath the horizon.
As always, I can't wait for the next leg, although with 12.5 miles awaiting us on leg #3, we may be waiting for the snow to melt away juuuuuuuust a bit more before making the trip from Carranza to Batsto Village.