Meandering Through the Mordecai

Teegate

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The report in the Batsto Citizen Gazette mentions many of his things had been stored in a damp place and everything had a mildew smell to it.

Unfortunately, it is apparent he as well as many pine barren historians took quite a bit of items from the pines that belonged to you and I. That would not be a problem if the items were still available to us, but at his auction the items were bought by the general public who most likely for the most part had no idea what they were buying. Much of the history he collected has vanished.



Guy
 

Teegate

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I hate to say it, and may hear about this, but after reading up on what went on in the early days of the state acquisition of Wharton there is oh so much missing. I have tried to find a few things and nobody knows about them.

Guy
 

Ben Ruset

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Today I went and attempted to trace the route of the 1808 Batsto Road. This road was the former route to Batsto from the Mullica River. Essentially, what we now know as Rt. 542 only went as far as Crowleytown, where the original route kept straight, away from the Mullica to Batsto, as opposed to now, where it hugs the Mullica as it travels up to Batsto past Hermann City.

watermark.php

^ This is Thomas Gordon's 1833 map. The road is marked at "Sooys."

I parked at the Crowleytown Campground, at the intersection of 542 and Burnt Schoolhouse Rd. I jumped right into the woods and wandered a bit until I got into the swamp. Feeling like I was headed in the wrong direction, I tried to keep a bit more to the right, which eventually led me to the 1808 road.

CRW_0530.JPG


This road is (in places) substantial. There was a lot of engineering that went into this road. It ploughs straight through the Mordecai, but instead of being a corduroy road, it's actually built up, so it's more like a causeway. In the swampy areas it's clear -- probably because it's higher than the cedars like, or perhaps it's filled in with slag. (Wild speculation on my part.)

The road crosses several streams as it heads to Batsto. The bridges are long gone at both of them. People do, however, seem to hike down the road, and there's accommodations for getting across. At the first stream, there's a large moss encrusted cedar plank thrown across the stream slightly to the side of the trail. At the other, someone has piled some sticks and branches to get across.

CRW_0531.JPG

^ Here you can see the rise of the road on the opposite side of the bank.

CRW_0532.JPG

^ What may have been a piling.

CRW_0533.JPG

^ Another view of where the bridge was.

As you follow the road it eventually leaves the swamp and enters into a higher area. The road got choked with vegetation and briers, but there's a smaller path that runs alongside the road to cut around that. That brought me to a clearing that I investigated, but after going through there, I ended up getting lost and wasn't able to find the path. I ended up back in the swamp, lost, and very tired. The swamp, fortunately, was fairly dry, but every now and then I would put my foot down on what appeared to be solid ground and it would plunge down a foot or two. I began worrying about what would happen if I broke my leg out there. I wasn't far from Batsto, and I actually had a bar of signal on my cell phone, but still, the fear of being stuck out there started weighing in on my mind.

I did have my GPS, though, and I discovered that I could just move the "mouse pointer" over to a spot and hit enter and I could route to that spot. So, I looked at my tracks, saw where I got lost, and just drew a straight line to where the 1808 road "should" have been. I was about 600 feet off. I also had a hard time getting the unit to point me in the right direction, which was solved by me recalibrating the compass.

Those 600 feet were some really slow, tough going. The Mordecai has a lot of young, thin cedars, so they tend to cluster up. There's also just massive amounts of briers and blowdown cedars, so you're constantly having to make a bee-line, climb over fallen rotted cedars, and unstick yourself from the briers. Finally I made it through and found the road!

I followed it until it changed into a path, then the path got smaller and smaller and disappeared. It opened up into relatively clear upland forest (with a lot of what I assume to be oak leaves on the ground) which brought me right out to Batsto Village. Tired and exhausted, I didn't have it in me to retrace my steps, so I walked down from the village to 542, and followed that back to my Jeep.

1808_Road_Tracks.gif


I'm not sure how long of a walk it was, but it was pretty long.

I ended up driving down to Pine Barrens Liquors and Deli in Green Bank, getting a hamburger and a beer, and then visiting Friendship. It's been years since I've been there and I'm amazed at the changes.
 
Apr 6, 2004
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Good report, Ben. That's no easy hike. Looks like you did pretty well tracing the route, too. The straight 20' contour line at the top right (EDIT: top left) corner of the topomap marks a portion of the road that you missed.

Much of the road passes over a few of the many relict dunes that are scattered throughout the Mordecai. A very cool place indeed. I'd still like to get together for a hike out there.
 

Ben Ruset

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Gabe,

Let me know when you want to meet and I'll go out again.

Are you sure about the road being on that 20 contour line? You can see the big U shape mess I did in the swamp, but then where I go straight is where I picked up the road again. It was a pretty substantial causeway road.
 

Teegate

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Very nice Ben! That was real swamp exploring. Finding those old road beds is a great accomplishment also. Well done!

Guy
 

LARGO

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Sep 7, 2005
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Looks like you took yourself a good long stroll. Good project Identifying the route and following it through! Going it alone gives one some good "clear the mind" time as well. Great write up, love the stream photos.

g.
 

woodjin

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Nov 8, 2004
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I love "retracing history" trip reports almost as much as I love doing it myself. Very nice Ben! The streams pictured appear to be canals. Does that seem logical or am I misinterpreting the picture. No canonballs huh?

Jeff
 

Ben Ruset

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The streams are just streams. They look deeper and wider than they really are. I don't think the biggest one is even more than 6' across.

As for the cannonballs -- if they're there, it's mighty unlikely that they'll ever be found. I was keeping my eyes open for anything that looked suspicious, but the swamp is just dark that you could hide just about anything there and never find it again.
 

MarkBNJ

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Jun 17, 2007
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Great report, Ben. I'm constantly stumbling across these old tracks out there, especially in the area between Batsto and south of Washington Field, and I love reading about what they might have been. I don't know if we have seen that one, I suspect not, since it's a bit south of where we have spent most of our time. In general we haven't checked out the Mordecai yet, though I'm itching to.
 
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