The Woods are Full of Surprises

JeffD

Explorer
Dec 31, 1969
180
0
16
Yesterday I took a hike to revisit Lower Forge, parking away from the road just past Quaker Bridge. It is quite a nice area, with a rise above the Basto River and bog and swamp islands in the stream, good material for a landscape painter. But after enjoying Lower Forge, I decided to explore something new. I wondered what the area along the Mullica River was like on the opposite side of Quaker Bridge road from where I had just been. I explored a dirt road near Quaker Bridge but found no trails that went down to the Mullica. But somewhere between Quaker Bridge and the railroad tracks, closer to the tracks, was an inconspicuous vaguely defined road -- sand with a thin layer of vegetation colonizing it. I followed it to a point just before the land dropped off. The road seemed to go around but in one spot there was a fairly steep dip in the road and the sand was a little thicker. There were yellow markers on metal posts, which I believe designate a horse trail. I backed up a little so I wouldn't block the horse trail, got out and walked down towards the river. Stretching out across the landscape was a bog area, with what looked like the main flow of the Mullica in the distance. I saw a mosiac of heavily wooded areas and openings in the woods. The trail curved around and I walked to areas where the land jutted out into clearings up to where the water started. After following the trail for about a mile, the trail seemed to stop. In one area where one could squeeze by, there was standing water.

I've driven the drive between Route 206 and Quaker Bridge many times, unaware that just a few hundred feet to the right, as I headed towards Quaker Bridge, was a beautiful, tranquil wetland.
 

Teegate

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Sep 17, 2002
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Jeff,

Have you ever traveled to the left off of Quaker Bridge road heading in from 206?

This is from memory so bear with me. Heading in from 206, approximately 1 mile before Quaker Bridge Road, there are a few roads that head to the left. They head in the direction of the Batsto river and Lower Forge. ( My memory says Lower Forge is NNW of Quaker Bridge) In any event, you will be heading in the direction of the camping area NNW of Quaker Bridge. The Batsto river stops you from getting to the camping area.

Down one of the roads you will come to the partial bridge that crosses the Batsto river shown in the link below. I am assuming it is still there. Anyway, this must have been a complete bridge at one time either for walking or driving. I can only assume that the bridge was disabled to eliminate access to the camping area somewhere ahead in the picture.

I frequented the area in the 70's when the 7UP commercial featured the bald Jamaican man who laughed funny. That is when they started calling 7UP the Uncola. We somehow started calling the bridge the "Unbridge" and I have always know it as that.

If you are in the area again, see if you can find it. By the way, I am the idiot on the bridge.

http://mywebpages.comcast.net/teegate/8-78Unbridge.jpg

Guy
 

JeffD

Explorer
Dec 31, 1969
180
0
16
I don't remember traveling left heading towards Quaker Bridge from 206, Guy, but interesting you should mention that area, because I was looking at the Wharton State Forest Map recently and noticed that an unpaved road goes to the river across from the campground at Lower Forge. By the way, Guy, you look like you are spear fishing in the photo. Were you inspired to do that by the Jamaican uncola guy? I remember him, in his all white suit.

It's probably for the best that there is an unbridge, as it helps keep the primitive, wilderness campground area more remote. You know, wilderness seemed to have a much different meaning years ago than it does now. The state forest service lists Lower Forge as a wilderness campsite. To me, the word in this context is very much like "primitive." It connotes that there are " has come to mean an area which is not managed at all and in some cases you aren't even allowed to walk there or at least get anywhere near by car or jeep in order to walk in, as you can in the Wharton State Forest.

When I visited Lower Forge, it looked like the area was managed. It was subtle. What I think may have been multiflora rose looked like it either was cut or burned back where it started to grow out of shrubs and trees. The Lower Forge area was rustic and natural without being wild, overrun with rotting trees, vines, etc. There certainly were to RV's or TV's or video games. Just a forest service pickup truck and I guy, who was looking at a map when I came and got out and walked around for awhile and left shortly after we exchanged greetings and brief small talk about the area being a nice place.
 

ed

New Member
Dec 31, 1969
20
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The bridge still looks like your picture as of last fall. Do you know how to find the bridge from the Lower Forge campsite side?
 

Teegate

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Ed,

I never visited Lower Forge so I can't help you. Unlike now, I avoided people as much as possible so I never visited or camped in public places.

If you feel energetic you can cross the bridge using logs as I did, and walk there. Then again you could also fall in as I did. That is a young man sport, not saying you and I are old....

There are many places I need to visit again, this place being one of them.

Guy
 

BobM

Scout
Dec 31, 1969
67
0
6
I have a club of about 12 members called the Pine Barren Explorers. We like to go where few people go, and usually shy away from roads.

Anyway, one of our members gets the idea to canoe half way down the Mullica from Astion, then portage over to the Batsto. Then camp at Lower Forge and canoe down the Batso in the morning. That was a neat trip. We found that bridge after we set up camp. It is only about (if my memory serves me well) 100 yards or less downstream from the lower forge camp.

Here is the trip report from that one (we always do a report):

If you like hiking, canoeing, and camping in the fall in the pine barrens, with a little adventure thrown in, then you missed a real good trip. The explorers making up this trip were myself, Joe, Paul, and Mike. Out of a possible 10 points we gave this trip a 9.5.

We started out on the Mullica at about 10:15 on Saturday. Paul had a kayak, Mike had a canoe, and Joe and I shared a canoe. The river was high and strong due to the overnight rain. The colors of the gum, tupelo, and oak trees were impressive, some looked like they were on fire. There were a couple of other parties on the river. We helped one party of 10 women negotiate a log over the creek.

About 12:00, we landed at the bottom of our "S" curve to prepare for the one mile portage over to the Batsto. Joe and I were in his canoe, a real beauty he made himself from cedar strips. Unfortunately, Joe likes to take the smallest channels he can find, and he developed a slight leak from a log he rammed. He asked the women we had just helped if they had tape. One of them whined….."yes, but I can't find it, its buried in my pack!" I thought Joe was gonna swim out there and kill her he was so mad.

The portage to the Basto was one of the neatest things I have ever done. The weather was cool and beautiful (the weather-man was wrong about the entire weekend), the woods were clean with no briars, and the challenge of finding the Batso lent a neat challenge to the whole affair.

We got to the Batsto around 1:30. The portage was strenuous yes, but by no means insurmountable. We got in at the old Lower Forge bridge and cruised upstream for about 100 yards to the campground. We had the place to ourselves mostly. Joe forced us to build a fire big enough to burn down Wharton State Forest, but we had a good time going further upstream for the wood.

We all hit the sleeping bags around midnight. We had some good conversation around the camp fire that night……solved all the world problems.

After breakfasting on various things, from oatmeal to chocolate doughnuts, we started canoeing down the mighty Batsto. We stopped 2 times for some pretty extensive cedar swamp exploration. We found a spot with curly grass fern that would amaze most botanist. We also found a cedar swamp that was undergoing some pretty extensive survey by professionals They had marked tress and sunk sampling pipes into the ground to monitor the water, and had staked out 10 foot by 10 foot plots to count plant communities.

We also had a good time trying to identify most of the stuff growing along the river as we went by. Mike pointed out some large stands of laurel-leafed green briar that was 12 to 15 feet above the water wrapped around the other bushes.

The best thing about a trip like this was the company. Since we all love cedar swamps, no one was in a hurry to leave, and we had a nice relaxing time just exploring and looking around.

We got to Batsto at 3 p.m. It was a first class trip. Thanks Joe, for thinking of it.
 

Teegate

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Bob,

Thanks for that story. Very enjoyable and it sounds like you really had fun. I am glad you posted it.

While camping my favorite breakfast was Kentucky Fried Chicken. Easy to carry and store. And I really get a kick out of being in a Cedar Swamp and listening to the trees squeak on a windy day.

Guy
 

JeffD

Explorer
Dec 31, 1969
180
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16
Yeah, good story, Bob. It's nice sometimes, as Robert Frost wrote, to take the path less traveled.

Interesting, that we have Quaker Bridge as a landmark, that I found a blurb about Quaker Bridge in Marilyn Schmidt's guide EXPLORING THE PINE BARRENS OF NEW JERSEY. Marilyn's book says that "Quaker Bridge was a small settlement beside the Basto River on the old Tuckerton Road, four miles east of Atsion." The bridge was built so Quakers from Mt Holly who were going to the Yearly Meeting in Tuckerton could cross the river. So, if the Quakers were coming from Mt Holly, which is north west of the bridge and they were heading to Tuckerton, and the settlement was beside the Basto River, that must mean that the settlement would be to the right of the bridge if one was coming from Rt 206. One thing I'm confused about. Isn't Tuckerton Road the sand road that crosses the railroad tracks at High Crossing and leads to Washington? Could that be the Old Tuckerton Road? That's a ways from the Basto River. Maybe the river was much wider back in the late 1700s when the bridge was originally built. After all, the blurb says that the bridge was built after several Quakers drowned when attempting to cross the river. Today the river isn't normally ver high, and I don't think anyone would drown in it. Unless you were Little John in Mel Brooks' ROBIN HOOD MEN IN TIGHTS.

Have any of you found this settlement? It may be something I may explore in the future.
 

JeffD

Explorer
Dec 31, 1969
180
0
16
I haven't been to the Pine Barrens since my last post, but I've been exploring on the Internet. I found a ghost town named Parkdale, which is said to be 1 and a half miles from Atsion. The author of the site where I found it, South Jersey Unpaved, wrote that he/she could only find one reference to the town on a map on the Internet. A railroad bridge is found on the northwest corner of the town, which means that if you follow the railroad tracks from Quaker Bridge Road and cross the Mullica River you should reach the northwest edge of the town after walking a mile or two.

http://sjunpaved.tekconnect.com/


BTW, don't pay attention to the indication that I modified the first post. I did not. I accidently went to edit this when I was trying to edit this a third time. My upstairs bathroom sink sprang a leak last night and I am really frazzled right now. I don't think a trip to the Pine Barrens could tranquilize me at this point.
 

Teegate

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Jeff,

Parkdale is very close to Atsion as you can see in the below map. In 1979 if you entered off of 206 just below Atsion as the map shows, you would travel down a straight narrow road toward Parkdale. Notice the Sleeper branch of the river mentioned just above the word Parkdale. There is a bridge there that I have photo's of below.

Here is the map.

http://mywebpages.comcast.net/teegate/Park/ParkdaleMap.jpg


This photo show my Land Cruiser at the bridge looking toward Atsion.

http://mywebpages.comcast.net/teegate/Park/LookingTowardAtsion7-79.jpg


This photo was taken of the bridge while I was standing in front of my car.

http://mywebpages.comcast.net/teegate/Park/BridgeNearParkdale7-79.jpg


This photo shows the Cornerstone of the bridge showing it was built in 1918. I am assuming 206 made this road obsolete.

http://mywebpages.comcast.net/teegate/Park/BridgeCornerStone7-79.jpg

If anyone has been to Parkdale, or plans to go, could you inform us if the stone is still in good shape. It looks like someone took a few hits on it with an ax. A picture would also be great to see.

Guy
 

JeffD

Explorer
Dec 31, 1969
180
0
16
Thanks for the information, Guy. I knew that Parkdale wasn't far from the junction of the old railroad tracks and Rt 206.

I'm thinking about visiting Parkdale in the near future. I'll check out that cornerstone of the bridge and report back. I haven't gotten into digital photography yet, but maybe someday I will. I used to do quite a bit of regular photography. Most of the slides I used in presentations when I worked at a Pennsylvania state park were ones I took and I sometimes posted my photos on the bulletin boards (not electronic) in the park. Before that I got awards for my photographs from Fairmount Park in Philadelphia and from the U.S. Forest Service out west. I'm still trying to catch up to the 21st century. The Internet, and this site is certainly a good way to store, and exchange photographs as well as maps and information.
 

JeffD

Explorer
Dec 31, 1969
180
0
16
It's times like this that I think I want to go back to my manual typewriter and paper. At least this way you don't have to worry about your hard thought out writings being trashed and swallowed up it the black hole of cyberspace! I just lost my post. On this stupid laptap, I must have hit a wrong key or something accidently andmy dial up screen appeared and some how it started dialing. I tried to copy the post but the dial up went through. After a long search through history I could find the topic post but the message was blank! I've been kicked off the Internet before on this site, but when I get back on I just logged back into this bulletin board and would find my post in tact. I would then just have to resubmit it. Well, I'll try to reconstruct my post. There must be a way to prevent technologically challenged and nervous folks like myself from having this happen!

YESTERDAY I walked the railroad tracks from Quaker Bridge Road, cross the Mullica River and Route 206. On the other side of Route 206, a cinder/dirt road skirted the tracks. There was a pulloff about a mile down the road with plenty of room for a car to park and turn around. There were other pulloffs, but the land rose a little and there was a lot of sugar sand. The road got increasingly more narrow, and occasionally a small tree grew in the middle of the road. After awhile, the road was nearly overtaken by trees, and I had to slip through the trees for a few hundred yards. The road then became open, tree free but a little too narrow for a car to pass through. After walking a least a half a mile, I came to a railroad bridge over what I believed was Sleeper Creek. The water, about four feet below the bridge, moved noticably. There were a few spots in crevices on the tracks with broken glass.

I waded in the water up to about my knees. The bottom was a mixture of sand, gravel, mud, rocks (large and small) logs and branches, some very pointy.

Standing on the tracks looking straight ahead was a sand/dirt road to the right, which led down to a clearing near the bridge.

On the way to the bridge were dirt/sand roads on both sides of the road, in clearings on the other side of the woods that bordered the road. I came across two dirt/sand roads that crossed the tracks. One rose up a little where it crossed the tracks. Shortly before the bridge was a corridor, much to narrow for a car, the cut through the woods as far as I could see.

On the way back I saw what looked like an SUV or a Jeep or something similar in the distance and someone wearing a red shirt. As I got closer I saw a green vehicle which soon drove towards Route 206, moving at a good clip. I soon came to the good pulloff area, where I saw some gobs of white paste stuff strewn in spots in the area. I saw a parcially decomposed bottle, which I think read "Jack Daniels", with white pasty stuff inside, with some oozing out.

On the way out I also found a chunck of an off colored white brick that read SPECIA. I believe the word was SPECIAL. This piece of brick was a little larger than a few red bricks nearby. I looked for the rest of the brick but couldn't find it.

I realize, Guy, that this bridge was not the one you have a photo of. You're bridge is evidently one that a dirt/sand road crosses. Maybe next time I'll look for that.

The cinder/dirt road really hugged the tracks, which were intact but had been colonized by pine trees. The rails looked like the wooden beams that people put at the border of their trees and gardens.

There was even a dogwood growing in the middle of the tracks at one point! Closer to the bridge I could walk the tracks.

It was an hour and a half walk from the tracks at Quaker Bridge to the railroad bridge. I must have been in Parkdale! I know that next time I can park at the pulloff about a mile from Route 206.

BTW, the link I posted wouldn't come up. When I clicked it a message appeared that said I'm not authorized to view that page or whatever.

The end.
 

JeffD

Explorer
Dec 31, 1969
180
0
16
Recently I was checking out the information on the home page of this site, and came across a note about the SPRINGERS BROOK TO LOWER FORGE HIKE. This hike was on a document about hikes in the Pine Barrens that I had downloaded quite some time ago, but not until now did I realize that it seems to lead to that "Unbridge", which I think is across from the Lower Forge wilderness campground. The directions on the document lead you Lower Forge Road, which is on higher ground. Although there's no mention of crossing the Basto River, I remember the sand road and trail leading to Lower Forge being on the opposite side of the Basto from where the diretions take you, and being on higher ground, especially when you get close to the campground. The land by the Basto at this point must be a least ten feet above water level. Some things must have changed since the document was made available, as the last copyright date is 1983; the unbridge may have been there when the author of the hike document surveyed the route.

The Springerss Brook to Lower Forge hike sounds interesting. I think I never got around to taking it because a good part of the walk is supposed to be wet. Also, I decided to explore other areas and never got around to doing this walk. The walk takes you along the abandoned JCRR tracks off of Quaker Bridge Road in Atsion. If you are coming from Route 206, you turn left at the tracks, follow them for about a mile to the first sand road, and turn right. And then at the next major sand road intersection, you turn left to visit Springers Brook. You then backtrack to the intersection and turn left (as if you would turn right at the intersection if you didn't visit the Springers Brook). Then you continue to Lower Forge Road, "which is on slightly higher ground, like a causeway."

The hike is a 7.9 mile round trip from the Atsion Ranger Station, which is about 1/2 mile from the tracks.

Maybe some day I'll try it.