The ride. More about my setup here.
The stock tires (Kenda Kiniption 26x2.3) work quite well on pavement, and can work on dirt or sand as
well, though riding singletrack with them leaves a lot to be desired. For this New Jersey trip, I
knew I'd be riding about as many miles on pavement as I would in the forest, so I left them on -
in the Pine Barrens, an almost total lack of hills or technical riding meant I'd be fine with slicks
I took the train from Central Philly to Lindenwold, NJ. This train is why Wharton State Forest is the
destination of most of my bike overnighters to date. Unfortunately, without a car, there just aren't
many places you can bikepack near Philly. French Creek State Park is one, and I did take a nice trip
there last spring, but the ride consists mostly of getting there and back. Incidentally, I more recently
realized the Atlantic City train also allows bikes, and gets you further into the Pine Barrens, making
these tours even easier for a Philadelphian
The fall foliage outside the city was stunning - much more so than in town. For one thing, there are
different tree species out here, like this sassafras
After about 15 miles of road riding, which got steadily more pleasant and scenic as I went on, I
reached the edge of the state forest. Raritan Ave. ceased to be pavement, but continued straight as an
arrow - all the way to the camp spot I'd chosen, by Atsion Lake.
The cockpit. Google Maps' bike directions provided the route, and it was a much nicer one that what
I' d ridden previously - mine was more direct but far less enjoyable.
Raritan Ave. continued, ruler-straight, and this got boring quickly...
...so I turned off at the first chance into denser woods and smaller paths.
The woods varied from dense and shadowy (as the previous picture) to open and sunny.
The area's terrain is famously sandy. Generally it was rideable - particularly when a layer of pine
needles covered the sand. Other times there was just no way to ride and I had to dismount.
Trees serve as convenient kickstands
Pitch pines, the eponymous plant of the region, are often short and scrubby, but can also grow tall
Foliage-filtered woodland light makes photography difficult, but there was a wealth of brilliant
colors asking to be captured
A stop along the trail. No danger of anyone needing to pass by - these forest roads were
Sometimes you just gotta stop for a minute and appreciate how neat nature is
In fall, there's plenty to marvel at. This is a different species of oak than any I've seen in
Philadelphia, and a more vivid shade of red than I've often seen in town, as well
It took some time before I noticed the many mushrooms underfoot. I recently learned that fungi are more
closely related to animals than they are to plants. Tangentially related is the fact that you share about 50%
of your genome with a banana.
With nobody to take my picture, I'd begun experimenting with the self-timer on my camera
Handy for action shots...but not really worth the trouble
The barrens are full of small rivers like this one, where a path headed straight across.
I could certainly have forded it, but the idea of wet feet didn't much appeal to me. I turned
back, even though I hate backtracking.
This is near Goshen Pond, where I'd camped the previous winter - just on the other side of the water.
Everything, everywhere, was colorful. I'd come at just the right time of year.
After a bit of rambling in the forest, I came to Atsion Lake's south shore. August of 2011, I did my
first bike overnighter out here, and camped in this same spot. It was one of the best nights of
camping I've ever had, at least in terms of sleep - outside the hammock, the hordes of mosquitoes
made things a little troublesome. In any case, I wanted to relive this spot. It's not, strictly speaking,
legal to camp here, but I'm just one person and practice Leave No Trace camping, on an area that's
already impacted...so no harm done, right?
Taking in the foliage on the other shore
What an impressive vista.
A comfortable campsite for sure. With almost no chance of rain, I could sleep under the stars. Even
through the no-see-um netting I was able to see Orion's slow progress across the sky each time I
opened my eyes.
Pitch pine, oak and sky
As the wind died down, the conditions became more conducive to photography.
I was glad to be here at this moment - the peak of fall color, perfect weather, and the sounds
of cabin-campers across the lake and, occasionally, of geese honking on their way past
The discovery (or rediscovery) of a perfect camp spot is one of the small but significant joys of time
spent in the wilderness - or even in a state forest, near cabins and a swimming beach
Not sure which oak this is - water oak is my best guess. I've never seen these in Philadelphia.
Morning at the campsite. I got a late start as I often do...one thing I need to get better at is getting
myself out of "bed" earlier when camping.
Despite the late start, I took the time to cook up some breakfast - oatmeal, of course.
In the parking area of the Atsion swimming beach, sweetgum trees were outrageously colored.
I'm not sure if there are different subspecies of this tree, because I've seen some turning dark
purple, others yellow, and then this!
Out in the woods, I found what I believe is Hampton Furnace - something mentioned on maps with
no explanation given. Iron smelting, of all things, used to be an industry around here, and this
may be the remains of a smelter.
Crossing an old railroad bridge
A disused railroad bed cuts a straight path through the forest, helping also in navigation.
Conveniently, its bridges over some quite deep rivers are still intact and usable.
A picturesque homestead near the Atsion ranger station
The perfect location for a cabin.
A last glimpse of the forest as I headed home. Mosquitoes, which I'd otherwise avoided, were
thick right here, preventing me from identifying this tree.
Along the way home, I spotted this house which attracted me for some reason. I think it's the plane
trees encircling it - these trees are all over West Philly, so I grew up with them, making them
one of my favorite species. Of course I'd love to live in the midst of a ring of them!