Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pine Barrens / Pinelands National Reserve of Southern New Jersey

June 8th, 2010

One of my favorite rides is driving through the Pine Barrens / Pinelands of Southern New Jersey. The contrast with the suburban centers of New Jersey is quite stark compared to these hundreds [or thousands] of square miles that maintain only a minimal number of inhabitants [the Reserve covers ‘more than one million acres’].

This is the reported home – and birthplace - of the New Jersey Devil. It is said that long about 1680, in a village alongside one of these roads through the Pines, local folks took it upon themselves to burn a witch at the stake – I’m sure after some amount of due process of law and the witch’s day in court, of course. But as legend has it, the villagers must have been correct. Because, during the roasting the witch turned into a demon and flew away into the Pinelands forest.

The legend continues, in that if anyone ever meets or crosses paths with the ‘Jersey Devil,’ the unlucky individual never lives to speak of the encounter. I can’t verify this, however, as I have never seen the creature. :)

Nevertheless, as one drives through the Pinelands, take notice of the thickness of the pine forests that line the road. One can see that back in the seventeenth century, most likely many an explorer/trapper was forever lost in these woods - for whatever the reason. I surmise that as these explorers disappeared, their loss was attributed to the Jersey Devil. Also worth noting, there have even been reports of Big Foot type sightings in these woods as well.

So, driving from Philadelphia, Cherry Hill, or Atlantic City, head to towns with names like Chatsworth, Batsto, and New Gretna and try to detour on one of the sand dirt roads. Stop somewhere and get out for a walk to really experience the scenery. From that point, try to make it on to Long Beach Island, that’s another cool place for a afternoon’s ride and beach excursions.

But, whatever you do, don’t blame me if you encounter the Jersey Devil. After all, I did warn you. :)

Adam Trotter / AVT

See: http://www.nps.gov/pine/index.htm