2011 Post All-Hallos-Ween Pine Barrens Trip Report
by Martin W.
Sat-Sun, November 12-13, 2011
Hey! What's going on here? No blizzards, deluges, pestilence, plague, Berserker raids, hurricanes or Zombies (OK, maybe a couple of Zombies but they figured they better not mess with the HRCKC 'cuz we'd just eat them).
This year has been tough for our trips - with all the bad-weather cancellations and re-scheduling some of us had to do to endure this past autumn, but we finally had luck - the weather turned out to be perfect for this trip. What was supposed to happen over the Halloween weekend didn't happen due to that little episode that we had (I had 15 inches of snow, no power for 6 days and had to chainsaw our way out of my street - but who's complaining), so I was watching the forecast with hope that things would be different this time - and indeed it was!
Fourteen intrepid members of the HRCKC..... Rico P., Henry S., Scott H., Rebecca G., Phil B., Robyn L., Larry P., Dave M., Jim M., Catherine C., Ruth K., Mike K., Bob S. and myself - all met at the Atsion ranger station at 9:00am on Saturday ready to go on our 18th Annual All-Hallos-Ween Pine Barrens trip. This year we did the Mullica River with it's easy access to the put-in (in contrast with the Batsto River and it's "Shuttle from Hell"). As we arrived the lot was filled to the brim with cars of our friends from the Mohawk Canoe Club, a few other paddling groups and some hikers - who too, took advantage of the great weather. Unloading the boats and gear at the put-in, all the drivers drove down to the Batsto Village visitor's center where we left most of the cars (which is within walking distance of the take-out at Pleasant Mills), obtained the camping permit for the Mullica Wilderness site, unloaded any "Bladder Cargo" since this would be the last flush toilets we will see for a day, loaded all the drivers into two cars and drove back to Atsion. Only one fly in the ointment.... we had a 20 minute detour to get around two bridges that Hurricane Irene took out on Rt. 542 just a mile before Batsto resulting in the road to being closed (they estimate the bridge won't be repaired until next spring due to lack of funds. Hey Gov. Christie - youz hearin' me?)
After launching our boats - four kayaks and eight canoes - we started on our way. Paddling on the dark tea-colored water surrounded by cedars and pines one would not think they are in Joisey and only a couple of hours from NYC. If you've never paddled in the Pine Barrens you are in for a real treat - albeit, if you are lacking in basic boat control and don't possess a rudimentary ability to move your boat sideways it can be a frustrating experience unintentionally eating the stream-side shrubbery.
Anyway, arriving at the Mullica Wilderness campsite about 3+ hours later (short lunch stop), we found that the Mohawkers had already set up their camp along with some other groups, but the site is plenty large so we set up our camp at what is referred to by some as the "A-Hole" area (it was explained to me that it's always the good-for-nuttin', yahoo, redneck, loud-mouth "A-Holes" that take this spot - so what do I know? I've been called worse names - and that's from people who like me...)
Setting up tents as the sun was starting to set, firewood gathered, campfire lite and finally the group brought forth the pot-luck vittles - potato soup, apple pie, Mac and Cheese, smoked chicken and pork chops and a whole bunch of other tasty grub. Mike K. or as he is referred to as the HRCKC's Rodney Dangerfield - was prepared for the worst (including those Zombies). He brought four... yes... FOUR cook-stoves with him. Shazam! Even if those pesky Zombies carried off a stove or two Mike could still fry one of those varmints up...
As darkness fell, the group sat around the campfire - Mike telling "wife" jokes (I thought I heard Ruth beating the crap out of him after everyone turned in), Dave M. telling his famous and endless "One day I was driving down the road when this major appliance fell off the truck in front of me and....." tales and Larry P. explaining "everything" known to man-kind.
Then it came to be... the Ode To George Rafferty. The "Dance Of The Moon" was a annual tradition when our deceased friend and member was on this trip. What was that you ask? Well, every year on this trip George would quietly leave the group, suddenly bust forth from the darkness carrying a couple of sparklers, run around the campfire and all those sitting around it several times and then disappear into the night. Oh, yes - I left something out... he did all this sans any clothing! Hense "The Dance Of The Moon".
Well, as a tribute to George, the one and only Dave M. has carried on the tradition.... but thankfully only to a certain point. As you look at the trip's photographs which I have attached a link to, you will witness this tribute to George and most of it's glory (minus the sparklers that Sheryl usually brings). WARNING! Discretionary viewing is advised! Some of these photos contain material that may be objectionable or cause discomfort to some of you more sensitive people. View them at your own risk! We will not be responsible for any optic or gastric damage incurred by viewing these images.
As folks slowly faded off into their tents, the fire was allowed to burn out and the rest of us hit the hay. Before retiring for the night I sat there and watched the almost full moon bathing the white sands, the cedars and pines and the slowly moving waters of the Mullica with a wonderfully blue-white aura. This is the time that I have no doubts that the Pines Barrens are one of most - if not the most - favorite places I have ever paddled... Oh well, off to bed. But I still swear I heard Ruth beating the crap out'ta Mike for telling all those "dumb wife" jokes!
Next morning, we arose to a crisp, bright and sunny day. The fire was rekindled, breakfast cooked, all four of Mike's stoves going and more of his jokes (Hummm! How'd he get that black eye overnight?). I took a walk with my camera and shot some pics of the early morning sun-bathed surroundings - nice time for pictures.
As the morning progressed we slowly packed up our boats for the two+ hours trip downstream to Pleasant Mills and our take-out. The clouds start to come in but the sun broke through off and on. There were some blow-downs we had to slip over and under along the way but nothing major. We stopped for a short lunch break and ended the trip after another half hour or so at the take-out. The drivers walked back to Batsto Village to retrieve the cars, loaded the boats and gear, said goodbyes and headed home. Due to getting the two drivers and their boats and gear back to Atsion, a few of us took the Turnpike back north - big mistake! Entering the TP I was greeted with almost completely stopped traffic northbound. Well, going from Exit 7 to a bit past Exit 7A took me most of an hour - stinkin' road construction (why couldn't they fix that friggin' bridge at Batsto instead....)
And again... no one died!