Pine Barrens Tavern: E-Biking Atsion-Quaker Bridge

Some would call the region through which it passes “desolate”; a better word would be “subtle”

A.D. Pierce, Iron in the Pines 1957

By the 1700s, a road, which likely followed a pre-existing Native American trail, ran from Camden, New Jersey, to the port town of Tuckerton on the Atlantic coast. According to local histories, to make their travel to yearly meetings easier, Quakers built a bridge over the Batsto River around 1772. The bridge predictably became known as the Quaker Bridge, and the road that passed over it became Quaker Bridge Road. In the 1800s, horse-drawn stage coaches regularly carried both mail and passengers through the Pine Barrens along this route.

In 1809, Arthur and Elizabeth Thompson opened the Quaker Bridge Hotel, also known as Thompson’s Tavern, just south of the bridge. The tavern remained open until at least 1850. Any remnants of the building vanished many years ago.

The area is now part of Wharton State Forest and Quaker Bridge Road is still a sandy trail through the barrens. On a pleasantly warm November day, there were few other people around: another (non-electric) fat bike, some hikers, a big dog, a couple of motorcycles, one jeep. From Atsion, a former company town and farming community, to the Quaker Bridge is about four miles. With some diversions, my round trip was 15 miles.

The 1826 Atsion Mansion and the remains of a concrete barn from the early 1900s. Source: TCM
It’s the Pine Barrens, so there has to be an abandoned cranberry bog along the way. Source: TCM
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More Bogs, More Barrens

At the Cranberry Bogs along Mt. Misery trail. Source: TCM

Fall colors are appearing in the Pine Barrens. I rode about 10 miles on parts of the Mt. Misery trail and Glass House Road in Brendan Byrne State Forest, which provide a mix of paved roads, wide graded sand roads, and single track closely hemmed by bushes and trees. I must have been the first visitor that morning, because I was constantly riding through webs spanning the trail and when I stopped for a bit, there were at least three spiders still hanging on to the front of my bike.

The RadMini alongside the bogs. Source: TCM
Sand road along cranberry bog
Riding through the cranberry bogs in Brendan Byrne State Forest. Source: TCM
cranberry bog
Another view of the bogs. Source: TCM

Near the end of the ride, the Reeves cranberry bogs provided a peerless photographic opportunity. The bogs were created by William H. Reeves at the beginning of the twentieth century and remained in operation for at least half a century.

The roads around the bogs had some soft sand. The RadMini did not seem to have a problem with it, but I did almost wipe out plowing through a turn a little too fast.

Sand road blocked by water
Time to turn around. Source: TCM

E-Biking Along the Rancocas

Rancocas Creek. Source: TCM

Rancocas State Park is in Burlington County, New Jersey, where the North and South branches of Rancocas Creek meet to form the Forks of the Rancocas. A Lenape village was formerly located here and in the 18th century, agriculturalist Charles Read owned the land. More houses were built in the 19th century, but in the first decade of the 20th century, much of the land was mined for sand, permanently altering the landscape and likely destroying any archaeological remains. Some ruins survived to the present, and trees and other vegetation now cover the scars from mining.

My Radmini e-bike had no trouble with the trails, which includes loose sand, packed sand, lots of roots, a little bit of mud, and the occasional log.

Radpower RadMini. Source: TCM
Rancocas State Park. Source: TCM
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