Double Trouble.

For its small size, New Jersey has a wide array of geographic regions. Gorgeous, sandy beaches and coastal wetlands brimming with wildlife. Over 1,700 lakes are found throughout the state. With nutrient-rich soil and a relatively mild, stable climate, 10,300 farms make NJ home – the Garden State is the perfect nickname. The Appalachian Mountains, the longest mountain range in the eastern US, cuts through the northwestern corner of the state. And over 1.1 million acres of the state contain one of the most unique environmental regions on the East Coast: the Pine Barrens. 

The name comes from the sandy, desert-like soil, although the region is anything but barren! In the Pine Barrens, you can find orchids, water lilies, cedar trees, and and countless pitch pines, from which the area takes the other half of its name. While wandering through the woods, you might come across rattlesnakes, bald eagles, bobcats, and black bears. While the economy of the Pine Barrens was first heavily dependent on logging and timber, the area’s primary source of income now is farming, including numerous cranberry bogs. Did you know that New Jersey is the third-largest producer of cranberries in the nation (via Wikipedia)?

With all of this information swirling through our heads, my wife and I decided to go explore a ghost town in the Pine Barrens that is now overseen by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection. Double Trouble State Park, located in Ocean County, New Jersey, was established to preserve Double Trouble Village, a 19th century cranberry farming town. While learning a bit about history, we also spent time wandering through the Pinelands, exploring the unique geography of the region. It made for a fun adventure on a beautiful Labor Day weekend!

Let’s begin:

Double Trouble State Park

Map of NJ with red pin in location of Double Trouble State Park.
Despite traveling on one of the busiest weekends for the New Jersey shore, we encountered mercifully little traffic on the Garden State Parkway on the way to our destination.
View of Garden State Parkway southbound.
One way to beat traffic on the last Saturday of summer vacation – we left the house early. Hours later, on our drive home, there were numerous traffic jams on southbound roads heading toward the shore.
Sign that reads DOUBLE TROUBLE STATE PARK
A little under an hour after leaving home, we arrived at our destination, Double Trouble State Park, and entered a world far different than the suburbs where we live.
White Jeep Grand Cherokee parked in empty sand lot, with trees in background.
Getting up with the sunrise has its rewards – we arrived early enough that there were very few people in the park. By the time we left a few hours later, the parking lot would be overfilled, with people creating parking spots in every conceivable spot at the entrance to the park.
White sided one-story house with American flag hanging from side.
The center of the park is Double Trouble Village, a 19th century cranberry farm and packing plant that finally closed in the 1960s. This building is the Pickers Cottage, a surviving example of the numerous cottages that once dotted the village. These small houses were home to the 30-40 families who would work the farm from Memorial Day through Thanksgiving.
One-room school house covered in cedar shake siding.
The oldest surviving building in the village: the one-room schoolhouse, built in 1893.
Burke House, with damage to front porch roof.
The Burke House is former home of David Burke and his family. David was the foreman of cranberry farming operations for almost two decades until the farm closed in the late 1960s. We’ve had some pretty violent thunderstorms over the past few weeks – it looks like a pine tree branch did some significant damage to the porch!
Exterior of Company Foreman's House.
Tucked away in the woods is the Company Foreman’s House. Built in 1900, this large (relative to other buildings in the village) house was home to the foreman who oversaw the sawmill and cranberry farming operations.
Dilapidated kitchen of Foreman House.
I peeked in the Foreman’s House to see the remains of the kitchen. The state of decay of the buildings reminded me of Feltville, the deserted village my wife and I explored earlier in the summer.
Exterior of Sawmill.
In addition to cranberry farming, the sawmill (built in 1906) produced lumber and shingles for sale and also to use in building and maintaining the village. The timber industry is long-established in the Pine Barrens – the original sawmill on this site dates to 1765.
White clapboard Pickers Cottage.
One of the oldest buildings of Double Trouble Village – this Pickers Cottage, home for seasonal workers, was built in 1900. So where does Double Trouble get its name? According to the New Jersey Department of the Environment, in 1770, a dam on the mill pond broke twice in one season. The first time was trouble. The second was double trouble (via the State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection).

 

Tree-lined path through Pine Barrens.
As you leave the village, a series of trailheads offers you plenty of hiking opportunities through the woods of the Pine Barrens to numerous ponds and abandoned cranberry bogs.
Black and white image of pine trees in Pine Barrens.
Fire is critical to maintaining the health and growth of the Pine Barrens. The dry terrain and flammable underbrush create frequent fires throughout the region, but far from a menace, these fires are critical for maintaining the health of the forests. For instance, the pitch pine trees (pictured) require the searing temperatures of a fire to release their seeds.
View of tree-lined stream.
Fun fact: the rain that falls in the sandy Pine Barrens quickly seeps into the porous soil and is the source of all of the water for southern New Jersey’s rivers.
Photo of Platt Reservoir.
Within the boundary of the park is the Platt Reservoir, and it made for a beautiful early morning photo!
Stumps of trees emerging from waters of reservoir.
The geography of the Pine Barrens is constantly shifting: you can see where trees once stood in this water-filled pond.
Cranberry bog filling with plants.
The cranberry bogs of Double Trouble are no longer in use, and nature is slowly reclaiming them. However, cranberries still grow in the bogs, although there is no organized attempt to harvest them.
Mill Pond reservoir, with kayakers on the water.
Our final hiking destination was Mill Pond Reservoir. When we arrived, there were countless kayaks and canoes on the water.
Snowy egret in flight.
We rested at Mill Pond and enjoyed the view before our hike back to the car. In the distance, this snowy egret was looking for lunch.
View of one-lane bridge, with the road continuing beyond into the woods.
After leaving Double Trouble State Park, we headed to our next destination, one of our favorite wineries, which was only 20 minutes from the park. The route took us through some pretty interesting back roads – check out this one lane bridge… it brought back memories of our trip to the Delaware Water Gap last month!
Photo of Main Street in New Egypt, with New Egypt Welcome Center.
This trip certainly had an international flavor – we drove through the center of New Egypt on our way to our final stop. Check out the Welcome Center – it looks like something from a Frank Capra movie. I kept expecting Jimmy Stewart to burst out of the front door, yelling: “Why, I’ll show you, Mr. Potter!”
White Jeep Grand Cherokee parked on side of road, with old truck carrying wine barrels in background.
Our final stop: Laurita Winery, on the outskirts of New Egypt. We’ve visited this award-winning winery several times, and always enjoy stopping by to pick up some more of our favorites. If you’re in the area, makes sure you try their sangria – it’s a fantastic summer drink!
Car odometer reading 55577
By early afternoon, we had arrived back home. The Jeep was a flawless companion for the drive, and is inching closer and closer to 60,000 miles!

 

An Accord Update

Aside from the trip to Double Trouble State Park, most of our Labor Day weekend has been spent at home, tackling neglected chores and small jobs around the house. I did make time to give my Honda Accord a quick clean-up. While running errands, I made a few stops to photograph my newly detailed vehicle, and thought I’d close this post by sharing a few images.

2012 Honda Accord parked in front of West Gate A at Shi Stadium.
In honor of what should have been the start of the football season at Rutgers University, I drove past Shi Stadium, home of the Scarlet Knights. Owing to the pandemic, Rutgers, like all members of the Big 10 Conference, has suspended athletics for the fall semester. I parked my newly-washed Accord in front of a very empty stadium.
2012 Hond Accord parked in front of Scarlet Knight.
As Rutgers University is engaged in remote learning for the fall semester, I had the stadium complex all to myself. In the time it took me to park in front of the Scarlet Knight statue, get my camera gear out of my trunk, walk across the street, find a suitable vantage point, and take the photo… not a single car drove past me. The usually-bustling campus feels like a ghost town. It’s a very odd world we live in these days.
2012 Honda Accord coupe, parked in parking lot at night.
I thought I’d try my hand at some nighttime automotive photography. Not bad – it certainly hides all the scratches and dings! Now with 158,552 miles on the odometer, the Accord continues to roll along without complaint. Onward!

 

Wrapping Up

Double Trouble State Park is a fun, informative, and beautiful way to learn more about the natural beauty of the Pine Barrens. Open from 8:00 am – 6:00 pm every day, the park is free to access. Bring good hiking shoes and lots of water, slather on the sunscreen, don’t forget bug spray, and be prepared to enjoy a unique natural environment. Since I started writing this blog over four years ago, I continue to be amazed at the number of really cool, beautiful, fascinating sites in and around my home state. If you’ve never visited the Garden State, do yourself a favor: come explore New Jersey and see what it has to offer!

As always, thanks for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead!

‘Til next time.

 

 

 

 

10 thoughts on “Double Trouble.

    1. You know, what I should have mentioned is the legend of the Jersey Devil, born to Mother Leeds in 1735, deep in the Pine Barrens. Mother Leeds, rumored to be a witch, had twelve children and cursed her thirteenth during childbirth… I’ll have to do another Pine Barrens trip just to tell that story! (And thanks for reading!)

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  1. Double Trouble looked like a beautiful place to explore! I probably would have been a little creeped out by the abandoned houses. Looks like it was a great road trip!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d imagine the creepy factor would be great in the fall, with the leaves in the ground, a chill in the air, and a late afternoon sunset… might make for a cool Halloween blog post! Thanks for reading!

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  2. Really cool to see those old houses. Takes me back to my childhood when we would go to the New Salem State Park outside of Springfield, IL. They have historic houses and cottages there. At certain times of the year, they would have guides dress in period specific clothes and demonstrate how things were done back then.

    Great shots at Rutgers too!

    Liked by 1 person

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