Pinelands People: Mike McCormick, The Hiker

Mike McCormick, of Barrington, didn’t set out to create the definitive South Jersey hiking guide. It’s just that it didn’t exist. Now, his website, launched in March 2013, covers more than

120 trails, nearly 50 of which are in the Pines. An avid backpacker and history teacher, McCormick, 35, finds ample inspiration to satisfy both interests here. Asked what he brings for a trek, he quips: “My children.” He isn’t joking. The older of McCormick’s three sons was clocking 4.5 miles by age 2. “That’s bizarre,” he admits. “Most kids don’t do that.” McCormick’s journeys include everything from grown-up treks to “daddy hikes” that give the guys and their littles an excuse to play.

1 | What’s special about hiking here?

I like the Pine Barrens because they’re an acquired taste. It’s easy to go up to North Jersey, to climb up the mountain and see the beautiful view. When you’re hiking through the Pine Barrens, if you’re not really looking, it’s just lots of pitch pines. Once you get used to it, though, there are cedar swamps, and the different atmosphere of red and white cedars. There are places like the Franklin Parker Preserve where they have old, overgrown cranberry bogs. There is a lot of beauty. From the Revolutionary War period forward, the Pine Barrens were industrial. When you go out there today, it’s this wilderness in the middle of New Jersey.

2 | Tell us about your No. 1 hike.

My absolute favorite is the Batona Trail where it comes through the Franklin Parker Preserve. Seven or eight years ago, the Batona through that section went down the road for 5 miles. It was backpacker hell. Then, they rerouted the trail through the preserve, and it’s amazing. It’s 2 miles longer, but it’s the best trade-off ever. There are beautiful views of the bogs, and you feel like you’re a million miles away.

3 | Any tips for hiking with kids?

The key is snacks and water. Keep them happy. Keep them interested. For the last six months, my 5-year-old has been carrying my…

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