August 15, 2005
Emerald Lake was situated in a narrow valley that hugged the highway, a stream, and a railroad track together. At the park gatehouse, a teenager told us to pay $5. We asked about activities, and he told us plenty of old marble quarrying and logging trails provided endless hiking, so we paid and took a trail map.
After a quick walk from the parking lot along a fairytale-esque trickling stream, we marveled to discover absolute truth in the name "Emerald Lake". We chose a loop trail that followed the lake’s perimeter and then crossed the highway onto a hill.
Since so many families were camping in the area, I expected the trails to be well-worn, leisurely walks. Our trail was barely worn, and the part around the lake’s edge was covered in uneven rocks. At one point, the trail was nothing but two wooden beams stuck in a bog. After walking around two-thirds of the lake, the trail seemed to end in the weeds near the railroad tracks. We figured we could use our map to pick the trail up on the other side of the highway, so we made our way up a ravine, over the railroad tracks, over a guardrail, and across the highway.
Standing in the highway shoulder in front of the sun-scorched, grass-covered hill, this hill felt more like a mountainous cliff than when we had first drove past. Odder yet, we couldn’t find any trail marker or worn path showing us the way up. We started walking up the road toward the park entrance, then turned and looked back. I noticed something different. From this angle, an exposed dirt ledge the width of a bicycle tire was visible in the grass. Several feet up, a short pole marked the path as if it was a bona fide trail. As insane as it seemed, trail blazes on trees farther up assured us that this was the trail marked on our map.
The mountain was covered in a thick canopy of leaves, but the forest floor was so open and clear that we lost the trail and had to backtrack. Occasionally, the trail neared steep ledges, providing us with overhead views of sunlight sparkling off emerald waters in front of the opposite green mountain. Here’s a true aerial view.
This trail was way more of an adventurous hike than I had hoped for, but this experience was the driving force that gave me the confidence to hike the Appalachian Trail at Harmon Hill a few weeks later.
Note: Emerald Lake State Park is only open May 26–October 15.
From journal Daytripping in Vermont's Green Mountain National Forest