Guest Blog: Camping at Emerald Lake, The Green Gem, by Matt Parsons
An Emerald is described in the Cambridge English Dictionary as a transparent, bright green, valuable stone that is often used in jewelry. Emerald Lake State Park is nestled in the setting of the Taconic mountain range and the Green Mountains of Vermont. The luscious green trees from the mountains high above are reflected in this 28-acre lake, hence the name Emerald Lake. Hidden on the heavily wooded ridge, are 37 lean-to and 66 campsites. Most of the sites are spacious and semi shaded. There is enough distance between the sites to be neighbors and far enough apart to be real good neighbors. Many families were enjoying the park when we visited. The paved loops through the sites made for excellent bike rides for young and old alike.
There is plenty to do if you choose to stay within the park. There is a small beach for swimming, a snack bar and boat rental facilities (canoes, kayaks, row and pedal boats). The lake is restricted to non-motor boats which lends itself to safe and enjoyable paddles. A large island is situated within the lake, which allows you to get away and explore. On our visit we chose to have a picnic and watch the world go by. Like many of the State Parks, there are hidden treasures that aren’t publicized and can only be discovered if you hunt for them. Who knows, you may find a jungle rope to swing from ; ) The lake also offers anglers an opportunity to catch yellow perch, small mouth bass, northern pike and other warm-water fish. From my kayak I spotted several 12″ to 16″ Bass.
A hillside picnic area, as well as lakeside picnic tables are available. I was amazed at how many hidden picnic sites were being taken advantage of during the hot Fourth of July weekend. They were not only hidden gems, but an oasis from the hot sun. Trails throughout the park and in the surrounding area provide great hiking opportunities. We chose the Lake Trail and found many places to sit and enjoy a different view of the park. When we go back again, it will be with a picnic basket. The Vista Trail was nice too, even though you had to hunt for a vista to view from. The park is also a favorite destination of hikers, with the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail nearby. There are also trails on Dorset Mountain that I have explored in the past.
The formidable mountain ranges of the Taconics and the Green Mountains create a scenic valley. The head waters of the longest river in Vt., the Otter Creek, begins at Emerald Lake and flows north to Lake Champlain. The Battenkill River, renowned for its trout fishing, canoeing, kayaking and tubing opportunities, flows south. The vales of the Battenkill, Otter Creek, and Mettawee River and the adjoining corridors of Routes 11, 30 and 7 make for some world class bike routes. These routes have spectacular scenery but are probably suited for intermediate to advanced riders. Routes 7 and 7A have very wide shoulders for some excellent riding, but we are novice riders and it was way too hot for us to be peddling on asphalt.
We stopped at Battenkill Bikes in Manchester and talked to Dan. We told him we were up for a shaded ride along a river. Dan gave us directions to the River Road, just off of Route 113 in Arlington. It was a perfect choice! The back road follows the Battenkill River where we saw several people tubing. We stopped at the Arlington covered bridge to cool off. This is a favorite swimming hole for the locals and one of the most picturesque places for a covered bridge. It’s no wonder that Normand Rockwell had a studio just up the road.
Vermont State Parks website for Emerald Lake to be very helpful. On another day we explored Manchester and were fortunate enough to see their town’s fireworks display. Further exploration took us up the 5.2 mile toll road and the summit of Mount Equinox. The mountain is just shy of the 4,000 foot mark but it delivers a view of a giant. From it’s summit you can see the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. This too is a great place to have a picnic. On the way back to camp we stopped at the Spiral Press for a coffee and a sweet treat. The converted Colburn House Inn leads you into a rustic place to relax with your favorite beverage and or snack. The surrounding rooms leads you into a browsing frenzy of books from the Northshire Bookstore.
As usual we took the long way home. We took the time to reflect on the days past, and to take in more of the scenic Vermont countryside. Route 30 North did not disappoint. Known as the Stone Valley Byway, the road offers everything from marble quarries to farmer markets, theatrical playhouses to historic downtowns, mountain lakes to Vermont State Parks. It was worth taking the long way home. Our 5-night stay came to an end but the memories glow in our hearts like an emerald placed in a pure gold. The next time I pass by the parks green and gold sign, it will stand as a reminder, that we stayed at this gem of a park.