Slate and Lake Bomoseen
Call me old-fashioned, but I still use printed maps and atlases when taking a road trip. I am a huge fan of the DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer and have one for Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine. I also have a Rand McNally Road Atlas of all fifty states. As much as I appreciate my phone’s GPS, especially driving in an unfamiliar city, I still like to visualize on paper, where I am headed.
This past Sunday, I was charged with finding something fun to do that wasn’t too far a drive, to celebrate Father’s Day with my husband and brother. I consulted the front of the atlas, looking for ideas and came across an intriguing entry for an easy hike on the Slate History Trail in Bomoseen State Park. Grabbing our dog, sunscreen, and bug spray, we were off.
Knowing the Quechee Balloon Festival was in full swing, we consulted our atlas, and decided to take 132 through Strafford and Sharon VT, crossing the river and taking the Pomfret Road into Woodstock, for our first stop, lunch at the White Cottage Snack Bar. This local institution has been around since 1957, and was fully restored after being heavily damaged in Hurricane Irene. There are plenty of tables inside, but we prefer to sit by the river and enjoyed watching the families splash in the heat.
Driving Route 4 up Killington and into Rutland is one of my favorite roads in Vermont. The dramatic mountains in the valley leading up to the slow climb as you head towards the top of the mountain before descending towards Mendon and Rutland are humbling and beautiful, in all seasons. Continuing through Rutland on Route 4 towards Castleton and Lake Bomoseen, you completely understand why Vermont is the Green Mountain State.
Arriving at the Ranger Station at Bomoseen State Park, when we asked where the trail was located, we were told it was just behind the entrance to the park, and therefore we would not need to pay for a day use pass. Our dog was welcome to join us on the trail, but pets are not permitted in the swimming area or day use area, but are permitted in the rest of the park. After handing us a very helpful and informative guide to the trail, we were directed to park next to the ranger station, to begin our hike.
According to the guidebook we received, the first slate quarry was built close to the trail, in 1839. Slate was and is used for roofs, fireplace mantles, billiard tables, and blackboards. Immigrants from Wales, Ireland, France and the Slavic countries all came to the area to purchase farms and work the slate quarries. Although this industry was clearly successful between 1840 and the early 1900’s, the industry collapsed by 1929, due to a drop off in demand and lack of workers, who were conscripted for WWI.
The trail led us to the quarry, which to the untrained eye just looks like a nice pond. We also saw foundations of the worker’s homes, and our favorite, the remains of the Slate mill itself. It is a sizable structure and one can easily imagine the building as it once was, filled with workers creating slabs and tiles for use throughout the United States. This history trail is deemed easy, but beware that you need to watch out for poison ivy, and loose slate on some sections of the trail.
If you like to get out on the water, Lake Bomoseen is a lovely spot. There is a campground and day use area, so you can pack a picnic and spend the day, or plan a weekend getaway. Considering our success with this adventure, I plan to try another suggested adventure in my atlas very soon.