Saturday was a beautiful, warm and sunny, late fall day and it begged me to go hiking. I decided to head straight west to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation area. This time I picked a network of trails on the New Jersey side of the park, exploring Crater Lake and Hemlock Pond. This is a relatively easy 3-mile hike though forrest and along the water.
We followed the trails clockwise, heading left from the parking area, detouring down side trails from time to time to the edge of Crate Lake.
After about a half mile, you will come to an intersection with the Appalachian Trail, marked with white blazes. To follow the Crater Lake Trail, continue straight, this trail will meet up again with the AT about a quarter mile further on. Or you can turn right onto the AT and cut straight across. If you take this route, be prepared for a short rock scramble.
Once the Crater Lake Trail meets the AT again, the combined trails will continue for about a half mile before the AT turns of to the left. If you follow the AT a short distance you will see a sign on the left for Hemlock Pond. This connecting trail is a rocky woods trail that runs downhill for about half a mile before meeting up with the Hemlock Pond Trail. When you get to the bottom of the hill, you will come to an intersection, turn right. In a short distance you will see a post and a trail turning to the left. Take this. You will quickly reach another intersection. This is the Hemlock Pond Trail, which loops around the pond. We turned to the left and circled the pond clockwise until we came back to our starting point.
The Hemlock Pond trail is mainly a woods path, with the pond in the distance, but there is a point where the trail comes to the edge of the pond. We were greeted there by a bald eagle.
Once you've circled Hemlock Pond, retrace you steps back up the connecting trail. At the top, turn right onto the AT and then left onto the Crater Lake Trail, which will take you back to the parking lot. Before leaving, we stopped to enjoy the sunset.