Monday, July 6, 2009

Expedition to Walden Woods

July 5, 2009

Headed southeast from Rick’s place, past the beautiful West River and Mt. Wantastiquet looming over Brattleboro. Here’s the view of my morning commute, when I lived in Vermont.

My route to Massachusetts angled across New Hampshire on Route 119 – notice the horrendous holiday traffic:

The day was sunny – after several days of rain and storms - and grew warmer as I neared Concord. After arriving at my lodgings, all I wanted to do was to jump into Walden Pond. WELL so much for THAT idea:

The pond and surrounding woods are part of a State Reservation, and are heavily visited on all summer weekends, but this was Fourth of July as well. Walden Pond is only eighteen miles from Boston. The park has a limit of 1000 visitors at a time, and once that limit is reached (approx. 330 cars in the gated parking lot), no more cars are allowed in.

What I didn’t realize (since I was within walking distance, and on foot) was that once that limit is reached, pedestrians were not allowed in either. Had a nice chat with some of the dnr staff who were posted at every pathway leading to the pond. The were friendly but firm. The ones I spoke with told me the closing would only be between 3 and 4 pm; by then enough people would be heading home that it would be OK to walk in again. I also chatted with 3 pretty-steamed bicyclists, who had ridden all the way from Arlington MA, and had been looking forward to a swim in the pond, before heading back.

Well one door closes, another opens, as they say.

I took the opportunity to walk about a half mile toward Concord (crossing the dreaded Route 2), to explore Brister’s Path.

This is a wonderful trail created along a hill that Thoreau used to frequent. His observations here led him to develop an essay on the succession of forest trees, which was a new way of thinking about the environment in the 1850s.

The trail is roughly a loop (with interesting offshoots) and along the way, there are quotations of Thoreau, etched into granite markers which are laid out on the ground at various places. It’s very effective - you are literally walking through his writings.

One area was a circle of curved granite blocks, with quotations about Thoreau and his ideas – by other people who have been inspired by his writings, such as Wendell Berry and Martin Luther King. Then I came upon this quote which I was familiar with, but after being on the trail and seeing it in this setting, I was powerfully moved:

Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?

For a moment, I was lost in one of those transcendental trances … when I noticed some movement out of the corner of my eye:

The largest garter snake I have ever seen, was apparently also “moved” by this part of the trail. He had been sunning himself in this perfect spot – nice warm granite - when I happened along.

Along this trail were pipsissewa and spotted wintergreen in bloom, Indian pipes arising from the dead by the thousands (they did tell me it has been raining here for two weeks straight!)

and other cool sights:

a katydid:

Butterfly weed:

The walk lasted over an hour; it was time to head back. By 4:30 the pond was no longer “closed” and my task was now to thread through the many folks on the beach, and walk the pondside trail to a swimming spot. The pond has heavy plant growth all along its edges – clethra and other shrubs – and every so often there is a little break in the vegetation, sometimes just two feet wide, down to the water’s edge. There are natural-stone steps allowing you to have a sort of private spot to swim or just sit and look at the pond.

Today it was so crowded, most of those spots were “taken” – I finally found one at the shady far end, steep but uninhabited. The water was cool but oh so welcome.


  1. Thanks for taking us on a tour with your beautiful photos. Thanks.

  2. I like your co-pilot, sitting there behind your car's registration sticker!

    Looks like the "road not taken" turned out to be a very good find indeed. Thanks for sharing.