July 27, 2021

Walden Pond


I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

-Henry David Thoreau


Phyllis, Waldo and I are on our way down the next leg of the Bay Circuit Trail.  This part is about 12 miles long and runs from where we left off last time in Acton, through West Concord and Concord and on to Walden Pond.  Yes, that Walden Pond.  The day starts out cool, at 61℉ and overcast.  There is hardly any breeze and a mist hangs in the air that’s just short of being thick enough to call it a drizzle.  The ground is dry, the grass and leaves are heavy with dew and bugs are out buzzing around, making themselves a nuisance.  Waldo is in his lead position at the extreme end of the leash, even though he has little idea where we’re going, and we are soon engulfed by greenery and Mother Nature.

Phyllis has spent a lot of time around the Concord area, biking and walking, and her kids went to the Fenn School, a private school that is located there.  She knows the place well and it doesn’t seem like much time has passed when she asks, “Are you sure this walk is 12 miles long?  I think we’re close to Concord.”  Indeed, just up ahead is North Bridge, where the Colonialists stopped the British advance into Concord.  There are statues everywhere, including the famous Minuteman statue depicting a musket-carrying Patriot with one hand on a plow.  The BCT is great about connecting to trails that take the trekker through interesting places along the way, including historical sites.  Continuing on, we pass the Old Manse, once occupied by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s grandfather (no relation to our Waldo), and on into the town of Concord.

In Concord, we deviate a bit from our route to visit the school, for nostalgic reasons, that Phyllis’s sons attended.  We promptly get evicted – no dogs allowed.  From there, we go to downtown Concord and again leave the path to get some chocolate from Phyllis’s favorite candy store.  Even before we emerge from Concord, we’re again in the woods, following paths that Emerson and Henry David Thoreau likely trod.  I don’t know if Thoreau had a dog, but they say he liked dogs.  I’m sure he would have loved Waldo, but then, who doesn’t?  Both Emerson and Thoreau, along with Louisa May Alcott and Nathaniel Hawthorne, are buried just to the north and east of downtown Concord on Author’s Ridge, a section of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

The wooded track winds around, crosses a street or two, a highway, and then we’re at Walden Pond.  The lake is an example of a kettle pond, about 1.7 miles in circumference and 108 feet deep, created by retreating glaciers 10,000 to 20,000 years ago.  Today, Walden Pond is a State Reservation and serves as a placid place to take the family to swim and float about on paddle boards and canoes.  Although not far from the town of Concord, the area is all woods, quiet and serene, and well insulated from most of the noise and sights of civilization.  Near the north shore of the pond is the site of Thoreau’s 10’ X 15’ one room cabin.  He lived there from July of 1845 until September 1847, when he left because he felt he had other things to do with his life.  The original structure was moved to a nearby farm two years after Thoreau left, where it was a granary and, later, a pigsty.  Eventually, its wood was used to repair a barn.  A replica of the cabin and its furnishings is located at a spot near the parking lot on the east side of the reservation.  You can look in the window and imagine Thoreau sitting on his chair at his desk, before his stone hearth and across from his small bed.  The original cabin cost Thoreau $28.12 ½ to build in 1845, or about $999.19 in today’s currency, although the replica now at the pond cost $3,000 to build in 1985.  If one had a similar inclination to live in the woods today, and I believe there are some who do, they would probably opt for a synthetic fabric tent with cooking stove, plus or minus some kind of space heater, an inflated sleeping pad and sleeping bag.  The overall cost might just be about the same in today’s dollars. How times change.

The path loops around the pond to its west, staying above it, some fifty feet or so, on a low ridge.  Both Phyllis and I have played and swum in its waters in the past, so we have little interest in stopping our walk to do so today.  We can see the water through the trees and underbrush and it’s easy for me to pretend that I’m walking on the trail in 1845, maybe even talking to Thoreau about transcendentalism and the writings of Louisa May Alcott, Walt Whitman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville and Edgar Allen Poe, all contemporaries of Thoreau.

On the south side of the pond, we continue to Rte 126 and then walk back to the car.  Total distance?  12.01 miles.  Somehow, it didn’t seem that far.  It’s strange how sometimes when you’re out walking, long distances don’t seem that long at all.

The next leg of the trail will take us to Wayland, about three miles from where Phyllis lives.  The days are heating up, though, with highs forecast to be in the nineties.  It might be a while before we can walk in reasonable temperatures again.

We will get ‘er done, though.


Thoreau cabin replica.

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