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Thoreau's Walden Pond  (Concord, Massachusetts)

(Reprint from News: July 23, 2001)

July 23, 2001

 

After brief visits to the Hawthorne and Alcott houses, I drove into Concord and visited the North Bridge.  However, I soon beat a retreat just as the British Army had done 226 years earlier because the weather was pretty hot and sticky, reaching 98 degrees.  It seemed that even the bronze statues here were starting to wilt.  One site in the Concord area that I had never been to, however, was Walden Pond.  

 

Of course, Walden Pond was where Henry David Thoreau (whose real name was David Henry Thoreau... maybe he was dyslexic) decided to take a break from civilization for a couple of years and write a flowery book that no one can understand.  Seriously, though, Thoreau was a pretty cool guy and he moved onto a small, wooded lot here in 1845, built a cabin, and lived simply and alone amidst nature for two years... which sounds pretty appealing to me.  

 

Today, Walden Pond is a park and a very popular one at that.  I think Thoreau would have gagged at the $5 entrance fee, but I paid it and parked there in the huge, crowded lot, filled with cooler-toting beachgoers.  There were, oh, about a gazillion people at the Walden Pond beach on this muggy afternoon, but, interestingly enough, hardly anyone was at Thoreau's cabin site a mile away.  Although I enjoyed visiting the quiet cabin site, I was a bit discouraged once again after passing the mob scene at the beach on my way back to the parking lot.  Near the parking lot, though, I spotted a replica of Thoreau's cabin and had a very pleasant and uplifting conversation there with a local Thoreau enthusiast named Brad Parker.

 

After talking to Brad for an hour and learning more about Thoreau, I felt a strong kinship with him -- Thoreau, that is, not Brad.  I was so inspired that I walked back down to the beach and dipped my hand into the water since, as Brad had told me, "You can't come to Walden Pond without touching the water."  He was right... the water here did feel different.  But maybe it was just the residue from a thousand unwashed bodies.

 

After visiting Walden Pond, I decided to camp that night at a State Park on the coast near Salisbury, Massachusetts.  Unfortunately, this being the middle of summer and Salisbury being on a beautiful beach and only an hour from Boston, the huge campground there was filled to the brim, so I turned my truck around and headed down to a place called Harold Parker State Park.  I'd camped here once before, during my 1995 trip.  With its $12 campsites, I mused that this park was probably the only lodging available in the Boston area that night for less than a hundred bucks.  I think Thoreau, with his lifelong devotion to simplicity, would've been proud.

 

       

Above left:  Walden Pond, near Concord, where Henry David Thoreau decided to take a two-year sabbatical from life.  Hey, that sounds like a great idea... maybe I'll do that!

Above center:  Thoreau really wasn't the recluse that some have claimed, since he visited nearby Concord quite often during his stay at Walden Pond.  He was a quiet man who sought solace in nature, emphasized simplicity in life, and strongly believed in moral principles.  

Above right:  Beach scene at Walden Pond.  Not quite the way that Thoreau remembered it, I'm sure...

 

       

Above left:  A drawing of Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond.

Above center:  His original cabin no longer stands but a replica was built near the parking lot.

Above right:  The inside of the replica cabin is furnished much the same way Thoreau had furnished his, with a simple table, stove, and bed.

 

       

Above left:  Brad Parker, a local Thoreau enthusiast, spent an hour with me at the cabin telling me stories about Thoreau.  The more I learned about Thoreau, the more I realized how similar were our personalities.  Thoreau died at age 44 of tuberculosis and is buried in Concord.  I greatly enjoyed my visit to Walden Pond, thanks mostly to Brad. 

Above center:  Surreal image in my rear-view mirror -- leaving Walden Pond at rush hour.

Above right:  Concord jam (har, har)

 

 

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