Visiting Walden Pond in the Winter
Henry David Thoreau
If you’re looking for serenity during the holidays there’s no better place to find it than on the trails along the shores of Walden Pond in Concord, MA. Made famous by Henry David Thoreau and his book, Walden, or Life in the Woods, this pond owes its present serenity and somewhat seclusion to the Thoreau Society and the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) who work to protect this historical site and valuable natural resource.
During the summer months, Walden Pond is open to the public for swimming and hiking but by establishing a capacity limit, the DCR has ensured that natural resources will be protected and overcrowding will be avoided. In winter, there is solitude and quiet along the trail around the pond. I met only four or five other visitors on my walk a week ago. Located off Rte. 2 in Concord, MA, Walden Pond State Reservation includes over 400 acres of protected open space. Thoreau’s original cabin is long gone but there’s a replica that’s furnished as it was when he lived there, from July 4, 1845 to September 6, 1847. It’s spare, but cozy. The parking area sits across the road from the pond (a kettle pond) lying downslope from the road. Walking down the trail to the pond takes you to the beach, which is clean and pristine in December. The trails run around the pond and the counter-clockwise path takes you the fastest route to the site of the original cabin.
Thoreau decided that he wanted to foresake town living and live within nature. He was loaned the use of some land by his friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson who owned 14 acres of woodlot adjacent to the pond. For two years and and two months Thoreau lived in his little cabin on a slight rise on the north shore of the pond. There are granite markers at the site of the original cabin and it’s a pleasant walk along the shore to this site. This is not the time to choose a path less traveled, but here there is no reason to, as the path with the best view has been chosen and it meanders over a bridge that separates the pond from the ‘meadow’ area. There are surprises along the way. If you live in New England, you rather expect that ponds have clear water. This is not so in the south, where ponds and lakes tend to be murky with silt and clay. Walden Pond is almost impossibly clear, even to this native New Englander. It has its own unique emerald green sheen, a color not normally seen and difficult to photograph. This pond is deep. It is listed as 103 feet deep and there are no streams running into it which is a characteristic of a kettle pond. The day I was there, the only ice was along the edges where the branches dipped in and out of the water, causing frozen crystals to build up along their branches. The area adjacent to the pond along the bridge, ‘the meadow area’ was frozen solid. It is very quiet walking along the shore but beyond the cabin site, the rail lines to Fitchberg run fairly close to the pond. I saw them clearly and was still startled out of my reverie of nature when a train roared past.
I’m wondering if there’s a sign that lets the train passengers know that they’re seeing Walden Pond. The rails are on the far side of the pond and there are small coves and inlets along the path. On the west side of the lake, the path winds uphill just a bit, but all along this trail, the water is fairly close. There are beautiful reflections in the water, wildlife (I saw many ducks), and nature’s decorations to see along the trail. It took me an hour to walk all the way around the pond. I walked with leisure, intent only on enjoying the experience and capturing a bit with the camera. Walden Pond is a wonderful destination to take the kids during the holiday break. They may have been here swimming in the summer, but winter has its own appeal. I’ve found that kids love a path and a mystery ride, and Walden Pond is a destination that should not be missed. I’d love to visit each season of the year.
Have you been to Walden Pond? Which season and what was your experience?.