This past Sunday I hit the road to visit some places I had never been to. I’m a little embarrassed that I have been living in Boston for five years and I am just now getting out to Concord, Massachusetts to see the sights. I am trying to right this wrong now. First up was Walden Pond, which Henry David Thoreau called home for a little over two years.
During Thoreau’s stay at Walden Pond he kept a journal recording his interaction with nature and his private thoughts. After his experience he spent seven years revising his observations and the end result was Walden, published in 1854.
What prompted Thoreau to live in the woods? While living with Ralph Waldo Emerson both men experienced loss. Thoreau’s brother John died and Emerson’s son died two weeks later. Dealing with these losses created a bond between the two men. Three years after Thoreau’s brother’s death, he still was grappling with the loss and decided to live in the woods and try his hand at writing. Emerson allowed him to live on a piece of land he had recently purchased at Walden Pond.
In July 1845 Thoreau moved into a one-room house that he built.
Replica of the house near the visitor center.
Inside view of the house.
Actual location of his house in the woods:
He resided in this house until September of 1847. While in residence in the woods he gardened, studied natural history, recorded his experience in his journal, completed a draft of A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, his first book, and he also completed a survey of the pond.
I was surprised that he was not a hermit during his residence at Walden Pond. I always pictured him holed up in his cabin or wandering around in nature avoiding human contact. This image was wrong. On a regular basis he would walk to the village, had people over to his house, and worked as a surveyor.
On May 6, 1862, Thoreau died after a long battle with tuberculosis. He was 44 years old.
In 1965, the National Park Service established Walden Pond as a Registered National Historic Landmark. In 1975 the area joined the Massachusetts State Parks. Each year, about 600,000 people visit Walden Pond to sightsee, hike, fish, canoe, swim, run and cross-country ski. The area covers 462 acres.
Up next: North Bridge