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A Walk Around Walden in Ice Time - nhpeacenik — LiveJournal
A Walk Around Walden in Ice Time
Inspired by our reading o the book "A Religion of One's Own" by local author Thomas Moore, Denise woke up Friday morning and proposed a "pilgrimage" to Walden Pond.

Thoreau used the site as a retreat where he could contemplate what really matters in life; he saw blue angels in the Pond's water. Moore point out that thousands of people make a pilgrimage to the site every year, to visit the cabin site and to consider some aspect of the questions Thoreau pondered.

The Pond is not on the way to anywhere we routinely go anymore. When Denise's mother ws alive and living in nearby Weston, one or the other of us would stop there at least once a month. Now, Denise goes there in Summer to swim, and I rarely see the place. Denise swims there, and at other Massachusetts state parks, so often that she always gets an annual parks pass, and we thought we could pick one up on this visit, but that wasn't to be. There were no rangers on duty; someone had unlocked the rest-rooms for the day, but that was all the attention the place had gotten. Signs warned of ice on the trails, but we didn't register the seriousness of that warning until we were halfway round the pond... but more on that later.

Recent years have seen the pond ravaged by ice storms and filled to a greater depth than ever before. The roots of trees at the edge of what is usually the beach on the east end of the pond have been exposed. catkins are beginning to appear on pondside bushes. The ice begins a foot or so from the shore, and while there are no warnings against it, I would not want to venture out onto the pond ice. Thoreau spoke of ice-fishing and ice harvesting on an impressive scale during his stay there; this was really not the howling wilderness, but a scene of industry! He said the ice would reliably be broken up by the first of April, and that the thaw was more predictable on this "kettle pond" than on ponds that were fed and drained by flowing streams.

We set off walking the beach on the northern bank, where the sand and gravel were exposed. Sometimes we climbed up the bank and followed the tourist path, surrounded by four-strand wire fences that looked at first glance like barbed wire. On closer inspection I saw there were no barbs. In the warm season, people would be filing and jostling along this narrow corridor to reach the site of Thoreau's cabin, but this day we met only one fellow traveller. What would Thoreau have made of these confining alleys? Would he have understood that they were necessary to protect his beloved natural world now that there were ten thousand visitors a day rather than two or three or a dozen?

The first place we encountered glare ice on the trail was as we approached the cabin site. The trail was so slippery that it would make no sense to try walking it, so we looked at the granite foundation poles that demarcated the cabin's former footprint from a vantage point at the top of a hill, then broke the rules and set off bushwhacking across the leaves between the trail and the beach. The beach trail was still ice-free. We paused to take a few pictures. I played my pennywhistle for a while. Two commuter trains, passed along the west end of the pond as we amde our way along the north beach, one bound to boston and the other to Fitchburg. In Thoreau's time the trains also followed this route, both passenger trains and freight trains, but back then they trailed black clouds of soot and threw out occasional hot clinkers that set the brush on fire.

As we approached the west end of the pond, I realized that the remainder of the beach and trails were going to be covered with ice and snow, and I wished I had brought my ice-grippers. From tis point on, the idea of taking pictures did not occur to me. My shoes were waterproof but somewhat slippery, while Denise's boots had margianlly better traction. With great foolhardiness, we set of down the snowy beach. staying clear of the icy places and trying to avoid stepping on the pond ice. We arrived at a place where an icy trail took off steeply upward, and made good use of the wires of the fence to pull ourselves up hand-over-hand. Then the wires became slack, sagging out over the pond, though fortunately the trail evened out. We slid across to the outer edge and pulled ourselves from tree to tree. Then we came to a place where the trail sloped upward again. Denise somehow made it to the top of the slope, but I kept slipping and sliding down. Finally I sat down and slid sideways to the inner edge of the trail and grasped the wire, pulling myself up the fence line to where Denise was waiting. Then we set off again across alternate areas of leaves and untrodden snow, following a berm that led us higher and away from the pond's edge. We followed the berm a long way up and east, seeing deer tracks, snowshoe tracks, and what may have been moose hoofprints. A couple of small birds either urged us on or taunted us - I'm not sure which. At the end of the berm, an icy footpath sloped downward to a boat-launching area that was also completely iced over. It might have been a fun tobboggan ride, but we didn't have a tobboggan, so we walked deeper into the woods and found a circuitous way to the south end of the boat-launching parking area. There we made our way along wooden beams around the parking lot and to a muddy road that led eventually back to the parking lot. We then headed into the busy center of Concord for some hot drinks and then the long drive home.
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nhwaterspirit From: nhwaterspirit Date: March 24th, 2014 08:34 pm (UTC) (Link)

Walk around Walden

I'm glad you took a picture of the pine tree; there were many all around the pond, heavy with lots of cones. In spite of the ice, I'm glad we went, but I look forward to going again when the trees are green.
Ronald P Ginzler From: Ronald P Ginzler Date: March 25th, 2014 10:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for posting this, Jim! I don't remember ever walking around Walden in such conditions! Compare my facebook post on the long walk I took on the same day.
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