When I planned our trip, I pictured that Sunday stretching out endlessly before us. Surely we would take in every historical and natural amazement between Boston and our destination in the Berkshires.
But somehow we had frittered away the morning…hey, it’s not easy to say farewell to Boston. And then, rooted to the spot at Lexington Green, it was well past noon before we climbed into the car and headed for – where, exactly?
The plan had been to explore Minute Man National Historical Park – at the very least the Visitor’s Center, Concord, the Old North Bridge – but time had slipped away, so we decided to move on a few miles down the road and nearly a century ahead from the Revolutionary War to visit Walden Pond, where Henry David Thoreau made a different kind of history during his 1845-1847 stay.
Thoreau’s sojourn at Walden Pond gave him status as a pioneer of ecology and he is remembered for his 1854 book Walden; or, Life in the Woods, which chronicles his two-year stay. You may not know much about his passion for Transcendentalism under mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson, but you’ve probably heard his famous quote: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
He apparently felt sorry for the rest of us because we weren’t enjoying the same view as he did:
I have always pictured Walden Pond as a tiny little tadpole-shaped mud puddle so the real thing was a surprise to me. New Englanders are apparently tougher to impress than the rest of us, and insist of referring to what I would call a full-fledged lake as merely a “pond”.
There is a trail you can hike around the pond (if only we had allowed more time!) and it is also a popular destination for open water swimming. (We chatted a bit with a swimmer about to enter the water – she said the temperature was hovering around 60 degrees Fahrenheit that day! ) Since hypothermia didn’t really appeal to us, we admired Thoreau’s woods
and then climbed back up the hill to view the replica of his cabin:
“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!” was Thoreau’s strident command, and he lived his philosophy. In a somewhat withering but highly readable New Yorker article on him (October 12, 2015) author Kathryn Schulz observes that in Walden “Thoreau lays out a program of abstinence so thoroughgoing as to make the Dalai Lama look like a Kardashian.”
Despite another of Thoreau’s famous quotes “All good things are wild and free”, the state of Massachusetts charges the hefty sum of $30 per car for out-of-state visitors to Walden Pond ($8 for residents) so you’ll need a Kardashian-sized budget to gaze upon Thoreau’s cabin. It is – grudgingly – worth it.
By now it was mid-afternoon and since we wanted to reach Lenox before dark, I had to greatly splice our drive on Massachusetts 2/2A, otherwise known as the Mohawk Trail. Originally a footpath used by Native American tribes to traverse the sixty-some miles from New York’s Hudson Valley to the hills of western Massachusetts, it is now a famed scenic drive.
We were a bit early for peak fall color, but there was just enough to tantalize us:
Because of time constraints we could not dawdle, but I was especially intrigued when I read about the “Bridge of Flowers” in Shelburne Falls. It did not disappoint!
Move over, NYC High Line – the Bridge of Flowers was created way back in 1929 to transform an obsolete trolley bridge that spanned the Deerfield River into a blooming vision. Even near the end of its season (it is closed from October 31 until April 1) it was lovely:
What a lovely travel day this was, filled with unexpected gifts of history, forest and flowers. A very good day, indeed.