Family Weekender: Boston

Best of Walden Pond

We have two hard-fast rules for visiting wildly popular Walden Pond:

  1. Never go on a weekend.
  2. Always arrive early — at least before 9 a.m.
Better yet, get to the park by 7 a.m. and you'll get a glimpse of whatinspired Henry David Thoreau: morning mist rising off the tranquil glacial pond, towering pines and mighty oaks casting shadows on its shimmeringsurface.

Don't abide by those rules and you'll find throngs of tourists and a less-than-desirable outdoor experience. On busy summer and fall days, the park reaches capacity and may close its gates four to five times a day — sometimes before 9 a.m.

Walk the short hard-packed trails (each under two miles) skirting the pond. Our kids love to watch scurrying chipmunks and rabbits and are always on the lookout for deer. After, we'll take an early morning swim. (Okay, the kidsswim; we walk in from the sandy beach up to our waists — refreshing enough.)

Other mornings, we'll launch canoes for a gentle paddle around the 64-acre pond, or bob fishing flies to entice the pond's hungry rainbow trout.

The Walden Pond State Reservation is less than an hour west of Boston, off Rte. 126 in Concord, MA: (978) 369-3254. Parking, $2, is limited. There's avisitor center, canoe/rowboat launch, swimming beach, picnic area, visitor center, walking trails, and guided walks and programs. Open daily, 7 a.m. to about a half hour after sunset.

In Thoreau's Footsteps

"Is this the beach where they had the MTV beach party?" our enquiring tykes wanted to know."Not likely," I responded. "However . . . " Sensing an opening, I launched into the story of Henry David Thoreau ("a really famous guy") whodecided to walk the whole 25-mile Cape Cod seashore in 1849. Thoreau calledCape Cod "a wild, rank place," where one encounters "naked nature, nibblingat the cliffy shore," I said. Of course, "naked nature" cracked 'em up.

So we began our trek along the Cape Cod National Seashore. Henry D. took three days to do it, during which time he bunked with oystermen and lighthouse-keepers and ate what he caught (including a very bad clam.) We opted for Day One of Thoreau's hike, a six-mile jaunt from Coast Guard Beach in Eastham to LeCount Hollow in Wellfleet.

Amazingly, little has changed in the intervening century and a half. Thishike is a minimalist's dream, an endless vista of sky-meets-sea. You'llwander a string of pristine beaches along the windswept Atlantic side of thecape, on the peninsula's eastern shore. Heading north, you'll pass an oldCoast Guard station; just beyond, rippling sea cliffs sport tufts of grassand scarlet tumbles of rosa rugosa. Foamy waves deposit an assortment oftreasures at one's feet: mermaid's purses (skate egg cases); snarls ofseaweed, entangled in fishnet; myriad tiny shells, smooth and rosy as baby'slips.

Near the end of the hike, you'll reach Marconi Station, where thefirst trans-Atlantic cable was transmitted. Here, winds and tides havesculpted tawny dunes, some as high as 100 feet.

At six miles, you'll reachLeCount Hollow Beach. Arrange for pickup at the parking lot off LeCountHollow Road. Wellfleet, the nearest town, is a dandy place to spend thenight. Treat the kids to a truly retro activity, a trip to WellfleetDrive-In, one of the last remaining drive-in theaters in the region.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 8 Nov 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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