I really didn’t know what to expect when our road trip from Toronto to Texas took us to the place where one of my favorite authors, Henry David Thoreau, wrote his most famous work – Walden. I didn’t expect Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond to be pristine wilderness today because, as he wrote in his book, even when he was living there, a railroad track ran nearby and access to civilization in Concord, Massachusetts was just a few miles away. So I braced myself for disappointment and drove through all the road construction, “to the woods”.
Contrary to what people who have never read his works sometimes think, it was never Thoreau’s intention to live life as a complete hermit, just more simply with fewer distractions. To quote Henry David Thoreau’s words: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”
I was afraid that this place, modern-day Walden Pond, that meant so much to me through Thoreau’s book would have been exploited and taken over by developers and I was a bit reluctant to see what it had become. I envisioned a high-rise hotel on the water with a golf course surrounded by McMansions on streets with cute little names like Bean Field Road and Solitude Lane.
What I found was a pretty, but unremarkable state park with some nice trails around the perimeter and a crescent-shaped beach covered with sunbathers and beach towels. Not the place of my dreams, but not the place of my nightmares either. I am glad we stopped by and I am also happy that Walden Pond today, if not as well preserved as I had hoped, is well preserved in one of American literature’s greatest works.
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How to get to Walden Pond
Walden Pond is located in Concord, Massachusetts. The easiest way to visit is by car. There is plenty of parking available. As at March 2018, parking is $15 USD for out-of-state license plates and $8 USD for Massachusetts plates.
For those traveling by public transport, take the MBTA commuter rail (Fitchburg Line) from Boston which passes right by the pond before pulling into Concord station.
Walden Pond Opening Hours and Cost
Walden Pond is open all year round; Hours vary by season. The visitor center is free.
Top Tips for Visiting Walden Pond Today
Walk from Monument Square in Concord to Walden Pond just like Thoreau used to. It’s only 1.8 miles or 2.9 kilometers in each direction.
Note that fire, camping, and dogs are not allowed.
Favorite Quotes From Walden Pond
“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”
“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”
“Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.”
“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.”
“In any weather, at any hour of the day or night, I have been anxious to improve the nick of time, and notch it on my stick too; to stand on the meeting of two eternities, the past and future, which is precisely the present moment; to toe that line.”
“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”
“We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us even in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavour. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.”
“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
“However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the rich man’s abode; the snow melts before its door as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace.”
“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”
“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”
“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”
“For my greatest skill has been to want but little.”
“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”
“As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.”
“I had three pieces of limestone on my desk, but I was terrified to find that they required to be dusted daily, when the furniture of my mind was all undusted still, and threw them out the window in disgust.”
“Things do not change; we change.”
“I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.”
“All men want, not something to do with, but something to do, or rather something to be.”
“How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book.”
“Let us first be as simple and well as Nature ourselves, dispel the clouds which hang over our brows, and take up a little life into our pores. Do not stay to be an overseer of the poor, but endeavor to become one of the worthies of the world.”
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
“Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.”
– Henry David Thoreau