Sunday, July 22, 2012

7/22/2012 - Thoreau Visits Wachusett

The needles of the pine
All to the west incline.
CONCORD, _July_ 19, 1842.
Summer and winter our eyes had rested on the dim outline of the mountains in our horizon, to which distance and indistinctness lent a grandeur not their own, so that they served equally to interpret all the allusions of poets and travellers; whether with Homer, on a spring morning, we sat down on the many-peaked Olympus, or, with Virgil and his compeers, roamed the Etrurian and Thessalian hills, or with Humboldt measured the more modern Andes and Teneriffe. Thus we spoke our mind to them, standing on the Concord cliffs.--   
Henry David Thoreau ... Beginning Line of "A Walk to Wachusett"

In 1842, Henry David Thoreau and companion Richard Fuller sauntered from Concord, Mass. to the western mountain called Wachusett.  Inasmuch as no one had done a reenactment of that journey when I came upon the essay in 2003, it became a project for me.  In the summer of 2005, I completed the walk.  I am sure that were Henry alive today, he would approve of changes on the mountain, changes which improve the summit and enhance the experience of all who visit.

And while this blog has heretofore been a report on the progress of the construction of a new fire tower, today's report is a report on what it means to the people, and this of course, is certainly part of what the Commonwealth was building all along.

The Freedom's Way National Heritage Area ( asked me a while back if I would be interested in leading a walk on the mountain during the summer following the route that I described in my book Walking to Wachusett: A Reenactment of Henry David Thoreau's "A Walk to Wachusett".  Naturally I agreed.

Still Life by Alan Rohwer
Alan purchased my book months ago and we had exchanged emails, but we never met face to face ... and this photo taken on his back porch one summer afternoon as he traced the route.  I really didn't know him until he approached me as the group gathered at the Wachusett State Reservation Visitor's Center.  "Bob Young?  I'm Alan Rohwer!"  So great to finally meet the gentleman who took this, one of my favorite pictures of this whole "Walking to Wachusett Adventure."  I love it.

It was the beginning of a wonderful day.  We had 32 people join us at the Visitor's Center.  Following a brief introduction, we moved down the road about a mile to the Superintendent's House where we would walk to High Meadow, move down Bicentennial Trail and finally join the Mountain House Trail which is my best guess as to how Thoreau ascended the mountain back in 1842.

Group Assembles at Superintendent's House

Headed to High Meadow

Gathering Along at Bicentennial / Mt. House

Bob with Mark Spencer

Rest Stop on the Rocks
Huffing and puffing we were as we climbed the steep section of the trail.  But I cautioned our guests that they should not feel too bad as Henry and Richard were toting a heavy "tent", too heavy for them to manage without switching as they moved along the route.  Now, what was the reason for this heavy load?  To be revealed at the summit!

Rest Stop at Jack Frost Trail

Almost there - Up-Summit Road Crossing

Final Push to the Summit

Summit in Sight

Kim Protects Us From the Trffic

The Tent Mystery Revealed
And I read the secret of the heavy tent mystery.
Many years ago, when camping on Wachusett mountain, having carried up milk for drink because there was no water here, I picked blueberries enough through the holes in the buffalo skin on which I lay in my tent to have berries and milk for supper.  from Wild Fruits.

New Tower with Fire Ranger's On Site

Interpreter Kim and participants - What a View!

Observation Deck in Use

View to the East

Alice Hollaran Meets Bob
I was delighted to meet Mrs. Robert (Alice) Hollaran on the summit.  Alice was not with our group but it was very special to see her on the summit.  Her husband Bob offered me water and a tomato from his garden in East Princeton on my passage by theie house in 2005.

First Ladder to the Ranger Cab

North to Monadnock

Group Photo

Down ... Crossing Up-Summit Road

High Meadow
And so our hike ended a few hours after it began.  It was as Thoreau would have liked ... people enjoying the outdoors on that mountain to the west.
And now that we have returned to the desultory life of the plain, let us endeavor to import a little of that mountain grandeur into it.  HDT, A Walk to Wachusett
As I wrote earlier, the blog will continue ... where is the cab, what issues remain for the Wachusett Mountain Advisory Committee.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

7/8/2012 - Open to the Public

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.
Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1849
Early this morning in the predawn hour of 5:00, I reached the summit and realized that the journey has come to an end.  At last, the chain link barrier has come down and we, the public, now have complete and full access to the new tower facility.  And this includes a building clad with stonework equal to that of the farmers who built the stone fences that mark former borders of the land below and with a handicapped accessible observation deck.  From ground level many years ago, a literary giant of the past once exclaimed,"There lay Massachusetts, spread out before us in its length and breadth, like a map." [HD Thoreau ]  And there it is!

View to the West
Relating to the Thoreau quote above, I have to say that the Castle has been built in the air!  This is just the beginning for each visitor will now depart with a new and a joyous experience from which he might build foundations for his life.
And now that we have returned to the desultory life of the plain, let us endeavor to import a little of that mountain grandeur into it. We will remember within what walls we lie, and understand that this level life too has its summit, and why from the mountain-top the deepest valleys have a tinge of blue; that there is elevation in every hour, as no part of the earth is so low that the heavens may not be seen from it, and we have only to stand on the summit of our hour to command an uninterrupted horizon. A Walk to Wachusett, Henry David Thoreau 1843
Last week I was fortunate enough to get a sneak preview of the observation deck and I was overjoyed.  A phone call to the park later that day indicated that it might be as long as two weeks before the fence would be removed.  But yesterday I met with the Park Supervisor relative to an upcoming program at the Visitor's Center and was told that the fence was now down.  On Thursday, July 12th there will be an official "ribbon cutting ceremony at the summit with state officials.  Finally! 

I decided to wait no longer ... today I would make my first ascent to view the fully opened site.  As I approached the summit, it was clear, even in the early morning hour, that the fence was gone.

Mt. House Trail Approach
Footpath from Handicapped Lot
Inside the Old Fence Line
US Geodetic Survey Marker - 1860
From the very start of the project, I had worried about the survey marker and the possibility of it getting damaged.  In the past, it was just another rock in the parking lot.  Not now!  The hay bales stood firm, protecting it for the past year and now everyone can easily see it.   Nevermore will it be just another rock on the summit.
Eastern Ramp - Cement Base
Northern Ramp - Metal Grating
Western Ramp - Metal Grating
Southern Ramp - Metal Grating
SE Viewing Station
From Observation Deck - Survey Marker on Left Circle
And finally, the moment arrived ... the Sun arrived.
Such A Humbling Sight
 It never fails to stop one's breathing ... at least for a moment.

Two other visitors arrived just in time.  After a short visit to the Observation Deck, the cold forced a sweatshirt out of the bag and they quickly departed.  The temperature registered 58 deg F with a very brisk wind.  I too was getting cold.

Complete - At Last

NE View To Monadnock
On my previous blog entry I mentioned that I would continue to report until I learned more of the disposition of the tower and the cab.  The supervisor was able to tell me that a part of the agreement in the construction contract was that the tower would become contractor property.  And with that ... I still don't know ... I will continue my search.  I will report on this blog.  We are not quite finished.

And a final thought for the day ...

“However mean you life is, meet 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 doors as early in the spring. Cultivate property like a garden herb, like sage. Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Turn the old; return to them. Things do not change; we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts… Superfluous wealth can buy superfluities only. Money is not required to buy one necessary of the soul.”
Henry David Thoreau  

Monday, July 2, 2012

7/1/2012 - Viewing at Dawn

As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.
Henry David Thoreau - Journal

Vacation is over, back to work tomorrow!  I was eager to make a final ascent as the vacation period came to a close, but with other responsibilities facing me this day, there was only one available window for the climb - dawn!  And it was a beautiful trek, to be sure.  I began at about 4:45am, hoping to catch the first ray over the crest of the eastern horizon.  Gradually, I gained elevation and coincidentally, heard beautiful sounds in the treetops.  From the darkness of the night, light was coming and the birds were awaking joyously proclaiming the Kingdom. What a blessed life we have so near to Wachusett, a gemstone in our midst.

At the summit, the sun peeked over the edge, set its course for the day and began the journey to the western horizon.   At the same time, I began my circuit about the construction site ... yes, the fence was still in place even though more landscape work was evident.  I was disappointed, having hoped that it would be down for the July 4th holiday coming up this week.

Sunrise on Wachusett
New Pathway to the Summit
My disappointment was quickly overcome as the north fence had a break in the perimeter!  I mean, not a small break, a large separation, easily made for me to pass!  And so, at this early hour of the day, I entered and headed to the ramp on the eastern face of the facility.

I wanted to be quick, before others might make the summit, yet I wanted to get a good look at what, one of these days soon, would be open to the public.  I guess this was a viewing "by invitation only!"

The solitary sound at this point was my heart beating.  It has been over a year since I first began my blog and watched the weekly construction progress.  Surely, the citizens of the Commonwealth will be impressed when they climb the ramp to the observation deck. 

In fact, I even forgot to take pictures going up ... So, from the Observation Deck ... and then back down the ramp ... come walk with me.

Sunrise viewing from the deck ... a spectacle you won't want to miss!  Sunrise always is so humbling; now the strength, the power, the beauty ... unforgettable.

I remember seeing the deck planks arrive last fall, spending a number of snow storms resting on the ground.  I knew then that it would be quite an impressive work when completed.  I am not disappointed.
Benches - at each corner post of the Tower
 And the view looking up to the cab was quite impressive also ... the erector set assembly up close!

Now to take a look at what I might see below!  It seems so high; the horizon is complete with no trees interrupting my view.
Up Summit Road and the Parking Lot - SE
So high ... this view reminds me of some of the older pictures taken from the observation deck of the early hotel.  Back then, that deck was the fire watch station.

Southward over the Summit Pond
Only those communication towers and antennae to block a full scan of the southern horizon.   I hear that they might be relocated in the near future.  And even if we see them for a while more, the view to other parts of the horizon make up for this minor obstruction. [To the North, by the Ski Lift, we see a similar obstacle with the US Army Corps of Engineers Radio Relay Tower.]

SW to the Windmills of Princeton
Off to the SW the windmills of Princeton are most prominent just off the first tree line.  While one gently rotates in the early morning breeze, the second is idle awaiting repairs.

Truly spectacular.  Very impressive.  Once the word gets out, this will be a spectacle for the world.  Imagine what the views will be from here on a clear autumn day with the foliage at its peak?

Time to make my way down the ramp. 

SE Corner of the Observation Deck ... This Way Down!
Southern Ramp Going Down
And now swinging around to cross the western wall, I head to the north and downward.
Western Ramp
Around the NW Corner to the Northern wall.  Through the railings on the ground level, you can see the signature compass rose marker.  Traditionally, the Top of the Mountain!

NW Corner
Heading Easterly, we descend the northern ramp.

North Ramp
Around the corner and on to the cement ramp that leads back to the ground level.

NE Corner
The home stretch ... back on the ground.

Taking a look around before leaving the site.

Cab and Crow's Nest

From Beneath the Ramp Looking Up to the Cab
The Favorite NE Corner
And as every young farm boy is taught, always close the gate to the pasture when you pass through, so too did I as I left the construction site.  Carefully lifting the end of the fence section, I slid it back in place.  No longer might the animals get out of the pasture ... nor could animals outside the pasture enter either.

Alone at Sunrise

Site of Old Tower - Looking Westward
The site of the old tower is clean and clear of debris.  New visitors will never know it was there.

Prayer Flags At Monument for the 101st Mt. Division
Hanging between two trees just behind the 101st Mt. Division monument.  Messages on the flags clearly indicate that they have been placed in memory of members of this celebrated WWII division.  Its not the Himalayan Base Camp with its prayer flags, but they are no less memorable.

A Look Back
Time to leave; my window was closing and I have miles to go ....

But don't go away ... I will report on the disposition of the old tower and have a final look when the construction fence finally comes down.

[I called the Wachusett Reservation Headquarters later in the day and was told that it would be approximately two more weeks before the fence would come down.  At this time, they are completing the landscape work as well as a short list of items that the contractors have to square away before the fence is removed and the public allowed complete access to the grounds.]