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.

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