Probably one of the most famous ponds in all the world, Walden Pond is the setting for Henry David Thoreau’s famous book is a spiritual mecca to this day. 

There are several ponds near Concord, Massachusetts that are very similar to Walden. But Thoreau chose this pond as his home. He lived in a simple cabin by the north shore and used the setting to write his book. “Walden” helped establish the Transcendentalist  Spiritual Movement and his writings on non-violence were major influences on Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

When I was a boy I had a plaque on the wall of my bedroom that had a quote from “Walden”. My mother gave it to me as a present for my birthday. The plaque read: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however, measured or far away” I liked the quote and it spurred an interest in the Thoreau.

I won’t lie. “Walden” was a bit of a challenge to read. He uses a lot of allegories and the language was a bit of archaic for my twelve-year-old brain.  I gave it a second try in college and it was a little easier. The main themes that came out of the book were the importance of living simply, the importance of self- reliance, and the transcendence of nature with mankind. “We are all connected by an invisible thread”.

The book also had an almost eastern philosophy in some ways, stressing the power of meditation to alter a person’s mood and outlook. He also echoed the Buddha stressing the idea that to ‘find God’ one needs to look inward, not outward.


Thoreau spent two years, two months and two days living alone in his cabin by the pond. He would chop wood, grew a garden, spent a lot of time observing nature. He also took a lot of notes and kept a journal he would later condense to form “Walden” He considered his time at the cabin as an ‘experiment” to see if the time alone in nature would change him and according to his book it did.

A major outcome of Thoreau’s time alone was his new-found belief in “mindfulness’ While new to him the idea had been around in Buddhism for centuries. He believed if we allow ourselves to be immersed in nature we become like animals. No sense of past or future living solely in the present. Thoreau spent another couple years after leaving the cabin working on his book and finally publishing his book in 1854.

The original cabin was torn down years ago. The park built a replica and a statue of Thoreau

The reception to “Walden” was mostly positive Others championed the book’s emphasis on self-reliance as an “inherently American Value”. While the book received sold well, it did not became achieve ‘classic’ status until years after Thoreau’s death.

The cabin’s interior was Spartan by design. Thoreau kept a couple changes of clothing, some tools, his books, and that was pretty much all he owned.

The Cabin sat on land owned by Thoreau’s friend and benefactor Ralph Waldo Emerson. In the early twentieth century, the land was gifted to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts who turned the pond and adjacent land into a state park. The Walden Pond State Park is popular both as a spiritual retreat and also a popular recreation area. The pond has a beach and can get packed in the summertime. (Although when I was there in June, the water was still quite chilly). There’s also a hiking trail that goes around the pond.  the trail is less than two miles and is an easy hike. One of the highlights of the path is that it goes by the original site of Thoreau’s cabin.  The location is marked by small stone posts and admirers have created a nice rock garden nearby.

Thoreau was mostly vegetarian and had a vegetable garden next to his cabin. Visitors would also come by occasionally and bring food.

Whether you have read “Walden” or are just a lover of nature, Walden Pond is a nice visit. The pond is near Boston and the historical town of Concord has a great museum that features some of Thoreau’s personal items as well. Try to come on a weekday and you may have the place nearly to yourself. That’s the way Thoreau experienced Walden Pond. and it changed his life. Maybe it might change yours too.

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