Walden is one of my favorite books. Henry David Thoreau’s classic about nature, solitude and philosophy rings as true today as it did back in 1854.
While not all of us (OK, probably none of us) can uproot ourselves to live in a cabin in the woods for two years as Thoreau did – sans cellphones, TVs, laptops, Fitbits and other assorted gadgets – it’s fun to imagine what it would be like.
For those who want to gaze out onto Walden Pond just as Thoreau did, there’s no better time to visit than in the fall, when the region’s maple, beech, birch and oak trees are ablaze with color. Lucky for us in the Northeast, Concord, Mass. – where Thoreau set up transcendental shop from 1845 to 1847 – is centrally located.
Who knows? A visit just might inspire you to live in a shack in the woods or something. Or at least a tiny house.
Walden Pond – a National Historic Landmark – is located in Walden Pond State Reservation, on Route 126 just off Interstate 95. There you’ll find a replica of the small cabin that Thoreau built and lived in for two years, complete with a fireplace, a small bed, chairs, table and desk. You’ll also find
concrete slabs that mark where the original home stood, just a stone’s throw from the pond.
There are a few trails in the 335-acre site, including one that skirts the pond, yielding gorgeous crimson, yellow and orange leaves that smolder on the water’s surface. Interpretive programs and guided hikes are offered year-round; check www.mass.gov for more information. The state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation is building a $5.2 million visitors center on the site, which will hold exhibits, a bookstore, meeting space, and expanded restrooms and seating areas.
The daily parking fee is $8 for Massachusetts vehicles, and $15 for out-of-state vehicles.
If all that fresh air and stunning foliage has you feeling a little peckish, never fear – the historic town is packed with eateries.
Papa Razzi, at 768 Elm St., offers fresh Italian fare, with selections to please the entire family, from steaming bowls of pasta to pizza, salads, and chicken and fish entrees. Try the gnocchi di Sorrento, with potato pasta, pink sauce, mozzarella and basil, or the puttanesca pizza with capers, black olives, tomatoes, artichoke hearts and mozzarella cheese.
For New England classics with a twist, head to Merchants Row in Concord’s Colonial Inn. Here you’ll find crispy cod tacos, Yankee pot roast with carrots and roasted potatoes, and even a quinoa bowl with rainbow kale, Brussels sprouts and avocado. Feeling fancy? The restaurant offers formal afternoon tea on Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 3 p.m. Reservations are required 48 hours in advance; call 978-369-2373 for more information.
If you want a little more history with your leaf peeping, take a stroll inside the Concord Museum. You’ll find the original bed, desk and chair from Thoreau’s cabin, as well as the study of Ralph Waldo Emerson, a Concord resident and one of Thoreau’s closest friends. The museum also houses a lantern that hung from the belfry of Boston’s Old North Church on the night of Paul Revere’s ride on April 18, 1775.
From Sept. 29 through Jan. 21, the museum is hosting “This Ever New Self: Thoreau and His Journal,” a joint exhibit with New York’s Morgan Library & Museum that features Thoreau’s books, journals, notes and personal items.
For more information, visit www.concordmuseum.org.
For more fall foliage hot spots and adventures, visit AAA.com/NortheastFoliage.