Monday, June 6, 2011

In Thoreau's Footsteps

Following our wonderful explorations on Thursday and Friday with Nan and Ruth and Ed at the Garden in the Woods (see last post), Sue and I stayed on at Walden Pond until Sunday afternoon. Sue, a dedicated student of the writings of Henry David Thoreau, has attended gatherings in his honor in Concord for a number of years, so she knew just where to lead me. Here, we are walking the shore of the pond on our way to the site of Thoreau's very small cabin, where he retired to "live deliberately" in as simple a manner as possible.

This is the view of Walden Pond from where the cabin was once located. A replica of his simple little wooden house, just big enough for a bed and a desk and a stove and a chair for a visitor, is now on display near the entrance to the state reservation that oversees Walden Pond.

It took us a while to parse out what this shrub might be, looking like some kind of a cross between Highbush Blueberry and Leatherleaf. Newcomb's Wildflower Guide came through with the answer: Fetterbush.

We did find Highbush Blueberry too, with unripe berries the most beautiful shade of aqua.

Sue led me off from the well-traveled pond-side trails to a dark quiet marshy area called Heywood's Meadow. Here we found a number of interesting plants including Common Bladderwort, Pitcher Plant, and Green Pyrola, but the most interesting find of all was this lightning-struck oak. It looks like it was struck by two bolts, with one of them traveling along the roots for some distance along the ground.

Staying in a charming B&B right across the road from the pond, we had easy access to enjoy the sunsets over the water each evening.

On Friday, after touring the Garden in the Woods all morning, we said goodbye to our friends from home and hurried off to the Old Calf Pasture in Concord, where the Sudbury River becomes the Concord, to meet up with a blog friend of Sue's from the local area. His name is Al, but he's known as Trashpaddler, for his habit of picking up and documenting at his website all the trash he finds as he paddles these waterways. He must have a lot of storage space in that kayak he was paddling.

Al was paddling today with another blogger, Eric, who was scouting the river prior to leading a paddling excursion along these waterways. A frequent trip leader for paddling adventures, Eric documents his trips in his blog Open Boat, Moving Water , where he posted a really nice photo of our Friday encounter on the banks of the Concord River. Sue and I stood on the bridge to wave Al and Eric along their way.

Saturday's major adventure was a hike around the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, a 3800-acre preserve consisting primarily of freshwater wetlands fed by the Concord and Sudbury Rivers. Management of these wetlands, which are systematically drained at various times of the year, provides optimum habitat for many species of resident and migratory birds.

The big excitement the day we visited was the sighting of rare Blanding's Turtles. Turtles are one of Sue's absolute passions, and here she is chatting with members of the refuge's staff, who had been trapping and marking the Blanding's Turtles, baiting their nets with sardines, in order to gather data about this species at Great Meadows.

The turtle trappers told Sue that these turtles had most recently been sighted near one of the drains to the river, so of course that's where we hurried next. Unfortunately, we never saw any turtles, but we did see the strangest sight: these two catfish lying on a concrete pad, facing the current washing swiftly over them. Were they there on purpose, or did they get trapped on the concrete when marsh water washed over it? I thought about throwing them into the nearby river, but thought better of it, remembering the sharp spines that catfish can use to stab your hands.

I am not usually able to identify liverworts on sight, but these puffy little paw-shaped ones I recognized right away. I had come upon masses of Ricciocarpus natans last November when they carpeted the muddy shore of Moreau Lake State Park's Mud Pond. That was during their rooted stage. They were now in their floating stage.

Great Meadows is managed primarily for the benefit of migratory birds, and we saw and heard lots of different ones. I'm hoping that Sue posts her blog Water-lily about our adventures soon, because she managed to snap a photo of a Marsh Wren in full voice. She may even have it on video. The only bird I managed to photograph was this shiny blue Tree Swallow. I don't believe I have ever seen one sit still for so long. They are usually whizzing over the water, eating insects as fast as they can.

This Bullfrog, too, was kind enough to sit still for his portrait.

On our trip from northern New York to Massachusetts, we had driven through Vermont and New Hampshire, passing through many charming towns and exquisite landscapes along the way. We found this Rhodora blooming near a bridge in New Hampshire where we had stopped to stretch our legs midway in our almost 5-hour journey. This is a plant I doubt I will ever find in New York, but Thoreau writes lovingly about it in his journals, so it must have once grown in Massachusetts. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote a poem about it that I hope Sue will include in her blog about our trip when she posts it. We found it growing wild. Just one shrub. And very near finished blooming.

We picked a sprig and kept it fresh in water, until we could lay it on Henry's grave.


Anonymous said...

How glorious!

catharus said...

Glorious indeed!

Kathy said...

What a treat! Thanks for this wonderful tour.

greentangle said...

Thanks for the trip to Concord. I don't expect that I'll be returning that way so it's good to have a refresher.

Wayne said...

What a wonderful adventure!
Thanks for sharing.

The Cranky Crone, she lives alone! said...

I enjoyed this as much as a David Attenborough doc!
Thank yo so much for taking the time to share your adventures.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks, dear readers, for all your comments. Wasn't I lucky to have such a friend as Sue, who could quote me chapter and verse of Thoreau as we rambled where he once wandered.

Allan Stellar said...

I'm touched by Henry's very simple gravestone...