The day dawned to overcast skies. I grabbed my raingear from the knapsack and headed out to the rendezvous site. Only a handful of people showed up. The leader arrived as the first raindrops started to fall. Shortly, a bolt of lightning followed by a brisk thunderclap canceled our early morning excursion to the great blue heron rookery. “Too risky,” the leader said. “Maybe we’ll try to work it in to the nature walk tomorrow morning.”
I headed back to the hotel, then decided to drive out to have a look at the pond instead. It was early, it was raining; I was certain that no one else would be there.
Cars lined the side of the road along Route 126. There was not a space to be had in the small lot at the Shop. I pulled into the unmarked driveway and parked by the house at the end. Barbara was in her kitchen, busy with breakfast preparations for her house guests. She greeted me at the door.
“Well, look who’s here. Come in, come in! Sit down; how about a cup of coffee? You’re just in time for breakfast.”
“I’ll take the coffee but I have to take a rain check on breakfast,” I said. “I just ate.”
“Ah, you should’ve let me know you were coming.”
I explained about the rain and the canceled birding excursion. “They’re calling for severe thundershowers,” she told me. “Too bad the weather isn’t cooperating.”
I looked out the window. “If it doesn’t downpour, I thought I might try a walk around the pond. Could I leave my car here for an hour?”
“Certainly. You need a refill on the coffee before you go?”
“No, thanks; I’m fine.” I handed her the empty cup.
“Be sure to stop by again before the end of the weekend.”
I stepped out into the drizzle and pulled the hood of my raincoat over my head. I was glad I had thought to put on the rain pants. I might roast inside the plastic, but I wouldn’t get soaked from the rain.
A lone swimmer toweled off near the stone wall as I descended the long concrete stairway. The water table was high this year; only a short stretch of sandy beach remained below the bathhouse.
I struck out along the north shore, heading west along the ancient path now bounded by wire fencing on either side. Periodically, I passed a break that allowed direct descent to the water on large natural stone steps. Mist was rising from the surface of the water, stirred by a slight morning breeze.
The sandbar at the entrance to Thoreau’s cove lay submerged in the grey-green water. As I paused on the newly constructed wooden bridge to survey Wyman meadow, now flooded, its surface scattered with islands of lily pads, a train sounded in the distance. I turned to glimpse it rolling by through a break in the trees at the southwest corner of the pond.
A short stretch brought me to the house site, where I stepped through the two granite pillars to read the inscription on the stone that marked the location of Thoreau’s chimney.
From there I walked back to the water’s edge and sauntered south along the cove. Out in the water a few yards from shore a lone kingbird perched on the top branches of an alder, preening its breast.
Further along the trail near ice cove I found a stand of four granite markers of varying heights buried in the forest floor. A bit beyond them I passed a grey-haired man standing knee-deep in the water tending his fishing lines. By his single word of greeting — Maanin’ — I judged him to be a New England native.
I climbed the bank and paused by the railway, looking first south and then north to Concord. I marveled at the clean glistening steel rails winding off into the distance. Here I stood in a moment of time, a mere passerby reflecting on the distance I had traveled and the trek that lay ahead.
I turned west and ambled along the trail, pausing by a dark pool adjacent to little cove. Tiny rings dappled its surface above a submerged log — ephemeral footprints of water striders. Just ahead I stopped to examine a stand of spotted wintergreen on the moss-carpeted forest floor, each plant bearing a tiny stalk of white nodding bell-like flowers.
Two pairs of mallard ducks paddled about in long cove. Each in turn dipped its bill down into the clear Walden water. I thought of Thoreau and the dipper which two visitors had borrowed to get a drink from the pond and never returned.
My eye caught site of several low bushes along the trail near the southwest section of trail. I stooped low to search along the leafy stems and found one solitary round green berry, happy to have satisfied my curiosity that the low-bush blueberry still resides in Concord.