Evanston, Wyo., to Winnemucca, Nev.

I had a slight but sharp headache when I got up, and it took me a few minutes to remember why: Evanston is about 6,750 feet above sea level, and I am not used to air that thin. Then I remembered that we were back in the Far West, where the air is much drier than the air in the eastern half of the continent, so I was probably dehydrated too. Coffee helped the headache go away.

Within an hour from the time we left Evanston, we were in the outskirts of Salt Lake City. We hadn’t driven through a city since we had to get through Chicago, and we did not like the thought of having to drive through Salt Lake. So we decided to go around it, up Interstate 84 to the north of Great Salt Lake, then down state highways to rejoin Interstate 80 in Utah.

As we left Interstate 84, a sign on Utah Highway 30 read: “Next Services 102 miles.” We drove past the occasional agricultural field, growing what appeared to be hay or alfalfa, and through open range (though we didn’t see any cattle). A sign declared that we were passing through the town of Park Valley, though we didn’t see much beyond a small cluster of houses and a Mormon church. A little later, we wound through another cluster of houses that a sign said was Rosette. People who live in these two communities have to drive forty miles or more to buy gasoline.

About halfway between Rosette and Grouse Creek Road, we pulled off the two-lane highway to look out over the basin of the Great Salt Lake Desert. We watched dark areas of rain fall from clouds fifty or a hundred miles away. We could see the glint of sunlight shining on the salt flats far to the south of us.


I stood in the middle of the highway to take a photograph of the highway and the plain sloping up to the mountains. There were so few vehicles I was able to stand in the middle of the road for several minutes and frame exactly the photograph I wanted.


Yet it didn’t feel lonely at all; it was just beautiful. But we had to keep driving west, so we got back in the car. We stopped briefly in Montello, Nevada, for something cold to drink; Montello boasted a couple of bars and a sort of general store that also sold gas. And in another half hour, we were back on the interstate.

We made one more stop, at the Western Folklife Center in Elko, Nevada. They have one of the most interesting selection of books on the Far West, ranging from cowboy poetry to academic studies to just plain weird books. (In fact, one of my favorite books that I’ve bought at the Western Folklife Center is titled Living the in Country, Growing Weird, about life in a tiny town in north central Nevada.)

I got to talking with the man who was watching over the shop, and he told me that if I liked the books they sold, I should come in January to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. It’s more than cowboy poetry, he said, there are workshops on hatmaking, and Basque cooking, and it’s lots of fun. And, he added, you can come by train, so you don’t have to drive through the snowy passes in January.

I’ve always wanted to come, I said, but it’s hard to get away from work in January. And that reminded me that I will be back at work on Monday, just two days from now. I love my job, but I’m not sure I’m ready to go back to work, not quite yet.


Big Springs, Neb., to Evanston, Wyo.

Faced with an eight hour drive today, we slept late and didn’t get on the road until ten. Our first rest stop was in Pine Bluffs, Wyoming. We pulled into the rest area expecting the usual fenced-in area beside the highway; but we found a trail that connected to a fairly extensive trail network, and we took and hour-long hike up a small canyon, between widely spaced pines, onto the tableland above the highway, and back down. The trail in the canyon followed a now-dry watercourse, but we could see that there had been heavy rains fairly recently.

The rest area had another short trail that led to a University of Wyoming archaeology site. As we walked up to the building that covered the site, we met a young woman shoveling gravel and stones off the path. She told us that a severe thunderstorm had hit Pine Bluffs on Wednesday afternoon, with high winds and golf-ball sized hail. Inside the building, we were greeted by a woman who told us more about the site, and more about the storm. The dig site began with a nineteenth century trash midden in which was uncovered a bottle of Lydia Pinkham’s famous elixir, a specific for nearly all ills, which contained mostly grain alcohol; the dig extended downwards and back in time to a Clovis point dating from about 9,000 years ago.

Our tour guide also told us about Wednesday’s storm. She showed us photos on her smartphone: the ground white with several inches of hail, windows broken by hail blown almost horizontally by severe winds, the inside of her apartment badly damaged by water and blowing hailstones. She didn’t have renter’s insurance, but, she said, fortunately there was state disaster relief money available. After talking with her, we walked back to the rest area, where we chatted with a volunteer staffing the information desk. At his house, a few miles outside the town, the hail had only been pea-sized, but he and his wife had been in Pine Bluffs and the hail had shattered his windshield. He told us about houses damaged and crops destroyed, and then somehow he and Carol wound up talking about British television murder mysteries.

Once we knew about the storm, we understood some of the curious things we had seen on our hike: grass beaten down and pointing in one direction; the pine trees half bare of needles with a thick carpet of green needles under each tree; poison oak with most of its leaves torn off with bruised and torn branches; the mix of ice and pine and juniper needles that we had crunched over in the now-dry watercourse.

We drove into town to have lunch. It was after one o’clock, but the restaurant we walked into was full. We decided to wait for a table. A mother with three children walked in after us. She obviously knew the restaurant hostess, and I gathered that the reason there were so many people in the restaurant is that there were so many people who didn’t have functional kitchens. We decided we could eat a picnic lunch, and gave up our place in line to the mom and her three children.

We drove into town to the one small supermarket to buy food for lunch. We saw several houses that had no paint on one side, where the hail had stripped it off.


Yet just outside town, we could see no damage at all. And we drove across the High Plains, the vast sky and the wide open landscape a constant reminder of how unimportant humans really are.


Murdo, S.D., to Big Springs, Neb.

This morning, before we did anything else, I had to sign a legal document relating to my father’s estate in front of a notary. We stopped at an insurance agent’s office, and the woman who greeted us said the person who was a notary was out, but her father-in-law up at the Ford dealership was a notary, so she called him and he said to come right up. We drove the three blocks up the hill to the Ford dealership across from the Jones County Courthouse. As soon as we got out of the car, a smiling man who had been talking with some people on the sidewalk greeted us and said he was Terry, the man we were looking for.

He took us into his office, made a couple of photocopies for me, and put his seal on the documents I signed. When I asked him how much I owed, he smiled and said, “Not a thing.” I was beginning to get the idea that everyone in Murdo, South Dakota, was friendly and courteous. I walked across the street to the Post Office to mail the documents, and everyone there was friendly and courteous. We stopped at the grocery store in town to get some vegetables, and everyone there was friendly and courteous, too. Murdo seemed like it might be a pleasant place to live.

We drove south on U.S. 83 over rolling prairie, down into valleys where small swift rivers shaded by a few stands of trees, then back up onto the almost treeless prairie. We were really in the Great Plains now. At Valentine, Nebraska, we turned east and drove four miles to Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge. Here we got our first introduction to the Sand Hills of Nebraska: we went for a hike in what we knew was the prairie, but the soil was almost pure sand in places and we sometimes felt like we were hiking up a grass-covered sand dune at the beach on Cape Cod. Yet we were more than a thousand miles from the ocean.

While we were hiking, someone from the refuge rode by on an ATV. He stopped, and asked where we were going, and he said we should be fine but if we saw a buffalo we should keep away from it. Indeed, as we walked along we saw buffalo tracks in the sand, made probably early that morning: big cloven-hoofed tracks that went a couple of inches deep into the sand. But we didn’t see any buffalo, so when we finished our hike we drove east a mile along a gravel road to the summer bison range. And there they were, grazing, and running around in the grass, and rolling in the dirt of the road.

Bison, Fort Niobrara NWR, Neb

I am fascinated by the Nebraska Sand Hills, and I persuaded Carol that we should stop at Valentine National Wildlife Refuge, just a few miles south of Fort Niobrara, to see more of them. We walked the half mile trail up to an observation tower built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and looked out at the strange landscape: huge areas of dull-green grass-covered sand hills, the hills a few hundred feet higher than the low-lying flat lands; the flat lands were either large shallow lakes, or bright green marshlands. The sand hills made weird shapes on the horizon, and they were steep enough in places that you could feel it in your legs when you climbed up them.

Valentine NWR, Neb

We arrived in Big Springs, Nebraska, at about half past six. As we drove into the motel parking lot, Carol saw a man with a bicycle. She said, it looks like he’s riding across the country. And sure enough he was riding across the country. His name was Tayo, he had started in Seattle, and he was headed east to his home in Maryland. Carol asked if she could photograph him, and I asked if I could put the photograph on my blog, and he gave his permission.

Tayo, Big Springs, Neb

We asked him about his route, and how it was riding all that way, and then Carol asked him if he was riding for any particular reason. He said he was riding in memory of his son, who had lost his battle with depression last summer. I asked how old his son had been, and he said sixteen. I have his ashes right here, Tayo said, pointing to the rack on the back of his bicycle. He said he had been fine most of the day today, but it hit him about twenty minutes ago. I said that my father had died three months ago, which was not nearly as bad as losing a child, but that it came in waves. He nodded; it came in waves.

Tayo’s bike had gotten damaged earlier today, and while we were talking he was waiting for the rural shuttle to arrive and take him to North Platte where he could get it fixed. The shuttle pulled up, we helped him load his bike into the van, then we exchanged email addresses, and away he went.

After we brought our luggage into our room, I realized that a wave of grief had just washed over me, so while Carol talked with her friend Kirsten on the phone, I took a walk across the Platte River and back. I was fine when I got back; getting outdoors is the way I deal with those waves of grief. During our trip this summer, the best I’ve felt has been when I’m outdoors: fishing off the end of a dock at Lake Winnebago, spending a couple of hours looking for birds in Great Meadows in Concord, camping out in Maine. I can understand why Tayo wanted to spend several weeks riding his bike through hundred-degree heat and rainstorms, and cool cloudy days like today.

Jackson, Minn., to Murdo, S.D.

This morning we drove to Yankton, South Dakota, to have a brief visit with Carol’s Aunt Rose. We talked about family history, and Aunt Rose showed us her family history and genealogy files: carefully organized computer files along with neat notebooks and files; I silently wished my family history and genealogy files were half so organized.

Then we drove west along county and state roads through the rolling landscape of southeastern South Dakota: dark green soybean fields, lighter green corn fields, a few scattered stands of trees, and every ten or twenty miles a little town. We stopped for lunch in Tyndall, the county seat of Bon Homme County. After lunch, we walked and drove around the town. The railroad line had been abandoned, but the grain elevators were still next to the old train tracks, and they were still being used. There were half a dozen restaurants in town, a couple of banks, an old fire house now being used as the county food pantry, an old power plant building and a new municipal building, a park with grass and trees and a small pond and a playground, a pleasant red-brick library building, and a stone county courthouse.

Bon Homme County Court House, Tyndall, S.D.

The town looks fairly prosperous, though the newer buildings are made of inexpensive materials and lack ornamentation. The most impressive buildings — small, but solid, built of stone and brick, with modest but interesting ornamentation — bore dates from just before the First World War. Presumably, that was the economic heyday of Tyndall.

Tyndall, SD (1)

We got back on the interstate, and at a rest area near White Lake, S.D., we saw a curious sight: a tiny church separated from the rest area by a low chain link fence, but with a gate.

Near White Lake, SD

We went inside and found three rows of small benches, with an aisle between the benches. The windows were sealed shut so it was stuffy, but I noticed that there was a thermostat and a small radiator so presumably the building is heated. At the back of the church was a rack containing a variety of tracts about the Bible; I wished I had brought along some extra copies of the “Unitarian Universalist Views of the Bible” pamphlet to add to the rack.

We’re spending the night here in Murdo, South Dakota. Just after we arrived, it started raining. We ducked into The Diner, which was attached to the Pioneer Auto Museum and gift shop. It was still raining when we finished eating, so we went into the gift shop. Carol managed to get a reduced admission rate to the Museum, because it was near closing time. I stayed in the gift shop, where they had a small but excellent selection of books on local history; I bought a biography of Oscar Micheaux, an African American homesteader in Dakota Territory who also happened to be a filmmaker.

I wound up talking politics with the man who sold me the book. We both agreed that we were disappointed with both parties’ nominees for president. He said that Trump was a bully and Clinton was a crook; I contended that one reason we have gotten to where we are now is the lack of common courtesy in politics and on social media; in short, we said nothing that hasn’t already been said over and over again in casual conversations throughout the United States.

That man had to help another customer, so while I waited for Carol to come out of the museum, I talked with the man who sold admission to the museum. He had worked for years in local law enforcement. He told me about several of his encounters with mentally ill people, and contended that mentally ill persons would be better served by some kind of institutions, rather than dumping them on the streets where they forget to take their medications and become the responsibility of law enforcement personnel.

At last Carol came out of the museum, just before it closed. She told me it was really something and that I should have gone in with her, but I was satisfied with the conversations I had while I was waiting.

Black Wolf, Wis., to Jackson, Minn.

Yesterday, Carol and I had picked several clusters of Staghorn Sumac fruit. We soaked them overnight in water, and this morning we had sumac tea to drink. The tea was tart but not as flavorful as some I’ve had; I suspect the rain storm two days ago washed away much of the flavor. Still, it was worth drinking, and we each had a large glass of it with breakfast.

Staghorn Sumac, clusters of fruit

We said goodbye to Ed and Nancy, and drove west through central Wisconsin. We stopped for lunch at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, where we startled two Sandhill Cranes, who flew up out of the march grass into the air, bugling loudly; we were almost as startled as the cranes.

After lunch, it was Carol’s turn to drive, and I read aloud the coverage from the Democratic National Convention from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. We had watched some of the speeches last night at Ed and Nancy’s, and had been impressed and a little surprised at Bernie Sanders’ ringing endorsement of Hillary Clinton; but we hadn’t realized that when he declared his support for Clinton, some of his supporters had booed loudly. There are lots of angry white people out there in this presidential election season, and it is hard to predict what they will do.

Tonight we are staying in Jackson, Minnesota. We drove into the town’s small business district for dinner; it’s a small little Midwestern town along small swift river, with a tall majestic courthouse towering over the town center. The town is not particularly scenic, the downtown has the usual empty storefronts, but we both found it relaxing and enjoyable to walk around the town at dusk. Carol chatted with the owner of a large Newfoundland while I let the dog sniff my fingers. We stopped to look up at the Common nighthawks flying around the statue of Blind Justice high atop the dome of the courthouse. And we admired the round picnic table built on the stump of a tree in someone’s front yard. Look, said Carol, there’s even a bunny sitting under the table.


Black Wolf, Wis.

I spent an hour in the afternoon on a dock poking out into the muddy waters of Lake Winnebago. I was mostly looking at birds, but I also watched the airplanes flying by. The Experimental Aircraft Association in Oshkosh is hosting AirVenture, a week of air shows, mass arrivals, experimental aircraft, antique aircraft — it’s one of the largest air shows anywhere. The EAA Seaplane Base is just a couple of miles up the lake from us, and while I sat on the dock a dozen or more small seaplanes flew past the little cove where I sat. Then I heard a much deeper, louder sound, and through the trees a gigantic Martin Mars, a four-engine seaplane with a 200 foot wingspan, appeared overhead, circled slowly around and settled down towards the water.


The huge red and white plane disappeared behind some trees. I watched through the binoculars, and when it reappeared I could see the huge bow wave sent up by the Martin Mars.

A few minutes later, I looked down and saw a different kind of seaplane. A small insect in the order Odonata flew down and landed on the surface of the water. Because it spread its wings out on either side of it, I’m going to say it was a dragonfly, suborder Anisoptera. But that’s as far as I can go; I can’t even say what family of dragonflies this individual belonged to. But that’s beside the point; what interested me was that this insect was able to land on the surface of the water, apparently supported just by surface tension, and then take off again. What an amazing insect.


When an orange-and-white butterfly landed on a lily pad, I have to admit that I felt relieved, because I knew I could identify the species. It was a Bronze Copper, a common butterfly in Wisconsin at this time of year. I’m not sure why I feel the need to be so specific with identification; I’d like to think it’s because it helps me better understand the evolutionary connections between organisms.

Hudson, Ohio, to Black Wolf, Wis.

Yesterday, we drove from Hudson, Ohio, to Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin. The drive was long and remarkable only because of a huge traffic jam that we were able to avoid by using an online map service, and thunderstorms outside Chicago that prompted us to stay in a service area for an hour until the rain died down.

Today Ed took us to the Paine Art Center and Galleries in Oshkosh. I enjoyed seeing the building, the art, and the furniture, but I liked the gardens most of all. I enjoyed the creativity of the plantings — using red Swiss chard as an ornamental in a garden dominated by deep red flowers was inspired — and the variety of the gardens, from woodland shade gardens with winding paths, to formal rose gardens laid out in rectangles.

What particularly struck my attention, though, was the variety of pollinators I saw. Several species of Hymenoptera, and at least two species of Lepidoptera were actively seeking out blossoms throughout the garden. I felt fairly confident identifying the Lepidoptera as the common species Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) and Red Admiral (Vanessa Atalanta).

I was unable, however, to identify the Hymenoptera species that I saw. One was a bumblebee, in the genus Bombus, crawling in and out of the flowers of a hosta; but which of the two dozen species of bumblebee that live in this region, I am not able to say.


I saw a small greenish bee-like insect, perhaps one of the metallic green bees (genus Agapostemon) crawling on a red flower. Another individual, apparently of the same species, flew to the flower and the two clutched at each other and lay on one of the petals for a few seconds; then both flew away.


I looked through the BugGuide online guide to genus Agapostemon, but it was clear I did not have enough information to figure out which species I had seen. Nor was I able to decide what the behavior I saw was about: were they two individuals copulating? having a territorialdispute? Here’s a magnified section of the above photograph:


And there were other individuals where I could not even determine the genus, like a wasp-like insect I watched crawling around on a fennel flower. Lepidoptera is the only order of insect where I find it possible to carry identification down to the level species; in Hymenoptera, I feel lucky if I can get to the level of genus; and there are other insects where I’m not even sure in what order the insect should be placed.


Curiously, I didn’t see any European Honeybees. But I saw at least two or three other species of Hymenoptera active among the flowers. I could have spent all afternoon looking at these insects, but that would have been a serious imposition on Carol and Ed.

Erie, Penna., to Hudson, Ohio

Front page headline on this morning’s Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Speech caps mixed week for GOP, but Cleveland gets high marks

I have an uncle who lives in Hudson, Ohio, a half hour drive from Cleveland. A few months ago, I tried to book a motel room for tonight, but the prices were outrageous: a nearby Motel 6 wanted $286 a night. That was inexpensive compared to other motels. That’s what the Republican National Convention did to hotel prices within an hour’s drive of Cleveland. Fortunately, my uncle said we could stay with him.

Aside from that, we have seen no evidence of the Republican National Convention.

We did see a new baby, who is my first cousin twice removed. My cousin, the baby’s grandmother, tried to convince me that I am the baby’s great uncle, but I wasn’t convinced.

And we did see one of my mother’s pastel drawings, made long before she was married, framed and hanging in my uncle’s living room. Upon orders from my sisters, I took a photograph.

IMG_6261 (1)

And we were happy that the Plain Dealer felt that Cleveland got high marks for being a city that “charms visitors.”

Westborough, Mass., to Erie, Penna.

Eight hours of driving today, with an hour for breaks and lunch: we were on the road from 9 in the morning until 6 in the evening. Both of us have driven this stretch of Interstate 90 too many times, and it is no longer exciting. Not the Mohawk River winding through the foothills of the Adirondacks, not the vineyards of western New York State, not aged and mysterious industrial buildings, not even crossing and re-crossing the Erie Canal: none of it captured our attention.

Instead, we read to each other from the New York Times and the Boston Globe. The stories of the Republican National Convention were the most fun to read out loud. Today’s New York Times reported that “a 65 year old coauthor of several books with Donald Trump,” who “is considered part of the extended Trump family” took the blame for plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech before the Democratic National Convention while writing Melania Trump’s 2016 speech before the Republican National Convention. We speculated that the Trump campaign needed someone to take the blame, found Meredith McIver who was getting ready to retire anyway, promised to take care of her financially…. Boston Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham made a public apology to Mitt Romney, saying she was sorry that she was so hard on him, and wishing for the days when he was the Republican presidential nominee: “Lord, how I long for stage-managed and boring now.”

The current presidential campaign is so surreal, I wish Hunter S. Thompson were still alive so he could report on this year’s campaign the way he reported on Richard Nixon and his political opponents in Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 1972. What Thompson could have done with Trump, Clinton, Cruz, Sanders, Carson, and company! In 2016 we lack a literary genius of that magnitude with a serious interest in, and knowledge of, politics — so much the worse for us.

The hours sped by as we read aloud to each other. When we tired of politics, we switched to one of Simenon’s Inspector Maigret novels: Maigret, with his unblinking ability to look into the heart of base human motivations. If Maigret had been a writer instead of a fictional character, he might have been an appropriate political reporter for 2016.

When my voice finally tired out, we drove in silence for a time through the rolling land along Lake Ontario. I thought about how different the landscape is from eastern Massachusetts where I lived for more than forty years, and which I still take to be the norm. I thought, too, about how nice it has been to be able to speak Eastern New England Dialect, even though there aren’t as many people who speak in dialect any more, and fewer still who speak the West-of-Boston accent which I grew up with.

Carol made fun of me a few days ago because I don’t always talk in dialect; I tried to explain to her that speaking in dialect is dependent on context, especially now when there are so many outsiders who speak in other dialects. She just pooh-poohed me. I had a long conversation a few days ago with someone who speaks the same accent of Eastern New England Dialect that I do, and he kept me entertained for half an hour with his anecdotes of people he had known. I realized that all his anecdotes revealed a precise understanding of the exact class status of the people in the anecdotes; nor have I seen that level of attunement to class status in the other parts of the United States where I have lived (the Chicago area, the San Francisco Bay area).

I noticed that most of the native speakers of dialect with whom I spoke in the past few weeks felt some sense of bitterness or resentment towards people to whom they consistently referred to as “entitled”; I understood this resentment more broadly as resentment towards members of an economic elite who are not rooted in a place, the elite who are part of a globalized economy and who might live anywhere, anywhere in the world. The people in this elite — globalized, college-educated, well-traveled, in the upper five percent economically — are mostly unaware of how they treat others, how they assume that all the world is theirs for the enjoying thereof. This helps explain some of Donald Trump’s appeal, at least to me: he comes from Queens, he’s a brash New Yorker, he eats fast food; he may be filthy rich, but he knows where he’s from and he still talks like where he’s from — just as many people forgave Bill Clinton for some of his brashness and narcissism because he always knew he was from Hope, Arkansas, and talked that way.

We arrived in Erie, Pennsylvania, in time for dinner. Carol seems to have an instinct for finding the local food co-op, and before long we found ourselves in the parking lot of Whole Foods Co-op on West 26th St. It was clean, well-lighted, staffed by hip-looking young people with tattoos and black clothing, and patronized by cultural creatives (some of whom were too cool for school). The Co-op had free wifi, which was nice and fast. I hate to admit it, but we spent the whole evening there.

Whole Foods Co-op, Erie, Penna

Concord, Mass., to Westborough, Mass.

Carol had some business that kept her out until almost midnight, so we got a late start this morning. It was a perfect New England morning: warm but not hot, a pleasant breeze, blue skies. We decided to take a walk at Walden Pond before we took care of a few last things at Dad’s condo. So we drove to Walden Pond.

The parking lot was almost full when we arrived. Everyone else was headed towards Walden Pond, but I convinced Carol to walk towards Goose Pond first. We went down the bluff to where the pond should be, but instead of water we found a grassy plain; Goose Pond was completely dry. Dying water lilies, still touched with green here and there, in the two low points of the pond bed showed that there had been water not too long ago. Killdeer called from the grass in the pond bed, and a Red-tailed Hawk screamed overhead. We picked a few huckleberries, but they were seedy and dry. “They haven’t had enough rain,” Carol said.


Above: A trail around Goose Pond; you can see the open grass in the bright sunlight beyond the trees.

After an hour or so, we headed to Walden Pond. Carol stopped to talk to a J., a park employee with a Ph.D. in biology who had studied the invertebrates of Massachusetts beaches. Now she’s a park interpreter who not only knows a lot about biology, but also is well-read in the secondary literature of Thoreau. Carol wanted to know how the wastewater from the new visitor’s center, currently under construction, would be handled. J. told us that it would be pumped over to the site of the former trailer park, because a study found that groundwater from the trailer park site did not flow into Walden Pond. I found the research online: John A. Coman and Paul J. Friesz, “Geohydrology and Limnology of Walden Pond, Concord, Massachusetts” (U.S. Geodetic Survey, c. 1999). Skimming over this paper, I learned that:

“…Walden Pond is a flow-through lake. Ground water flows into Walden Pond along the eastern perimeter and lake water flows into the aquifer along the western perimeter. The Walden Pond contributing area includes Goose Pond, also a flow-through pond, and its ground-water contributing area. Approximately 6 percent of the inflow [into Walden Pond] from ground water is derived from Goose Pond. Lake-derived ground water from Walden Pond discharges into the Sudbury and Concord Rivers or to wetlands and streams draining into these rivers.” (p. 55)

Given the state of Goose Pond, it was not surprising that when we got down to Walden Pond, the water level there was quite low. Last time I was at the pond, the water was high enough that there were places where it was difficult to walk along the water’s edge, because the water came right up to the bushes. Today there were sandy beaches at least twenty feet wide all around the pond.

Walden Pond is not an isolated place, and there were swimmers and sunbathers dotted all around the perimeter of the pond. I used to walk around Walden in the fall and spring, so it seemed to me as though there were lots of people at the pond today, but Carol thought it seemed empty. From a historical perspective, Carol was closer to the truth than I: “The Concord Herald newspaper reported on September 5, 1935, that summer Sunday afternoon crowds reached 25,000 at Walden Pond and that total summer attendance was 485,000” (Colman and Friesz, p. 52). And really, all I had to do was think back to when I was a child, when the town of Concord offered swimming lessons at Walden; I remember hordes of children walking down the bluff from the school buses. By the standards of the past, there weren’t many people at Walden Pond this morning.


We walked around the pond. Once we got away from the sandy shores of the pond, we saw far fewer people: a woman showing two children the site of Henry Thoreau’s cabin; a runner who was too obviously pleased with the condition of his body; an man with wild gray hair, a wide-eyed expression, and a walking stick (I thought to myself, perhaps unfairly: he must be a Thoreau fan); and two women off in the distance wearing brightly-colored knee-length dresses. The rest of the people were in or within thirty feet of the water.

We left Walden Pond, took care of one or two things at the condo, and drove to Westborough, the first leg of our drive home.