CONCORD — While the connection between Henry David Thoreau and Dr. Seuss may seem tenuous, there is a spot near Thoreau’s beloved Walden Woods that makes that link abundantly clear. Thoreau’s Path on Brister’s Hill, across Route 2 from the pond, is a self-guided, 1-mile interpretive trail, owned and managed by the Walden Woods Project. The trail’s five sections honor different aspects of Thoreau’s contributions to society.
The Entry Meadow, an open grassy field, speaks to Thoreau’s role as a conservationist. Apple trees in Brister’s Orchard honor both Thoreau as social reformer and commentator, and Brister Freeman, a freed slave who lived nearby and planted apple trees on his land.
The Grassland pays homage to Thoreau as a teacher and observer. Look for granite blocks along the trail engraved with Thoreau’s journal writings that point out the importance of slowing down and enjoying nature. For instance: “Nature will bear the closest inspection; she invites us to lay our eye level with the smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.”
The section on Forest Succession honors Thoreau’s role as a pioneering ecological scientist. Shortly before his death in 1862 he made careful observations of plants and trees as they enabled a gradual progression of the land from barren soil to meadow to forest. The Brister’s Hill (East) area had been mined for sand and gravel through the 1960s. According to the Walden Woods Project, “Re-establishment of vegetation on this most disturbed part of Brister’s Hill demonstrates the principles of forest succession” first formulated by Thoreau 150 years ago.
The final part of the trail, the Reflection Circle, honors Thoreau’s role as philosopher and writer and his profound influence on seminal thinkers, past and present. A circle of large granite blocks is engraved with quotes from Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Muir, Rachel Carson, John F. Kennedy, Emily Dickinson, and E.O. Wilson paying homage to Thoreau’s life and works. Nearby, a large boulder bears a quote from Dr. Seuss’s Lorax (and an illustration of the little guy): “Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack.”
HOW TO GET THERE The trailhead is on Walden Street, just to the north side of Route 2. Pull into the small parking lot at the Hapgood Wright Town Forest, opposite Concord-Carlisle High School. There is a trail map that will help you find Thoreau’s Path. Or walk about a quarter-mile up Walden Street until you see Brister’s Hill trailhead on your left (just before Route 2). For MapQuest or GPS: 503 Walden St., Concord, MA 01742 or N 42 26.911, W 71 20.565. www.walden.org