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Walden Pond: Thoreau’s Habitat Draws Thousands Of Visitors A Year

By Mary Blake, WBZ NewsRadio 1030
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Walden Pond (Credit: WBZ's Mary Blake)

Walden Pond (Credit: WBZ’s Mary Blake)

420x316-grad-blake1 Mary Blake
Mary Blake is an award-winning reporter and anchor who joined WBZ News...
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CONCORD (CBS) — This week’s hot summer weather has had people flocking to their favorite ‘cool down’ spot.

WBZ’s Mary Blake stopped by a popular park that has woods, water, and a bit of history, too — Walden Pond State Reservation.

Listen: Part I of Mary Blake’s series on Walden Pond

Henry David Thoreau’s habitat in the 1840′s attracts nearby residents looking for some relief on a hot afternoon. Heidi Visaki of Waltham says she loves the water at this time of year, before it heats up.

“Right now, it’s cool and refreshing, and it’s nice with the kids because they have the lifeguards, and I can kind of sit on a chair and relax,” she says.

Her 4-year-old son, Rocco, says he loves playing in the water with his dad.

Katie Downey, from Cambridge, visits Walden Pond at least ten times a summer.

“It’s close and much more manageable than the beach and I have a very deep connection to this pond,” she explains. “My grandparents’ ashes are actually in the pond. We scattered them here when I was about 5- years- old, ” she says.

A connection with Thoreau motivates many of the non-swimmers who visit.

Listen: Part II of Mary Blake’s series on Walden Pond

Elaine Kemp, who is from Australia, is in the middle of a world tour.

” I really admire Thoreau’s work, and I wanted to pay my respects to the place where he worked.” Kemp also feels little has changed. “I can still see his words here, that what he wrote about is still here,” she says. “I was really moved.”

Walden Pond State Reservation logs in roughly 600,000 visitors a year.

John Faro is Park Supervisor, and says visitors’ impressions can vary. Some say they thought it would be bigger and less crowded.

“For the most part, people understand that everybody wants to be at Walden, whether it’s for swimming, for the hiking, or to visit the Thoreau, but we do get the surprised ones that will say ‘wow,’” says Faro, who sums up the reservation. “It’s a little oasis, but is surrounded by a lot of people.”

 Al Maitino of Stoneham, loves to fish in Walden Pond. (Credit: WBZ's Mary Blake)

Al Maitino of Stoneham, loves to fish in Walden Pond. (Credit: WBZ’s Mary Blake)

This is not the case in the early morning, though, when some Pond visitors beat the heat and the crowds with a sunrise swim. They often greet early morning fishermen, like Al Maitino of Stoneham, who loves to fish, if only to throw them back into the water. Maitino, who worked in construction, has since retired.

“It’s all I want to do is catch fish,” he says.

Dominique Hurley of Lexington has her favorite spot along the water’s edge. She swims roughly one mile whenever she can, usually 3 or 4 times a week.

“As soon as I touch the water, I have to dive in because it’s just like church for me. It’s beautiful, and then we swim out about 500 yards and then take a left and swim to the other side of the pond,” she laughs. While she could do laps at a pool, she greatly prefers Walden Pond. “There are no walls, and we joke that the trees are our lane lines because, you know, you can just swim here and not have to think about hitting a wall and having to do a flip turn and it’s just wide open.”

“At different parts of the pond it’s very clear so you can see down and you can see out. You can see fish swim by and everything,” she says.

She even has names for different parts of the pond.

“There are the backstroke flats out there, and there’s the commuters’ lament, because the train goes by at a certain time in the morning and we’re like, they’re so sorry they’re not here,” she laughs.

At the end of the swim she says she feels at peace.

“It really is like church,” she says. “It’s very spiritual.”

Stephanie Cronin of Waban trains at Walden Pond for triathlon events.

“This is the beginning of the season for us. We’ve not done a ton of training, so we just hit the far side of the beach across and back, which is about a third of a mile.” She adds, “There are professional triathletes who come here. There are all kinds of crazy people who come and swim two miles. There are old people and young people. It’s fun,” she says.

Cronin adds there’s nothing like training at Walden Pond on a summer morning.

“It’s a lot better than pushing off a wall and it’s a lot prettier. It’s beautiful, especially on the mornings when the fog is coming up off the water. There’s nothing like it,” she says.

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