Freedom’s Way National Heritage Area is home to many visionaries and experimenters, one of whom is Henry David Thoreau. Author, philosopher, and naturalist, Thoreau was a leading transcendentalist and is considered the father of the modern environmental movement. He is best known for his essay, “Civil Disobedience”, which he wrote after spending a night in jail for failing to pay the state poll tax, and for his two-year retreat to Walden Pond, which he detailed in his second book, Walden, or Life in the Woods.
A curious explorer, Thoreau traveled throughout Massachusetts and New England. Whether on foot, with paddle, by carriage or rail, Thoreau set foot in 39 of the 45 Freedom’s Way communities as he surveyed, lectured, hiked or simply wandered across the landscape. Almost 150 years since the publication of Walden, Thoreau continues to inspire people to go walking, and live more simply in this hectic, complex world.
As part of Freedom’s Way’s Thoreau program we have partnered in the following initiatives:
2017: THOUREAU'S BICENTENNIAL
In celebration of Thoreau’s 200th Birthday, numerous organizations, including Freedom’s Way, are partnering to celebrate this renowned visionary throughout the next year. Widely recognized across the world, many programs and events to commemorate Thoreau are planned, such as A Bicentennial Concert, lectures, special exhibits and more.
For complete information and updates, visit www.thoreaubicentennial.org
A WALK TO WACHUSETT: THE THOREAU TRAIL FROM CONCORD TO WACHUSETT MOUNTAIN & BACK
Freedom’s Way, in partnership with the Thoreau Farm Birthplace and the Thoreau Farm Trust and the guidance of Thoreau historian Corinne H. Smith and history professor Thomas Conroy, retraced the path Thoreau traveled as he walked from Walden Pond in Concord, MA to Mount Wachusett in Princeton, MA. Making some allowances for automobiles and bicycles, or to more accurately match his written observations of the landscape, a trail booklet was published and presented at the Thoreau Society 2012 Annual Gathering.
The Walk to Wachusett trail mirrors the 1842 route taken by Thoreau and his friend Richard Fuller using existing two-lane rural roads. Gravel or paved shoulders are not always present, however; so this “trail” is most appropriate for cars and bicycles, and not necessarily for casual hikers on foot. Travelers will cover the dynamic terrain of central Massachusetts and advance from an elevation of 130 feet in Concord to more than 2,000 feet on top of the mountain. They will pass through expanses of farmland and woodland, and will be drawn to pause at orchards and other points of interest. They will see stonewalls and buildings that have been standing for more than a century and a half. The 66-mile loop would make a perfect day trip on a sunny autumn.
IN THOREAU'S FOOTSTEPS™
A program of Freedom’s Way National Heritage Area begun in 2011 and offered in partnership with historical societies and libraries, engages a broad audience through a series of walks, author talks and conversations with Thoreau via historical impersonator Richard Smith that explore his writings, understanding of the natural world and his experiences walking through our towns.
Over the past several years numerous events have taken place in the FWNHA communities of Ayer, Clinton, Concord, Fitchburg, Lancaster, Maynard, Princeton and Sterling. In addition, Wachusett Weekend, celebrates Thoreau’s walk to Wachusett Mountain with activities in Concord and Princeton, MA with special activities held in both locations.
With the upcoming yearlong 2017 Thoreau Bicentennial, this program is on hiatus.