Theresa Derry

Equinox Staff

Henry David Thoreau. A name that crosses almost every college student’s studies at some point. Thoreau was a man who wore many hats within American society. He was known as a nineteenth-century American writer, poet, and philosopher. Thoreau was also an advocate for social change, speaking on the issues of peace and abolishing slavery.

Thoreau’s refusal to pay a poll tax in support of the Mexican American War resulted in him spending a night in prison. Thoreau wrote of this experience in his famous essay, “Civil Disobedience.” Published in 1849, this literary work challenged the world to engage in passive resistance when dealing with conflict. This essay captured the attention of two famous peace activists, Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Gandhi and King applied Thoreau’s philosophy of passive resistance to promote impactful social change.

In addition to advocating for social change, Thoreau was an avid outdoorsman. In 1845, he began his adventure of living in a cabin located on the shore of Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. In 1847, Thoreau ended his adventure with a detailed journal. These journal entries lead to the publishing of Thoreau’s most famous book, Walden. However, Thoreau’s passion for the New England outdoors did not end there.

Thoreau’s fondness of the New England wilderness brought him to the Monadnock Region of New Hampshire. Thoreau ascended the highest point in Cheshire County, Mount Monadnock. His zeal for nature made it easy for him to reach the summit four times. In 1860, Thoreau climbed Mount Monadnock for the last time, with William Ellery Channing. These two poets reached the summit on August 4, 1860. Reaching the summit was too mediocre for them. Before they began their journey, they had the intention of setting up camp on one of the most frequently climbed mountains in the world.

In the anthology, Where the Mountain Stands Alone: Stories of Place in the Monadnock Region, an excerpt from Thoreau’s diary describes the process in which Thoreau set up his camp:

Choosing a place where the spruce was thick in this sunken rock yard, I cut out with a little hatchet a space for a camp in their midst, leaving two stout ones six feet apart to rest my ridge-pole on, and such limbs of these as would best form the gable ends. I then cut four spruces as rafters for the gable ends, leaving the stub ends of the branches to rest the cross-beams or girders on…[I] cut an abundance of large flat spruce limbs, four or five feet long, and laid them on…beginning at the ground and covering the stub ends…Then made a bed of the same…and all was done…

It is not surprising that Thoreau was successful in setting up camp. He had camped on Mount Monadnock alone two years prior. On August 9, 1860, Thoreau and Channing descended Monadnock. These two adventurers headed back to Troy, NH, where their journey began.

Theresa Derry can be contacted at tderry@kscequinoxcom