Instead of Thoreau's pond near Concord, Mass., they point to a reservoir in Lynn.
LYNN, MASS. - Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau's idyllic retreat in the woods near Concord, Mass., has long been one of the most famous day trips in New England, drawing droves of visitors seeking the tranquil beauty west of Boston immortalized in the 19th century philosopher's writings.
But some 21st century conveniences -- namely Google maps and some GPS devices -- have been leading travelers to the wrong Walden: an identically named reservoir, next to a golf course, in this old industrial center on Massachusetts' North Shore.
"I pulled up to that park and felt like I was in a county park -- any old local county park," said A.N. Devers, a writer from Brooklyn. Devers had entered the phrase "Walden Pond" into Google and cross-referenced directions on her iPhone.
As in more than a dozen tests on iPhones, Android phones and Google searches, she was pointed here, to a reservoir named for Edwin Walden, the president of this city's water board in the late 1800s. "I do think I knew somewhere in the back of my head that Walden was near Concord," Devers said. But like many wayfarers in a world increasingly reliant on GPS devices, "I just didn't really process the directions."
Google says it considers the user's location, in part, to determine results -- but a search from Cambridge, Mass., for example, returns Lynn's reservoir, even though the Concord pond is closer. "It happens all the time," said Dan Small, the ranger for Lynn Woods, where the reservoir is located.
The Lynn Walden Pond itself is a scenic place, although the lack of a cabin pretty quickly clues people in that something might be amiss. "We finally get there, and we're like, is this it?" said Jeremy Corn, a restaurant beverage director who used his iPhone to navigate a trip to Walden Pond during his honeymoon road trip, inspired by his new wife's love of Thoreau. When the two took a closer look at the map, they realized where they were -- or rather, weren't.
"At this point, my wife's livid," he recalled. "The Walden Pond thing was one of the only things she wanted to plan out, and we completely screwed it up."
Ranger Small tries to break the news kindly. "I do it gently. I tell them that, 'You know, it's not the right Walden Pond, but apparently Thoreau was here at one time," he said.
Thoreau does, in fact, refer to a visit to the area in a journal entry he made on April 26, 1859. It seems that he came here on purpose, guided by botanist Cyrus M. Tracy. "Walked with C.M. Tracy in the rain," Thoreau wrote of his visit. "This is the last of the rains (spring rains!)."
NEW YORK TIMES