From certain angles, Lyman’s Pond looks more like a golf course than a body of water.
By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
I have a weird obsession with hermits. My favorite hermit story is that until the early 1800’s, wealthy families would employ “garden hermits” - old men who dressed like druids or wizards and lived for free in their gardens as living lawn ornaments who occasionally dispensed wisdom to visitors. Imagine being an 1800’s laborer, toiling away on a summer day, weeding a garden in a petticoat and knickerbockers to pay rent for your shanty, only for a guy dressed as a wizard to cruise by, hit the lord of the manor with a nonsensical quatrain, head back to his hobbit house, and call it a day. It must have been infuriating.
The source of my hermit obsession is that when I was a kid, my dad worked at Boston College and I was constantly told about the famed “hermit of Chestnut Hill." That hermit was a former insurance executive named Bill Britt, who left his job and family to live in a makeshift shelter on state-owned land. Things didn’t end well for Britt (he died of hypothermia in the woods), but the idea that you didn’t have to pull a Christopher McCandless and head to the Alaskan wilderness to get away from people, but could instead pick a patch of woods on the outskirts of a well-attended school and disappear, always fascinated me.
I mention this because I recently headed to Lyman’s Pond to see what was going on there. But despite it being extremely close to the high school, nobody seemed to know or care what was in those woods.
After reading that there was a trail behind the high school soccer fields, I asked about five separate high-schoolers playing basketball, soccer and running sprints how to get to the pond, and most were unable to offer an answer. One kid told me to go to the middle school. One kid pointed me to a path that abruptly ended in a fence gate. One kid told me my best bet was to just crash through the woods. After many awkward interactions, one kid finally sent me down an extremely narrow walking path that led to a small opening in front of the pond. Considering the proximity to the school, it seemed like nobody had been back there in a very long time.
The issue with the pond is that it’s crammed so full of lily pads, people couldn’t do anything in it. A fishhook would be caught on a weed on every cast, paddling a kayak would be a pain, and swimming would be a muck-filled nightmare. It’s good for bird-watching, but there’s not much opportunity for any other activities.
Disappointed by the trails behind the high school, I headed to the parking lot of a local coffee shop, where there was an alternative pathway. This was much more open and easier to navigate, but still very frustrating for a couple of reasons. The first issue was the amount of trash. I get that the problem with letting people live in the woods is the trash they’d accumulate and the damage they’d do to the plant life, but this was obviously high-school-kid trash. There were so many bags of chips, candy, and other snacks littering the path, the benches, and the shores of the pond itself that it really ruined the hiking experience. I understand that young delinquents wouldn’t want to bring beer cans or alcohol bottles out of the woods out of fear of getting caught trying to throw them out, but is there a reason they can’t bring home an empty bag of Fritos and put it in their garbage can?
Another issue was the state of the Troop 3 Eagle Scout’s “Heron Rookery Viewing Trail.” Where there must have once been a boardwalk, there is now just a bunch of sticks leading to a wobbly pallet of wood. The Eagle Scouts do great work, but having gone on so many hikes over the past couple of months, it’s clear there should be far more Eagle Scout projects that consist of updating former Eagle Scout projects.
Like Bill Britt, someday I may call it quits on society, pack up my stuff and look for a patch of woods to head to. With so few visitors behind the high school, Lyman’s Pond is an option. If I do choose it, I’ll make sure the paths behind the coffee shop are clean. I will fix up that boardwalk. And if you run into me back there, I might even bless you with a quatrain.