Mt. Auburn National Historic Cemetery

When I first got to Massachusetts, I knew I wanted to find all the green spots. I wound up living within walking distance of several, one of which was Mount Auburn Cemetery. It has a big reputation as a place to find warblers during spring migration, and it’s also a breeding spot for an endangered species of salamander. If that wasn’t enough to make me visit, the number of historic figures buried there definitely was. Out of respect for the families of the deceased, I’m not going to post pictures of their graves, though. You’ll just have to go see them for yourself.

The cemetery is actually very, very large. It’s set in the middle of the city behind several hedges and walls, so it’s hard to see what’s inside unless you’re actually inside of it.

Once I got inside, I decided that despite the fact that I don’t want to be buried when I die, I definitely wouldn’t mind being buried here. It’s that wonderful.

The entire park had almost no one there the three times I visited. The people that I did see were either mourners or very small groups exploring the historic sites, and they were some of the most respectful people I met in Boston. It would figure that I would meet friendly people in the cemetery.

The cemetery is actually designed to serve a dual purpose: a peaceful resting place for the deceased and a dedicated botanical garden in the city. Honestly, it serves both extremely well. The peacefulness in this place is almost palpable.

I saw several denizens of the cemetery while I wandered around, but it was surprisingly hard to find anything else in the midst of the two most common things I saw: robins and chipmunks. You couldn’t go 2 feet without either hearing a shrill whistle or almost punting a robin on accident. To be honest, though, the chipmunks were one of my favorite things about the cemetery. At what other cemetery will you find your ancestors guarded not by statues of gargoyles and lions, but by actual live chipmunks?

What you don’t see is the second chipmunk perched identically to this one on the pedestal to the right. This was near where I was actually trying to take a picture of a frog in the Dell (while I was fruitlessly searching for the salamanders that breed there), and looked up from my camera to find myself surrounded by no less than seven chipmunks that were slowly approaching to find out what I was! One of them even ran up to try to touch my shoe.

While I was walking up the hill from the Dell, I even saw a chipmunk scaring off a gaggle of squawking fledgling blue jays from a log it was sitting on.

Something else very common in Boston and Cambridge but not too easily found here were very large eastern cottontails. I stumbled on this one while he was out grazing; somehow he didn’t hear me coming up on him.

The ponds in the cemetery also held several nice surprises, including several singing red-wings and two absolutely gorgeous cormorants, both of which are as common as the rabbits in Boston.

I also finally got some decent pictures of the bullfrogs that totally run amok in all of the water features, as well as their enormous (6-7 inch long) progeny.

In one picture I took of a random section of the Dell, I later counted 13 frogs in roughly one square foot of mucky water.

I eventually ran into some random stairs running up a hillside and decided to follow them, winding up at the Washington Tower.

Now, to be honest here, I’m not afraid of heights, but I am afraid of falling from them (you can say I’m arguing semantics, but it’s very different). The tower was windy and slightly shaky outside, but it provides a wonderful panoramic view of the Boston skyline, so I had to go to the top.

By far the most hilarious thing I saw, however, was on my very last visit.

I kept an eye on this red-tailed hawk while I was taking a picture of some black squirrels. He had waited for no less than 10 minutes in a single branch before quickly stooping and grabbing a chipmunk. However, he unfortunately landed on a branch that allowed the chipmunk to get some traction and bite the hawk, who then dropped him back on the ground. The wily chipmunk squeezed between two gravestones, leaving the hawk staring at it and crying softly.

I couldn’t help it; I laughed so hard. The whole thing took place less than 5 yards from me, and the hawk just sat there huffing and puffing about how he couldn’t get at this one little chipmunk. And that is the impression I’m now left with every time I think of Mt. Auburn.

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