Hot day, feeling sluggish, mulling over a list of places to go: I finally just got in the car and started driving. Cue George Harrison’s Any Road.
Zipping through Rt. 111 in Hudson enroute to yet another Forest Society property (I’ll get that patch if it kills me), I realized that I was near Benson Park. I hadn’t been on the property in years – since it was Benson’s Wild Animal Farm, in fact. I made a quick detour, found the park, and walked a good three miles on its trails and paths. The trails I chose weren’t crowded, even with a couple of Pokémon Go groups intent on doing whatever it is they do.
Download a trail map before you go. I settled for taking a photo of the map at a kiosk on site. Kids, don’t try this at home; batteries are fickle friends.
The history of the property is available on the Town of Hudson web site. Indulge me as I recount a grossly oversimplified version: once upon a time in the town of Hudson, New Hampshire, there was an amusement park called Benson’s Wild Animal Farm. We Of A Certain Age can recall bringing our families there once a year for the annual Sanders company outing, back when Hudson seemed to me way-the-heck-out-there.
(I have since walked to the Canadian border, where I adjusted my notions of what in New Hampshire constitutes way-the-heck-out-there.)
The Finer Minds at the state capital decided that a Circumferential Highway would ease all of Nashua’s traffic problems. (I hear you tittering over there in the back.) The Benson’s property was bought up by the state to mitigate the expected loss of wetlands for the highway project. Years passed, and the Circumferential Highway project quietly expired, leaving only exit 2 off the Everett Turnpike to remember it by. Eventually, the Finer Minds released the Benson’s property to the town of Hudson.
More years passed, many people put enormous efforts into rehabilitating the property, and Benson’s Park is now a Hudson jewel with a playground, dog park, memorials, and a trail network. The longest single trail, Haselton Farm, is about two and a half miles long; many shorter ones allow for extended hikes.
On the Haselton Farm trail, some of the pavement remains from the Wild Animal Farm days, and the occasional sewer-access cover along the way serves as a reminder that this used to be a more developed area. On this 90-degree summer day, the trail was wonderfully shady, and a light breeze made bug repellent unnecessary.
This was the best spur-of-the-moment stop I’ve made in a long time. It’s great fun to find a place like this fairly close to home. I’ll be back.
I left Benson’s and stopped at the Bockes Memorial Forest just a few miles away before hunting down a pair of historical markers in Salem and Hampstead. Only short walks at each of these stops.
Last stop was at an old friend of a place, the rail trail near Lake Massabesic in Manchester and Auburn, where I found everything I needed: shade and breeze and views of the lake.
May you enjoy some shady hikes of your own this summer!