Your Turn, NH -- Adam Hlasny: This fall, take a drive on the new Gen. John Stark Scenic Byway
FALL. SO MANY activities, so little time. Perhaps it’s been a while since you’ve explored Manchester’s surrounding towns. Perhaps, like me, you know there are quaint New Hampshire fall scenes ripe for discovery, but can’t find time in your busy schedule.
Perhaps you caught the recent feature on the General John Stark Scenic Byway on New Hampshire Chronicle.
So many Granite Staters are proud of the saying “Live free or die,” yet have never given a second thought to the history of the phrase, or pondered its symbolic importance to the American lifestyle.
If the crisp weather and scents of wood smoke and apple cider aren’t enough motivation to take a drive this October, perhaps learning more about General Stark and his contributions to New Hampshire and U.S. history will inspire you to hit the road. The time has never been better.
The General Stark Byway, designated in 2008, is an underappreciated gem of a route just west of Manchester, looping picturesquely through the towns of Goffstown, Dunbarton, Weare and New Boston. While the route obviously focuses on the life of General Stark and his family, the byway will also appeal to a much wider range of road-trippers. Historic buildings, recreational opportunities, and photogenic rural scenes will unfold before your eyes along the way.
Goffstown’s town center serves as the commercial hub of the byway and will be buzzing with activity during its annual Pumpkin Festival on Oct. 18 and 19. As the father of a three-year old, I can say with confidence that there are few better fall family activities than listening to live music while examining giant pumpkins from the prickly yet lofty perch of a horse-drawn hay wagon.
Driving through the towns of Dunbarton and Weare fills the traveler with nostalgia for proud times gone by. Stopping to photograph a blazing orange maple tree next to a 250-year-old building reminds one how fortunate we are to live in a state with tremendous historical importance as well as seasonal beauty.
Crossing the charming Piscataquog River and passing through New Boston is akin to entering a splendid tableau, with local character at every turn. The historic town center is a photographer’s dream, and while diminutive, is the quintessence of New Hampshire ethos.
After an hour or two in the car, finish your fall road trip at Stark Park. Peace and quiet reigns at this 30-acre haven for solitude-seekers and history buffs alike, right within Manchester’s city limits. Pay your respects to the General at his burial plot, which has been painstakingly renovated by the Friends of Stark Park over the last few years. Take a moment to slow down and contemplate that the land on which you’re standing was once the family farm of one of America’s great Revolutionary heroes.
After a few hours of deliberately savoring the historical and scenic treasures of southern New Hampshire, realize that the very freedom exemplified by a fall road trip was made possible by heroes such as Stark.
Adam Hlasny of Manchester is a transportation planner at the Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission.