2020 Fleetwood Flair
2020 Fleetwood Flair
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Once the area that would later become Chester Blandford State Forest was stripped of all of its natural resources, lumber companies sold the land to the state of Massachusetts in the early 1920s. Massachusetts officially established it as Chester Blandford State Forest in 1924. The region laid largely disused until the late 1930s when Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), under President Roosevelt’s New Deal program, flocked to the park. CCC constructed a campground, pavilions, and lean-tos, and blazed trails, and built bridges and roads. They also replanted tens of thousands of trees. As a result of their efforts, native wildlife slowly returned to these woods over the subsequent years.
Chester Blandford State Forest is situated between two small towns, Huntington and Chester, and these towns have grocery stores and a handful of restaurants. Both towns are roughly seven miles in opposite directions to southeast and northwest, respectively. The closest town with a hospital, as well as a large variety of shopping and dining options, is Westfield. An unusual quirk is buildings in Westfield are not allowed to be taller than its firetruck’s ladder. As a result, none of the buildings are more than three stories.
Chester Blandford State Forest encompasses nearly 2,800 acres, so there’s plenty of room to explore. Hit the multi-use trails on foot, horseback, or bicycle and follow the winding paths as they wind and weave through these young woods. On a quiet morning, it’s not uncommon to spot a small herd of white-tailed deer flying through the woods. In early summers, shy black bears forage from wild berry briar bushes in search of juicy snacks. Other small-game creatures like raccoons, rabbits, and turkeys prowl the forest floor in search of insects and seeds to chow down.
The gurgling and babbling of creeks provide a pleasant ambient background sound as fishermen wade out into the cool water to cast their lures. Trout fishing is excellent, though anglers can expect to catch other fish like smallmouth and largemouth bass, chain pickerel, and a few other species.
When winter rolls around and blankets the region in thick, soft snow, the fun doesn’t stop. Although the trails are not groomed, snowmobiles and cross-country skiing are permitted. Horses, too, are welcome to join the fun. Bring your camera and photograph what’s said to be one of the most scenic pieces of woodlands in Massachusetts. Sanderson Brook Falls is especially photogenic in autumns as the trees that tower over it transform from lush green to gold. The waterfall is a moody one. At times, it’ll drift to and fro as it tumbles over massive granite shelves in a thin, wispy veil. At other times of the year, it spreads wide, raining droplets in soft sprays across the gorge.
Skip the long drive from a hotel when you rent a camper in Hampden County. Unfortunately, RV camping at Chester Blandford State Forest isn’t feasible because the campground fell into disrepair in the 70s. However, there are a few other options nearby. Walker Island Family Camping near Chester, MA, was established in 1969 and is one of the oldest continuously-operating campgrounds in the area. Walker Island Family Camping has over 90 wooded sites and several amenities for guests to take advantage of, like a swimming pool, WiFi, and full hookups.
Laurel Ridge Campground near East Otis, MA, might be a good candidate to consider. The RV sites are arranged in rows of semi-circles so that the restrooms and playgrounds, which are in the center, are a short walk from most sites.
Another option is to RV camp near Westhampton, MA, at Northampton KOA. In addition to luxurious amenities like a large pool, WiFi, and community kitchen, there are golf carts available for campers to use to get around the large campground. The KOA also boasts planned activities and wagon rides.
Though Chester Blandford State Forest is relatively remote, the modern world isn’t very far away, especially when you rent a motorhome. The Ventfort Hall Mansion in Lenox, MA, is a glorious example of gilded-age architecture. Dripping with ornate, exquisite details, the home-turned-museum has lavish furnishing and decorations that guests can browse while on the guided tour of the interior and the grounds.
Continue the journey into the past at the Bidwell House Museum in Monterey. Though it’s not as luxurious, the home balances austerity with high-quality craftsmanship. In addition to guided tours of the interior, guests can examine various exhibits that display 18th- and 19th-century furniture, quilts and needlework, and period art.
At the end of a long day of exploring and hiking, retreat into the comforts of an RV rental. Listen to the sound of nature as the sky darkens and stars appear.