I am writing this column as I wrap up four busy and event-filled days at Duke University in North Carolina, where I received my Master’s of Science degree in Physical Therapy (1974) during the two years immediately following my two years in the U.S. Army.  I am also writing this column with the full appreciation that most year-round and seasonal residents of the Rangeley Region have nowhere near the interest in Duke University that I have.

However, I am seriously writing these words as a public service for the many from our area who make the long drive to, and from, the southeastern states to escape winter here in Maine, or those who make the long trip in April for two to four weeks during the throes of “mud season”.  I understand the desire to make these annual trips, usually by car, although I (we) have rarely, if ever, made these trips.

Winter in Rangeley is something to be appreciated.  I grew up in Minnesota, where people justify where they live by making statements when asked why the hell they live in such a periodically frozen state, such as “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”.  I feel that those, and other similarly insightful words, are sentiments to live by in the north for 5 or 6 months each year.

More to the point:  If you insist on making that long drive down I-95 and back each winter…I seriously suggest that you slow down that horrendous drive noted for little to look at except dozens of “South of the Border” billboards and gas stations to fill your tank and empty your bladders.  I suggest you take a slight diversion west thirty or forty miles when you reach east central North Carolina and head to the small city of Durham….and visit the Sarah P. Duke Gardens on the campus of Duke University.   Those exquisite and expansive gardens have become one of the best in America, and have become the most visited site in North Carolina.

I took the photos that accompany this column during two morning walks I took this past weekend in The Gardens.  These walks are always reminiscent of the walks Judy and I took there in the spring of 1974 with our weeks-old eldest son.  (He is 45 years old today!).  What really brought those walks in 1974 back were seeing young families taking similar walks with their young first child in a backpack or stroller.  Since ’74, the gardens have expanded considerably…and beautifully.  I suggest you go to http://gardens.duke.edu for a much more expansive overview of the gardens, their history, and many, many stunning photographs taken during all four seasons.

The Gothic bell tower of the Duke Chapel stands watch over the gardens…. and the academics Allen Wicken

I made this recent trip (by plane and rental car) to see the newly occupied home of the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program.  It is a stunning, modern, and educationally functional building in the center of the always growing Duke Medical Center complex and medical school.  I had a couple of other reasons for the trip as well.  However, whenever I make the trip to this beloved campus I always take the time to visit The Gardens.  You won’t regret the diversion from I-95, and it will make that trip to the far south much more memorable….and certainly much more enjoyable.



The interior of the chapel includes flowers from The Gardens…even on a Thursday afternoon Allen Wicken

One of the many ponds, in blossom in October

I suggest that many of you who are beginning to make plans for that trip south later this Fall after you check out the website noted above.  Trust me, you won’t regret extending your drive a few westerly miles to Durham and those exquisite gardens in the middle of Duke University.

We need to write, otherwise nobody will know who we are.

                                                                    Garrison Keillor     

I’ll be ridin’ shotgun, underneath the hot sun, feelin’ like a someone….


Per usual, your thoughts and comments are always welcome.  Jot them down on a 3”x5” card and slip it inside the log door on our mudroom on the rockbound west shore of Gull Pond….or simply launch an email my way at [email protected]



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