To the Editor:

I write to thank, deeply and sincerely, the many people of Franklin County who supported and encouraged my 1000+-mile walk and paddle of the county in 2020, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Setting out for as many of our 48 towns and townships as I could, I reached 47 of them over six months, I had two purposes.

One purpose was to raise funds for extraordinary COVID-related services provided through the United Way of the Tri-Valley, to families and individuals, from new-born children to our most senior neighbors, in a time of marked difficulty. Donations related to my county miles amount to nearly $4000. All of that goes to Franklin County needs.

The other purpose was to encourage county people of all ages to seek peace of mind in our remarkable outdoor setting – go for family walks, or hikes; kayak, canoe, or boat outings; or simply locate a quiet spot in the woods to step away from the noise of the world. So many local people are working so very hard during these difficult months – doing their jobs, serving the public, surely concerned for the well-being of their own families. We all can use a break. Our outdoor setting offers that.

On my journey, I had once-in-a-lifetime experiences: a Rangeley evening paddle to watch the rise of a full moon; hiking to the Sugarloaf summit in early morning darkness to behold a glorious summer sunrise; wheeling a canoe to remote Massachusetts Bog near Coburn Gore; taking a dip in the cool waters of the Moose River in Skinner; walking completely around Webb Lake; re-hiking every 4000’+ peak; bushwhacking to the southern edge of the Kennebec Highlands in New Sharon; walking the Chesterville esker at dawn.

Dramatic as our landscape is, my most enduring memories are of people I met along the way – an ATV trail crew at Owl’s Head Trail bridge in Carrabassett; the Rangeley Plantation Town Clerk giving me a history of the town office building, an 1800’s school; an older couple paddling the North Branch of the Dead River on a July evening; a Eustis man walking his dog by Shadagee Falls who talked about hope for peace in the world; the Carthage Town Office staff who offered me bottled water on a hot August day; an old friend clearing hunting camp brush in the New Vineyard mountains; people sitting out in their yards; those on their own walks.

Kind and generous in spirit are the people of Franklin County. You remind me that in difficult times, we are at our best when we look out for one another, offer an encouraging word, focus on what is positive. I am grateful to have made our family home here for over 40 years. Peace of mind be with you all,

Doug Dunlap



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