In the middle of Boilermaker territory, trails for hikers, joggers, and even mountain bikers are tucked away in the corners of campus. When the Indiana winter weather gives way (as it has in this unusual stretch of February sunshine), students, faculty, and nearby families and residents alike flock to these outdoor sanctuaries. In the warmer months, some of the more popular destinations can be crowded with hiking boots and bike tires.
If you’re like me, though, you’ll find all the bustle in what should be Purdue’s hidden relaxing havens to be undesirable. Even if I am in the middle of an ultra intense multi-mile run (which you’ll rarely find me on, mind you), I want to be one with the trees and wildlife I’m weaving through. Not with the heavy breathing and sticky skin of passersby bouncing past. Lucky enough, I’ve stumbled upon one of Purdue’s best-kept outdoor secrets: Clegg Gardens.
Admittedly, it’s probably not as much of a secret as it is a bit of a drive from campus (anything over four miles from the Engineering Mall seems to keep most students away). Once you step out onto the trail, though, you’ll be stunned by the amount of scenic beauty a relatively compact botanical garden can hold – especially one in the middle of Tippecanoe County.
There’s more to the story than just a loner’s hidden outdoor getaway, though. Within the “secret” that is Clegg Gardens, lies another little-known feature: the Clegg journal.
Halfway through the maze of trails that tiptoe along Wildcat Creek’s steep ridges, on one rickety observation deck bench sits a plain ol’ wooden chest. Inside is a notebook, one that holds the written thoughts and summarized memoirs of every guy and gal that has passed through the winding trails. From poetic narratives of love to children’s scribbles to “Ya boy Edwinn -1/22,” there’s no end to what you might find in between the weathered pages.
Certainly, the tiny acreage of Clegg (my GPS read ‘1.56 miles’ at the end of my hike though the entirety of the garden) doesn’t exactly make it worth more than say a half-hour drive. But if you live near the area or are ever passing through, there’s no doubt you’ll enjoy the diversity of the trail features and natural beauty of the landscape. By the way, don’t forget to leave a note or two in the journal on the bench – if you can find it, that is.