Eno River State Park: An Afternoon Stroll

Well, still in North Carolina.

Actually (spoilers) I’m not, but I’m still working through my backlog of stuff I intended to post to this blog while I was in North Carolina but didn’t because I’m just so stinkin’ lazy.

Anyway, one fine afternoon in October my friend Bruce and I decided to take a nice stroll. We went to Eno River State Park, just North of Durham near Hillsborough.

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There are a number of paths one can take, but I invariably take the same route: starting at the carpark off Cole Mill Rd, take the Buckquarter Creek Trail, circle around the Holden Mill Trail, then take Ridge Trail up, back down Shakori Trail, and then circle back to the carpark. For a shorter walk the Holden Mill Trail can be skipped altogether.

The adventure starts here at the Piper-Cox House. This park has quite a few ties to its old lumbering, milling, and quarrying roots, and those interested in history can find some quite cool factoids about how this land was once exploited. It is now fortunately preserved instead!

The trailhead is quite easy to find. This trail, with one notable exception, is quite well-sorted and easy to follow.

A mere amble from the carpark brings us to Fews Ford. If you are looking to beat the Summer heat, this may in fact be your destination — the hot months often see betogged children playing in the water and adults (with or without dogs) also enjoying the cool stream.

I was here once and saw a snake in the water, so do look sharp if you’re just lounging around. But they won’t mess with you if you don’t mess with them.

If we were headed to the Cox Mountain Trail, we would cross the ford here. We are thankfully not heading that way.

It’s October and we’re wearing tramping gear rather than swimsuits. This is where we’re headed.

The trail borders the eponymous river for some ways, which is pleasant.

Some challenging bits of track are made easier by wooden stairs, demonstrated here by Bruce.

In other places, stone stairs have been installed, pensively inspected once again my my friend and hiking companion. It’s unsurprising that this area has seen some quarrying activity in the past.

At times, the river shows hints of a nice clear green…

But in most places remains decidedly brown.

Regardless of which color it affects at any moment, however, the water is pleasingly clear. (This should go without saying, but just in case: attempting to drink from Eno River will likely not turn out well.)

Trekking along the riverbank allows us to see some interesting root systems!

We also got to see this guy, a blue heron! He was not particularly perturbed by our presence but was also not especially interested in moving into a better location to be photographed. So it goes.

The normal loop has a bit of this rocky shoreline, which can be a little challenging to traverse but not too bad. The Holden Mill Trail has a bit more of it, so if you don’t like this sort of terrain then maybe give it a miss.

This bridge leads from the Buckquarter Trail (red blazes) to the Holden Mill Trail (yellow blazes).

Though the Holden Mill Trail does go along the river, it loops inland and leads through the woods on the return journey. It is still quite a nice trail and a very nice walk!

Upon returning to the Buckquarter Creek Trail and crossing over to the Ridge Trail, the terrain (as the name of the trail might imply) begins to increase in elevation. The trail is still fairly nice — note the frequent water bars for drainage — but there’s a definite change between the Buckquarter and Holden Mill Trails and the Ridge and Shakori Trails.

Nothing illustrates the difference in trail maintenance than this crossing, which you will note involves leaping nimbly-pimbly from stone to stone. Granted, in New Zealand the stones wouldn’t be there and you would just be expected to get your feet wet, but for those with balance issues such as myself, a footbridge would have been appreciated.

But no matter. We effected the crossing and carried on.

This view rewards the intrepid hiker who climbs all the way to the top of Ridge Trail. You can choose to either turn around and go back the way you came or go back along the Shakori Trail.

If you do opt for the Shakori Trail on your return, you will encounter this sign when you rejoin the Ridge Trail. In case your sense of direction is not the greatest, you want to go toward the Knight Trail on your way back (the Knight Trail is a spur; you can hike it out and back if you like, but I find it most useful as a landmark in case you get turned around).

That is, in brief, Eno River State Park. It’s a nice way to spend an afternoon, and afterward we were pleasantly tired and ready for some dinner.

There will be maybe a couple of more posts from North Carolina (haven’t quite decided yet, to be honest) and then…well, stay tuned!

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