Death, taxes, a hot-as-blazes Fourth of July — the givens of life here in the Piedmont.
Except this year the hot-as-blazes Fourth took a holiday. Or at least the humidity did: The temperature may have been 90, but the humidity was a dry 30 percent. Perfect weather for a summer hike, perfect weather for exploring the Eno River.
While the entire length of the 40-mile Eno is firmly within the Piedmont (its headwaters in northern Orange County, it’s conclusion in eastern Durham County before emptying into Falls Lake) there’s a dash of mountains throughout. This mix is highlighted on the trails of Eno River State Park, the majority of which are narrow loops, one side trailing the river, the other returning along a parallel ridgeline. A favorite excursion is the Buckquarter Creek/Holden Mill figure-8 loop: adjoining trails in the Fews Ford Access that offer a two-for-one deal.
We chose the upland portion of Buckquarter Creek first, heading up the ridgeline on an ancient roadbed that once connected Durham and Hillsborough. Very Piedmonty, this passage through a maturing southern hardwood forest, the thick canopy especially welcome on a summer’s day. After a mile or so, the trail comes off the ridge into a floodplain meadow before a bridge over Buckquarter Creek connects with the Holden Mill Trail. Here, we opted for the river portion first, taking the trail up a particularly rocky stretch of the Eno. At one point, with the Eno running low, we rock-hopped to some picnic-table boulders mid-river where we saw a turtle basking and a bass trolling. Continuing on, we passed a stone wall, the lone remnant of Holden Mill, one of three primary mills that thrived on the river in the 1800s. And we navigated a stretch where boulders cascade downhill into the river, creating narrow passages and scrambling opportunities.
On our return on Buckquarter Creek Trail, the Eno took on a western feel: dry, more exposed, the river even rockier. A class II rapid near the end that attracts whitewater boaters when the river is running today proved a popular swimming spot. After 4.2 miles on the trail — even on a non-steamy Fourth of July — we wished we’d brought out swim suits.
Enough words, the Eno is best enjoyed visually. Enjoy the slideshow.
(Photos by Marcy Smith and Joe Miller, music: “Pleasures of a Simple Life,” by Big Medicine.)