3 p.m. Arrive at Eno River State Park, 6101 Cole Mill Rd, Durham, NC 27705. While not a Triangle Land Conservancy protected area, TLC is a partner and supporter of the Eno River Association, which protects different areas of the watershed.
Eno River State Park has 28 miles of trails, both along Eno River and deeper into the forest. Though there are many parking areas and access points, starting on Cole Mill Rd provides visitors with the opportunity to check out the historic Piper-Cox House at the beginning of the trip. When ready to set out, begin by following the Holden Mill Trail along the water, keeping an eye out for great blue herons, fish swimming beneath the water’s surface, and even large snakes sunning themselves on the river rocks.
3:15 p.m. The Holden Mill Trail is beautiful, and popular with dog walkers, joggers, kids, and hikers alike. To really “get away,” however, head off on the 1.27 mile Ridge Trail and deeper into the woods. Though the Ridge Trail strays from the larger Eno River, it does cross a small tributary creek and rises up and above the riverbed. Listen for birds and keep an eye out for deer, as both are plentiful and easy to spot in the open woods. The Ridge Trail also passes the ruins of three 19th century houses, one so close to the trail that you can simply walk up to it and look in its now empty windows.
4:00 p.m. From the Ridge Trail take the 1.04 mile Shakori Trail. Identified with yellow U’s, this trail combines with the Ridge Trail to make a perfect loop. Now far from the other trails, enjoy the peace and quiet of the woods all to yourself.
4:30 p.m. Rejoin the Ridge Trail and continue back towards the parking area. Instead of returning on the Holden Mill Trail again, return to the Piper-Cox House on the 1.5 mile Buckquarter Creek Trail. A wooden staircase takes hikers above and away, giving visitors an impressive view of river rapids far below on Eno River.
5:45 p.m. Take a few moments to enjoy the grassy lawn in front of the Piper-Cox House before leaving Eno River State Park. In the summer the flowers are alive with butterflies and other pollinators, and in the fall the foliage is particularly striking.
6 p.m. End the afternoon with a fifteen minute drive to a downtown Durham favorite, Pop’s Trattoria, 605 West Main Street, Durham ($10-$20). They say themselves that “offering a menu saturated with local ingredients and personal touches is what makes their loyal customers keep coming back!” Fancy dress is not necessary for Pop’s, but it may be a good idea to swap out muddy hiking boots.
While a few of their entrees may verge on expensive, their wood oven fired pizzas are both affordable and absolutely delicious (I order a pizza every time I visit!). The pizza featuring granny smith apples, brie, ricotta spread, mozzarella, and truffle oil is a particular favorite. With high tables situated by the active kitchen and windows facing the street, or the quieter tables in the main dining room, Pop’s has a setting for everyone.
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Photo courtesy of Pops-durham.com