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Springtime is here and that means it’s time for the blog to reawaken!  Charles and I look forward to hitting new trails and to sharing our experiences with you.

That said, I have sad news to share: we will be moving to Washington State this summer, so the number of posts we write will be limited and after our departure, the blog will become static.  (Unless we can figure out how to continue the blog once in Washington.)  We’re forlorn to leave the place we love so dearly, but also excited to start a new adventure in Washington, where we’ll be close to fantastic hiking terrain on the far eastern side of the state.

As always, many thanks to those of you who read the blog, who share your experiences with us, and who are dedicated to preserving the High Country for future generations of hikers.

Hibernation

As the English poet George Herbert said, “Every mile is two in winter.”  With winter just around the corner, that means it is time for our blog to enter its first season of hibernation.

While Charles and I do sometimes brave the elements for a winter hike, we are generally three-season hikers who prefer to spend the winter reading books and dreaming of spring trails.  That said, don’t let our brief dormancy deter you from exploring our site or from leaving your comments or suggestions.  We will still maintain the blog on a regular basis and will continue to update our Hiking the High Country facebook page.

So until spring arrives once again and reawakens both the woods and our writing, we wish you all a safe and happy winter!

When we shared our first experience on Three Top Mountain in July of this year, it was an unfortunately stormy day and we were chased off the summit by wind and lightening far too soon.  But in spite of the storm’s best efforts, we realized that it was a place worth returning to, especially in the fall when the autumn leaves begin their annual transformation that is so irresistibly beautiful.

As we have already shared our previous (and rather rainy) adventure on Three Top with you, the purpose of this post is not to swap trail-tales, but to instead share the autumnal views from the top.  Even though the lens of a camera can never capture what it’s truly like to experience fall in Appalachia, it can perhaps inspire you to lace up your boots and to go hunting for that perfect autumn trail.

(For information on hiking Three Top, please refer to our original post below.)

View toward Creston, NC; Mountain Ash in foreground

Eastern view from summit

Eastern view; Mountain Ash in foreground

At the top, you can follow this rock outcropping toward an "unofficial" (and dangerous) trail that leads to the outermost edges of the peak. I don't advise doing it, but know some that have!

Southern view from summit

View toward Elk Knob & Snake Mtn.

Soapwort (or Appalachian) Gentian found along trail during autumn months

Hike it:  For additional information on hiking Three Top, please visit our original blog post:  Three Top

Entry by Lori Beth

The following entry is by Jon Burr, a guest blogger living in Saxapahaw, NC.  Jon is an avid hiker, kayaker, writer and a former student at Appalachian State University, where he came to know and love the High Country.  He is currently a teacher at Elon University.  The following entry features his most recent adventure in Eno River State Park, which is part of the NC “low country.”

The high country destinations detailed on this site were once in my backyard and an important part of my everyday life. I hiked the same trails, swam in the same waters, and took in many of the same views. Several years ago, I had to leave the mountains (though, as they say, I never really left), and these familiar natural sites were replaced with the buzzing of city streets and the whirr of interstate traffic. I quickly became a stranger in an artificial land.

Adventuring outward, I soon discovered a few urban oases that might make high country travelers who have journeyed to the “lower country” think they have returned to the familiar hills of Appalachia. These places have become my home away from home.

One of my favorite “lower country” destinations (max. elevation of 730 ft.) is Eno River State Park in Durham, North Carolina. Between the park’s eastern and western halves, it is home to a combined 20+ miles of trails through forests and along the river’s banks.

On this occasion, our journey took us into the western section of the park via Cole Mill Rd. We parked at the picnic area and hiked on a spur towards the Cox Mountain Trail. After only a few minutes of walking, we came upon a familiar sight to those in the high country who have been to Grandfather Mountain—a suspension bridge!

Approaching suspension bridge from east

My childishly energetic jumping, bouncing, and running on the bridge made for a harrowing journey, and the dogs with us quickly became timid. Once I calmed my gait, we were able to cross. After walking for around 1/2 mile, we passed the Cox Mountain Trail and hiked towards a popular gathering spot within the park—Fews Ford. At this location, the river becomes shallow and many people and animals frolic in the cool waters.

Fews Ford looking east toward Buckquarter Creek Trail

After some swimming, we followed the Fanny’s Ford Trail along the western banks of the river (instead of the Buckquarter Creek Trail and Holden Mill Trail that span the eastern banks).  Much to our delight, we were soon rewarded with a wildlife sighting!

Turtles of the Eno

On this visit, we also saw many fish and frogs. Previous hikes have resulted in regular deer sightings and even an occasional fox. Showing the same childish spirit exhibited on the suspension bridge, I hopped into the waist-deep water (a chilly surprise!) to get a better photo. Instead of being rewarded with a photo-op, I emerged smelly, soaked, and covered with algae—and, alas, I had scared the turtles away. Eyes were rolled. We hiked on.

When water levels are up, the park is one of the most beautiful places in this part of North Carolina to canoe / kayak. We soon found out why. The many large rocks make for a technical paddle and some churning waters. This is a great spot to stop and enjoy the river and its rapids.

Looking north from rockface on Eno's banks

Taking advantage of the low water levels, we decided to cross the river and hike on the more popular Buckquarter Creek Trail because it hugs close to the river’s banks. Our crossing allowed us an encounter with another of the park’s many small rapids. This one had me wishing I’d brought my kayak!

Whitewater!

A short hike later, the Buckquarter Creek Trail leaves the banks of the river, dips into a dense, tranquil forest, and becomes the Holden Mill Trail.

Hiking south towards river on Holden Mill Trail

After a few miles of hiking through forests and along the riverbank, we looped around and returned to Fews Ford and, after another 1/2 mile or so, the parking lot. Another fun day in the “lower country” of Eno River State Park—a hat tip to my high country friends.

Hike it: Eno River State Park is a natural playground. Compared to the high country, none of the trails are terribly strenuous. Linking multiple trails together could easily result in an all-day adventure. Wear “water shoes” and swimming trunks because you are likely to get wet (and will probably have more fun if you do).

  • Length: 4.1 miles (Holden Mill Trail + Buckquarter Creek Trail)
  • Duration: 2-3 hrs.
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Hike Configuration: Loop
  • Blaze: Red (Buckquarter Creek Trail) and Yellow (Holden Mill Trail)
  • Condition: Rugged
  • Trailhead: Either parking lots at the park entrance at 6101 Cole Mill Rd.
  • Traffic: Moderate
  • Directions: 1.) From the high country, travel east on I-40 towards Durham. 2.) Merge onto I-85 North and take exit 170 for US 70 West. 3.) Turn right onto Pleasant Green Rd. and then left onto Cole Mill Rd. 4.) Cole Mill Rd. dead ends into the park.

Entry by guest blogger, Jon Burr