There’s always one.
It’s that guy who, no matter where you are, is just too into it. Get accosted by a docent with too much time on their hands at the art museum? Gotten trapped in the bus with the heavy metal enthusiast who feels the need to share with the little old lady knitting across from him? There are sports fanatics, long distance running club members doing ultra marathons and the dreaded spelling bee whizzes.
Follow along on an epic Saturday out where one really bored goat keeps one really annoying overly enthusiastic history buff busy checking out the ruins at Eno River State Park (Cox Mountain Area).
Come for the ruins. Stay for the history!
[This excellent hike would not have been possible without the great maps at http://enotrails.com/ . Check it out!]
Location: Eno River State Park. The northwest end of the string of parks along the Eno River, where Cox Mountain Trail is.
Is it goat approved? Sort of, so long as the goat is on leash. There are horse trails in this section of the park, however, the park is popular with dog walkers, (at least one group of which was quite rude about sharing the trail with a goat). The park doesn’t get many visitors before 11:30 on Saturdays, and the park office doesn’t open till 9. So get there early to enjoy the part of this hike that is on trail in peace.
How you get there: Exit 170 off 85 near Durham. After taking the exit, be prepared for some insanity – this intersection is very oddly set up. Watch for the Eno River State Park brown signs. Remember that you want to leave on the north side of the highway, and that you want to head north to the park, and you may need to go through several mini-intersections in the area right around the intersection with I-85 to get there. You may need to turn around a few times before you get going correctly. The rest can be Googled or GPSed.
Time for hike: Something like 6 miles round trip. This is a loop hike with one out and back that is off trail.
Best season to do this hike: WINTER, preferably the coldest most miserable day possible. This keeps the number of dog walkers reasonable and lets you have the ruins to yourself.
Trails to Take
Start off in the second parking lot after you enter, (don’t turn in at the ranger station, wait for the sign saying “Buckquarter Creek Trail” and turn there). You’ll see a house up to your right, and then parking down around the corner. I’d park at the end of the lot if you are hauling goats as the house is a historical site frequented by people and occasionally there’s a guy there who talks about the history of the house. Buckquarter Creek Trail/canoe access goes down to the river from the parking lot.
At the ford (Few’s Ford) the trail continues along the river bank. It will eventually climb a set of stairs, and this can be an issue if you are experiencing heavy trail usage because the stairs cannot be traversed by goats and other people not associated with you at the same time. They are very tight. Instead, you can do the section of Buckquarter creek that goes along the ridge instead of the river bank, and this can be accessed near the ford as well.
Assuming the trail traffic is reasonable, continue along the river bank. Buckquarter Creek Trail will eventually turn in land and sort of follow a creek. At the bridge crossing the creek, go over the bridge and go left to go on Holden’s Mill Trail. This next section along the edge of the river will have some fun rocks to climb over and a rock beach. You’ll eventually reach a spur heading off away from the main loop. This goes out to the Holden Mill ruins.
As you approach the mill ruins the trail will split again into 2 different trails (which is really just a loop around the ruins). To visit the ruins, take either of these two trails, and the trail will walk you right through the center of the ruins, including taking you along the old mill run, (where the Mill’s water once came in), and into the stone lined area where the water wheel once turned.
Once you’re done checking out the ruins, go back to where the loop comes together. Warning: You are about to go off trail and bushwhack. Legal = yes, but perfectly safe = no. There is a deep and somewhat suspicious looking group of deep ditches on the uphill side. These are the remains of an old road that once ran to the mill. Following this old, and still amazingly visible road bed into the woods will lead you out to a really cool old tobacco barn and the remains of 2 houses, (for more on the great history of this home site, see “enotrails.com”).
This is the home site (though not the original cabin) of William W. Holden, a governor of North Carolina and supporter of African American rights during the period when the Ku Klux Klan still had major sway in the Southeast. Basically, it’s worth bushwhacking and risking getting yourself embarrassingly lost to visit the homestead of a guy who represents what it sometimes feels like everyone has forgotten – just because you were born in the south and raised here does not mean you are automatically racist, even in the 1800s.
Once you’ve had your fill of cool cabinyness, go back on Holden Mill’s main loop, and turn left to go down the trail away from the river. By taking the uphill sides of the Holden Mill Trail loop and Buckquarter Creek Trail loop you will miss most of the dog walkers who will begin to show up in earnest now that the sun is getting higher. You will also pass Cole Cabin, which is another amazingly well preserved single story cabin a short distance off the trail. The old road up to the cabin is also still plainly visible.
The rest of the hike takes you along a ridge above the river, eventually dumping you back out at Few’s Ford and the nearby parking area.
- Theft from parked cars is common throughout the Eno River system. You are in Durham, so expect to hide your valuables and consider if pepper spray is right for you.
- Dog walkers are the primary obstacle, and like most dog walkers in the areas surrounding Duke, expect them to be rude and completely ignorant when it comes to livestock of any kind.
- Eno River rises A LOT during major flood periods (such as hurricanes). Therefore, big storms, hurricanes, etc. may not be the ideal time to go on this hike by the river. Some fords may not be crossable at high water times.
- Watch out for the tight stairs on Buckquarter Creek Trail.
- Deer hunting is popular throughout North Carolina. If you are visiting from September – December consider coating your goat and yourself with orange if you plan to visit the off trail cabins.
- Ruins are not safe! Duh! So don’t be like climbing and parkoring off them and stuff. Also be careful of old wells and cellars that may not be well covered in the vicinity of abandoned home sites. Lassie might save Timmy if he falls down a well, but a goat is more likely to give you up for dead and go find something to eat.
In Sum: The past is a fascinating place to visit, so until MIT gets around to building that time machine the next best bet is some first class ruins.