Saturday, April 22, 2017

ENO RIVER - SENNETT HOLE

WEST POINT ON THE ENO

A trip to Eno River never disappoints.  Having hiked there many times, I remain amazed at the beauty of the many trails along the banks of this ancient river from Hillsborough to Durham.  Today we were deterred  from hiking in the mountains by threatening weather, so we drove east to visit a 400 acre Durham City Park.   This park is centered around a historical mill that was originally built on this site in the late 1700's.  One of 32 mills operating on the Eno, the West Point Mill remained in operation until 1942.  Remnants of the original building collapsed in 1973 but the current mill was constructed on the original foundation and is a fully operational historical site.  In addition to the mill are other reconstructed historical  buildings, picnic shelters and trails.


There are a little over two miles of hiking trails, but they all lead to one the best swimming holes I have seen east of the Blue Ridge.   Sennett Hole is one of the best kept secrets in the Research Triangle and is a wonderful place to visit on a hot day.

Accompanying us on the trail today was our daughter, Whitdawg and her two children, Awesome Possum and Billy Buck.  She equipped them with an all terrain side by side stroller that allowed them to join us on our trek to Sennett Hole.   They were excellent company for what we envisioned would be a short and easy hike.  The trails are well marked and maintained.  I would rate them easy to moderate.   A map at the kiosk is helpful as there are many spur trails. 

We began our hike at the mill and followed a trail along the banks of the river to the trail head for the South River trail.   The trail head is located near a dam over which is a waterfall that covers the width of the river.





Whitdawg and Billy Buck followed the FBWG to the shoreline and scrambled with me for better views.  Of course I had them pose for some photographs.

From the top of the dam I spied a couple of geese sunning themselves in front of some yellow daffodils on the opposite bank.
The South River Trail is yellow blazed and is a river bluff trail leading to Laurel Cliff.  It rises above the river and much of the views are blocked by trees.  However there are many spur trails that offer some great views of the river below.  One of which allowed me to see two more geese, cooling themselves on the river rocks.


While I am not sure when laurel are supposed to bloom, I was surprised to see blooming pink laurel at Laurel Cliff in late April.  The delicate blooms of the laurel bush are pretty any time of the year, but seeing them below the river bluff, I scrambled down for a better look.


Finding a river rock perch I rested my dawgs and took in the views below Laurel Cliff at the river bend.  The Eno River always seems to provide great reflections.  Today was no exception.





From the Laurel Cliff, the South River Trail leads downhill to the intersection of Buffalo Trail and the Sennett Hole Trail.  Billy Buck quickly observed an obstacle at the intersection.  The fording of a large creek was required.  For the FBWG and his Faithful Hiking Companion, this would not be a problem....but leading a three year old and a 9 month old in an all terrain stroller caused us to pause. 


The South River Trail leads downhill from Laurel Cliff to Warren Creek.  There the Buffalo Trail leads to the left taking you back to the parking lot. Across Warren Creek is the Sennett Hole Trail.  Thinking I would go this trail alone, Whitdawg had other ideas.  She quickly stripped the shoes and socks off of Billy Buck and he and I began our fording of the creek.  Her idea that we could hop from rock to rock was soon dispelled when Billy Buck's legs proved to short and the FBWG balance was too shaky to take the chance of carrying him over the rocks.  But we made it!








Now crossing with the all terrain stroller was another matter.  But undaunted Whitdawg and my Faithful Hiking  Companion persevered making the crossing easily much to the relief of Billy Buck!




The Sennett Hole Trail not 2/10th of a mile long but leads to a series of river bank trails that go in every direction around the pond size swimming hole.  I first glimpsed a young lad fishing then I heard the barking of dogs as a several folks were jumping in for a swim!



The pond is formed as a result of a large rock formation blocking two thirds of the river.  Billy Buck and I quickly took off to rock scramble and wade in the shallow water.  Whitdawg soon joined us.  We got wet but we had fun!
Folks swimming had  several friendly dogs with them who were have a great time jumping from rock to rock.  They told us in the summer this place is often very crowded and I can see why.  The water was cool but as you can see, it did not deter folks from swimming.....on April 22nd....imagine that?!   I climbed to the top of the rock and from there took some pictures upstream.


This was truly an unexpected pleasure.  If you live in the Research Triangle, you should make this a summer time destination but be prepared to get wet and have fun!





Leaving the Sennett Hole we retraced our steps across the Warren Creek ford and trudged uphill on the Buffalo Trail which is obviously an old roadbed.  It is about a half mile to the parking lot loop.  Billy Buck stopped to remove a tree from the trail....yep he just turned three!
We visited the restored farmstead on the way back to the car.  There is an idyllic tobacco barn that captured my attention.
The McCowan Mangum house is a prominent feature of the park behind it we found a nice community garden. 



But I wanted to explore the West Point Mill as it opened at 1 pm.  In the building I found the resident miller, a man named Kent McCoury who has milled corn there since 1986.  He was nice enough to pose for a picture after I assured him I would make him famous.
The mill is restored and open to the public.  Kent showed me a wall plaque listing all the millers who had worked in the mill...an impressive list of artisans for sure!
I poked around the mill taking various photographs of things I found interesting and finally leaned out the second story window to get a good shot of the water wheel.





The gear system of the mill seemed very complicated to me as did the design of the mill stone but what do know, as I am just a Fat Bald White Guy....
How much cornmeal can this mill grind?  Seems like a very time consuming process made possible by a very complicated system of gears and devices....







West Point on the Eno is one fine park....it is full of history....and hands on illustration of a soon to be lost art...it has beautiful scenery as the Eno River never disappoints....the trails are easy to moderate....and there is a swimming hole!.... Access is a 10...right off Roxboro Road at exit 176 on I-85....trails are a 9...well marked and maintained....scenery is a 9 as well....but what makes this hike a 10...is the mill....the miller and the swimming hole....this is a bucket list destination for anyone within 100 miles!
I can't resist adding to this blog some of my random shots of this historic grist mill.
a bike stored beneath the mill....
a window to the gear room 



Checkers anyone?






an empty wagon makes a lot of noise



"a bridge has no allegiance to either side"

Lee Coleman

Billy Buck repping the Fat Bald White Guy