Now that the end of summer is in sight, I’ve decided to weigh in with a selection of the best photos from my summer hikes along the Eno River. I haven’t been posting as regularly as I would like due to constraints on my time and health, but hiking remains an important part of my life and will continue to be a prominent part of my blogging.
Holden Mill Trail:
Back in mid-July, I went hiking along the Holden Mill Trail at Eno River State Park. It receives heavy foot traffic and is occasionally crowded, but it’s worthwhile to visit for a variety of reasons. Foremost among those is the opportunity for some exceptional landscape photography. A frequently overlooked gem along the trail is a small waterway that you have to cross before reaching the ruins of Holden Mill proper. As you can see, it truly lives up to its name, Tranquility Creek.
On the return leg of the Holden Mill Trail, I followed the bank of the Eno River. This is where you’ll find most hikers and landscape photographers in the park. There are so many breathtaking views of the Eno River here, it’s easy to see why.
Along the banks of the Eno there are a number of trees with edible fruit or nuts. I managed to find one example of the former on the trail as I was hiking. I looked down and examined the small fruit, initially thinking it might be a blueberry. But I knew by the calyx (the row of stiff brown sepals at the top of the fruit) that this was most definitely an eastern persimmon tree (Diospyros virginiana).
This was further confirmed when I looked into the branches of the tree and found this immature cluster of persimmons.
A short distance further, I came across a shagbark hickory (Cary ovata). The bark on these trees is so distinctive, it’s almost impossible to miss. It peels off in light, feathery strips that give the tree the appearance of shedding. The trees are also remarkable for the delicious nuts they produce.
Bobbit Hole Trail:
In late July, I went hiking along the Bobbit Hole Trail at Eno River State Park. This is another great location for landscape photography and hiking. Care should be taken when hiking on Bobbitt Hole Trail, though, due to disrepair and collapse at many points.
Not far from the parking lot that leads to Bobbitt Hole Trail, there’s a fantastic view of the Eno River. I was lucky enough to have just the right dappling of late afternoon sunlight when I reached this point, and you can see the results for yourself. Lighting is crucial.
Another one of the distinctive features of Bobbitt Hole Trail is a beech grove that’s taken root about a quarter of a mile before you reach Bobbitt Hole itself. There are a number of beautiful specimens, some of which have been engraved over the years by hikers and local residents. Though it doesn’t do any favors for the trees themselves, I can see why many people are attracted to the smooth white surface of the American beech tree (Fagus grandifolia) and subsequently leave their mark.
Another great view of the Eno River can be found at Bobbitt Hole itself. I was lucky enough to have just the right angle of sunlight when I took this, and you can see the results. Once again, lighting is crucial.
On my way back from Bobbitt Hole, I passed by two distinctive trees – one of which is a sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) and the other a tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera). They were so perfectly placed, it felt like I was walking through an improvised natural gateway.
Mountain Loop Trail:
In late July, I also went hiking along the Mountain Loop Trail at Occoneechee Mountain. This is another great location for landscape photography and hiking, though there aren’t as many views of the Eno River. Also it should be noted that the Eno River is greatly diminished at this point due to the damming of the river at a location not far upstream.
Shortly after Mountain Loop Trail diverges from Chestnut Oak Trail, there was a great view of the evening sun through a stand of pine trees. I was lucky enough to come at exactly the right time of day and season of year to align the sun with the trail, so that that they’re on the same vertical axis. The effect is striking, as you can see.
Also striking is the ubiquity of chestnut oak trees (Quercus montana). Central North Carolina is the southern extremity of the range of chestnut oaks, and I rarely see them anywhere else on any of my hikes. But they’re positively profligate at Occoneechee Mountain.
Also profligate at Occoneechee Mountain is the Maryland meadow beauty (Rhexia mariana). It thrives in well-drained soil along ditches and embankments at elevation, so it’s not hard to see why Occoneechee Mountain is rife with them. The distinct pink corolla with drooping stamen and tufted fringe is hard to miss.
I took a detour from the Mountain Loop Trail before the end to go to the Overlook. It’s the most iconic location at Occeeneechee Mountain and also the most photographed. It’s easy to see why. Even after visiting it on a monthly basis for the past three three years, I have yet to get tired of it.
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