Hiking Occoneechee Speedway to an Eno River Beauty Spot

Beauty spot on the Eno River

Last Sunday, Oct. 17 2021, I took an easy 1.5 mile hike at Occoneechee Speedway (320 Elizabeth Brady Rd. Hillsborough, NC 27278). Despite being the middle of October — by which time there’s usually plenty of fall color — it looked like the middle of summer. Along the way, I saw an old stadium, a dilapidated men’s outhouse, and an exceptional beauty spot on the Eno River.

Map of Occoneechee Speedway

To start, I parked at the public parking deck in downtown Hillsborough. After getting out of my car and going down a flight of stairs, I joined the Eno Riverwalk and passed under two bridges.

Eno Riverwalk passing under concrete bridge

As I was taking a photo of the second bridge, a man passed by in seasonally indeterminate apparel (gotta love the shorts and long sleeves) headed for River Park.

Soon after, I passed the reconstructed Occaneechi Village, a clearing with historic houses, and the Hillsborough Urban Gardens. When I reached the easternmost extent of the Riverwalk, I stopped to take another photo, and this time a couple passed by.

Riverwalk leading to Occoneechee Speedway

Quickly they passed by with their dog between them, headed in the same direction I was.

About this time I realized I’d forgotten my bluetooth remote and had to backtrack to the parking deck. Once I got my remote, I retraced my steps and made it to Occoneechee Speedway.

Occoneechee Speedway Trace

Passing through pine trees, I found old #44 parked along the edge of the track as usual.

#44 race car at Occoneechee Speedway

Then I climbed the concrete steps of the old stadium.

Old stadium at Occoneechee Speedway

At the top, I looked down and admired the view, taking several photos in the process.

Soon after, I turned, continued down a side trail, and reached one of the most interesting landmarks at Occoneechee Speedway.

Selfie in front of an old tin outhouse

I used to be somewhat creeped out by this old men’s room in the middle of the woods, but over time I’ve come to appreciate it — though I can’t help thinking of hillbillies in the woods whenever I see it.

With the men’s outhouse behind me, I hiked down Beech Bluff Trail until I reached a side trail, turned left, went down to the river bank, and passed a giant beech tree.

Staring up a fallen beech tree

Though you can’t see it in this photo, the top half of the tree had collapsed, apparently as a result of some kind of parasitic infection — most likely as a result of climate change, which has also delayed the onset of fall color in this region.

After continuing down the riverbank, I reached one of the foremost beauty spots on the Eno River.

Eno River at Occoneehcee Speedway

It’s the kind of place you can easily spend an entire afternoon and hardly realize you’ve spent any time at all.

Beauty spot on the Eno River

And of course, I had to get a selfie.

Selfie on the Eno River

Soon after, I returned to Beech Bluff Trail and headed east.

Big Bend Trail at Occoneechee Speedway

At the juncture with Big Bend Trail, I turned right and headed up the steps leading back to the Speedway Trace.

Occoneechee Speedway Trace

And as I walked through pine, oak, and beech trees, it occurred to me that all of this could be gone tomorrow, especially if climate change continues to worsen, creating regions of protracted drought that can easily catch fire — as has already happened in California, Oregon, Australia, Turkey, and many other regions.

And that’s all the more reason we should be acting now to stop industries from emitting greenhouse gases, thereby limiting the damage done to places like this. Because if we don’t, the day may soon come when they’re little more than ashes and soot.

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