Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved the snow.
I love how it makes the world bright, clean, and clear; how it highlights shapes and colors; how it brings out playfulness in people who are otherwise taciturn; how it clarifies sound, even over great distances.
(Have you ever noticed how clear both sound and light are on a cold winter night, when the stars look like they’re almost near enough to touch and sounds seem to be coming down an impossibly long empty hallway?)
So it was only natural that I should go hiking a couple weeks ago, after the latest snowfall here in central NC.
I didn’t go the day it snowed, since municipalities in the area rarely do a thorough job of clearing out side roads, where black ice can accumulate. But the day after, I got in my car and headed out to Eno River State Park, ready to take a three mile hike through forest, mud, and snow to see one of the foremost beauty spots on the Eno River, Bobbitt Hole.
I arrived at the Cole Mill access (4390 Old Cole Mill Road, Durham, NC 27712) around one o’clock in the afternoon on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022. The parking lot was mostly empty — people in the South love to freak out at the firsts sign that it might actually be winter — so I had no trouble finding a spot. (Parking is usually iffy on the weekends, since there are only about 25 spots at the Cole Mill access. As a result, weekday hiking is encouraged.)
After parking, I headed out into the snow. And though it was chilly, it was also sunny, which meant it was reasonably warm apart from the shady spots.
Quickly I joined Cole Mill Trail, trudged a couple hundred feet, and reached the first good view of the Eno River, tucked behind a boulder on my left.
The sky was so blue, it was almost sapphire. And though the waters were brownish-tan and muddy from snowmelt, the river was calm and peaceful, winding into the distance past boulders and fallen trees.
Back on Cole Mill Trail, I climbed a snowy hill, where the sound of crunch-crunch-crunch underfoot reminded me of another reason I love the snow.
Soon the trail got muddy. (The temperature was above freezing, which meant the snow was melting and turning the ground soggy and swamplike.) For a quarter mile I slogged through, nearly losing my footing on several occasions, despite having new hiking boots with exceptional tread.
Then the mud receded and I came to a clearing.
Ahead of me, the Eno River curved sharply to the west, rounding a horseshoe bend before disappearing from sight.
Since the light was still strong and the angle was good, I set up my tripod and took a few selfies.
After twenty minutes or so, I put away my tripod and resumed my hike.
For a half mile, I kept up the pace, rarely stopping to take photos, and soon I came to the junction with Bobbitt Hole Trail. Along the way, I skirted numerous muddy spots — some of them muddy enough to make me feel like I was ice skating without the skates. Meanwhile, the crisp air and bright colors were incredibly refreshing.
Then, about a quarter mile into Bobbitt Hole Trail, I came to a small footbridge.
There are several small footbridges along this stretch of the Eno River, but none quite as photogenic as this one. Whenever I see it, I can’t help thinking of a Bob Ross painting, especially with the snow and the scraggly sycamore on the left — both of which he loved.
After another quarter mile, the forest thinned; the Eno River widened; the trees parted; and there was Bobbitt Hole.
The burbling of water on rock filled the air. The sapphire-blue sky shimmered above. The water curved around the L-shaped bend that is Bobbitt Hole.
I came a little closer.
The last remnant of a river birch overhung the river. Boulders of slate and granite lined the opposite bank. Snow covered rocks and trees.
I looked to my left.
In the distance, the brownish-tan waters of the Eno River curved north, flowing in the direction I had just come from.
For about 45 minutes, I stood and soaked in the beauty, taking as many photos and videos from as many different angles as possible. Then I took out my tripod and got in position.
And as I stood there in the cold crisp air of a late January afternoon on the banks of a river I’ve come to know and love, I realized how much I’ve become a part of this place, and how much it’s become a part of me.