Hike: Bobbitt Hole/Cole Mill Circuit
Location: Eno River State Park (Eastern Portion)
Nearby Town: Durham, NC
Elevation (Max): 440'
Elevation Gained: 120'
Trailhead: The area around Eno River State Park is highly developed which means there are as many ways of getting to the trailhead as there are directions from which to come, so I won't be able to provide the best directions. Below are the main approaches from different directions.
From the southeast (Raleigh, RDU Airport, Cary, RTP), take I-40 West, go North on the Durham Freeway (Hwy 147), take Exit 16A, turn L onto Rte 70 (Hillsborough Rd), turn R on Sparger Rd, turn L on Cole Mill Rd, turn L on Old Cole Mill Rd and follow to parking.
From the south (Chapel Hill), take 15/501 North, take Exit 108C-108D, turn L on Rte 70 (Hillsborough Rd), and follow the directions above.
From the west (Hillsborough, Burlington, Triad), take I-85 N, take Exit 170 onto Rte 70 Business East, turn L onto Sparger Rd, and follow the directions above.
Web Site: http://www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/enri/main.php
Immediately after returning from Michigan, I departed for an island off the coast of Maine to vacation with E's family. After a few days up there, we returned to Connecticut, where we had about a week and a half at home before we set off on a new adventure--moving to North Carolina, where E had gotten a job. The drive was interesting, mostly because both E's dad (driving the Budget truck) and I were rear ended in a multi-car accident as we neared the apartment. Everyone was ok, but it was an interesting way to start this new chapter of our lives. Once we moved in, we began exploring our area. One of the first things I noticed was a stunning lack of hills and woods. The former we can blame on geology and is quite a change from hilly Connecticut. The latter is mostly due to the explosive growth the Research Triangle region has experienced in the last couple decades. In any event, finding good hikes within a short drive is a lot more difficult where we are in North Carolina than it was at home in Connecticut (or basically anywhere in New England--I'm more and more convinced that New England is closest to figuring out the ideal land use balance).
The Triangle has a couple things going for it in the hiking department, though. First, there are two large state parks near us; one each in Durham and Raleigh. Second, this area has a robust and growing system of greenways for non-motorized travel, which E and I really enjoy. Another thing going for the Triangle, though this is a bit of a stretch, is that the Blue Ridge Mountains and Great Smoky Mountains National Park are a 3-4 hour drive away. One of the first things E and I did in our new town was get library cards, and the first books I checked out were all something along the lines of "50 Hikes in the Triangle." I read through them, was left a bit underwhelmed, but decided to try out a few. The first hike we took was in Eno River State Park.
An important thing to keep in mind when going to Eno is that it is split into a Western and Eastern half. E and I wound up driving to a little pull-off where we couldn't find a trail, then we went to the Western side trailheads before we realized that none of the trails we were planning on taking were on the trail maps on the Western side. So we drove to the Eastern side. After parking at the end of Old Cole Mill Road we began our hike by going right on Cole Mill Trail. Basically from the first steps we took, we began to sweat profusely. It was, after all, the end of July in central North Carolina, and an abnormally hot day too. I brought one bottle of water for the hike and we ended up needing every drop. When we got to the junction of Cole Mill Trail and Bobbitt Hole Trail, we went straight onto Bobbitt Hole. The hiking was mostly shaded, which was good, except for a part where the trail crosses under power lines where the sun roasted us in the brief time it took us to cross through. After hiking a little while, we came to Bobbitt Hole Spur which is a small out and back trail from the Bobbit Hole Trail that goes to, yes, Bobbitt Hole.
Here is how the trail map/guide we picked up in the parking lot describes Bobbitt Hole. "[It is] one of the most scenic and fascinating places in the river. The river drops into Bobbitt Hole over a short rock cascade from the south and leaves in a sharp 90 degree bend to the east. On the south bank, a rock outcropping stands sentinel over the hole which has been measured to 18 feet deep." After reading that, I was excitedly expecting some roaring white water and a clear deep pool with cliffs rising dramatically alongside. In reality, Bobbitt Hole has none of these things. The "cascade" is really just the river trickling through rocks before falling about a foot into the pool. I honestly cannot remember seeing a rock outcropping "standing sentinel." Least disappointing was Bobbitt Hole itself, which really did look deep, though it was far from clear. Three other hikers had the right idea on this hot day, though, as they were taking a dip in the Hole.
E and I hung around there for a while to rest in the shade and relatively cooler air around the Hole. We then returned to Bobbitt Hole Trail going right (left would have returned us the way we came) which hugs the Eno River. Along the way, we switched off Bobbitt Hole onto Cole Mill which looped us back to the parking lot. Hiking along the Eno was pretty nice, it kept us cooler than we were on the approach to Bobbitt Hole, and we could see lots of fish in the river along the way. The verdict? Central North Carolina is a completely different sort of hiking experience than New England. It is more of a solitude, exercise, simple enjoyment of the outdoors brand of hiking compared to the striking beauty brand of hiking that is New England. Still, it is always nice to get out for a walk in the woods.