Hike: Buckquarter Creek/Holden's Mill Circuit
Location: Eno River State Park
Nearby Town: Durham
Elevation (Max): 669'
Elevation Gained: 465'
Trailhead: Take Exit 170 from I-85 onto US-70 W. Take first right onto Pleasant Green Rd. Turn left on Cole Mill Rd and follow to the parking at Piper Cox House.
Web Site: http://www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/enri/main.php
This circuit connects two loop trails that meet at Buckquarter Creek. The hike begins next to the Piper Cox House. Trail maps are available at the trailhead. It is a short walk down to Fews Ford on the river where Buckquarter Creek goes right. Quickly the loop begins. Going right takes you up on a hill above the river, going left walks right along a path on the side of the bluff above the Eno. I went right to save the better scenery for later.
The trail meets a Y, where you should stay left to reach the farthest point of the loop. Here, you can either continue for a shorter loop, or cross the bridge over Buckquarter Creek to add in the Holden's Mill Trail. The loop for Holden's Mill begins immediately after crossing the bridge. Again, you can go either way, but I chose right first to come back along the river. The trail then begins a long, but not-too-steep climb up a ridge to the top of a hill above the Eno. Unfortunately, at least in the summer, there are no views although I did spot a deer hightailing it in the other direction. The trail emerges in a power line cut that provides some views, then descends to a small creek. At this creek, you can either cross for a quick loop out to the ruins of Holden's Mill or continue on this side of the creek for a shorter hike.
I crossed the stream to go to the mill. The trail splits for another loop, and I, again, went right. The trail rises up a small hill and then looks down on the mill. There are three large stone walls visible, which seem to have been the mill and the water wheel canal. Also visible down next to the river are the remains of a dam. Continue along the trail and it will drop you down to the river, along which you will hike all the way back to your car. The lower side of the loop takes you to the remains of the dam. The trail down here is sometimes hard to distinguish as it climbs over boulders, and even where it is obvious, it is narrower and a little more overgrown with grasses, but just stay along the river, and you are sure not to get lost. Just use your common sense on where the trail should go and you'll be fine--I never got lost with this method. At the point where it seems like the trail goes down the mill canal, stay right to walk along the river and not in the mill canal. This trail will eventually take you right up to the ruins where you could explore them, if you wanted, but I didn't because I'm sure snakes just love hiding out in all those rocks.
Continue along the river in a really neat section with lots of boulders that reminds me a lot of rivers in New England. The trail returns to the small creek where you should go right to finish the Holden's Mill Loop. The trail continues over large boulders, crosses under power lines, then turns up Buckquarter Creek to cross back over the bridge to return to Buckquarter Creek Trail (go right to finish the loop), which follows the river. The trail here is exposed and can get quite hot on a sunny summer day, but it is pretty scenic too as it rises right above the river climbing over stone stairs, walking along a beautiful cascade, and over wooden stairs before returning to Fews Ford, from where it is a short walk to your car.