Published: Jul 07, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Jul 03, 2012 05:02 PM
I run with the river
On an early Sunday morning the sky the color of a blue jay I lace my shoes and take off down the trail. I am a 55-year old man, but running trails makes me feel like a boy. Today I am running from Rivermont Road to Guess Road a section of the river that traverses 6.5 miles. It is cool for June, and I am alone, and I am happy to be moving. I am a little stiff from my 10-miler in Duke Forest yesterday, but soon my muscles warm up as I jump a few logs and run easy down to the river.The Eno River flows some 40 miles. Beginning in Orange County, it meanders its way into Durham County until it converges with the Flat and Little Rivers, where it forms the Neuse River. As I run past the Pump Station, I remember the first time visiting the Eno River State Park, more than 34 years ago. Then, as now, I marveled at the astonishing natural beauty within an urban area.Fifteen minutes in I hit the first real hill; I feel a noticeable cooling of the air on these bluffs, which are covered with mountain laurel and rhododendron. Only weeks earlier these shrubs were in full bloom, their pink and white blossoms big and showy. Over the years I have visited the Eno River State Park perhaps two thousand times. I have hiked and run its trails. I have kayaked its waters between Pleasant Green Road to Cole Mill Road when, following a hard rain, parts of the river transform into class III rapids. I have camped in its woods, and, in July, in mid-90s temperatures, I have found cool relief in its pools. I reach Cole Mill Road in around 34 minutes. I am sweating hard after running the steepest hill. I chug some water, pop a Cliff Shot Block, and begin the run back, being sure to duck under a fallen tree. Along the way small toads hop in front of me, their hue the color of the soil, making their chameleonic bodies difficult to see. Over the years I have seen many animals in the park: white-tailed deer, otters, and raccoons. Ive seen dozens of male monarch butterflies puddling in pools of shallow water, taking in the minerals and salts that come from the mud. Once, years ago, I was paddling upstream from the Pleasant Green put-in, before the dam was torn down and, in the early spring, witnessed perhaps a hundred large black birds perching in the trees. These birds were much larger than crows, and they were quiet except for the occasional rustling of their immense wings as they settled and unsettled on the tree limbs. It was a magical moment that I will never forget. I sat in my kayak and watched them for 30 minutes, mesmerized by their sheer size and beauty. I figured they must have stopped to rest, that they were migrating to some other place. I do not know what kind of birds they were, but I counted myself lucky to have seen them. I veer off onto a side trail, chugging up an incline. There is something quietly spiritual about running trails, the movement of the body through a forest. It transports me, takes my mind to another place, very deep within. Like prayer. Near the crest of the incline I startle a deer, and it snorts loudly, then it springs through the woods, away from me. I reconnect to the main trail and run slowly up the last hill, jump a dry creek bed, and rise up on a muscular boulder. The Eno serenades me below; the narrow river moving assuredly through slabs of rocks the size of Volkswagen Beetles. I finish in a little over an hour. Covering some 5600 acres, the Eno River State Park is a magnificent stretch of natural preservation; one the communities of Durham and Orange counties should be honestly proud. As I drive the short ride back home, I look forward to a hike with my wife later in the morning, when we will walk the Holden Mills trail.
Share your Eno moments at email@example.com. Contact Robert Wallace at firstname.lastname@example.org.