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Saturday, March 25, 2023

Cherry Blossoms!

Better to be lucky than smart, they say.  Oh, yes!  When we planned our itinerary back up to the Philly area from Florida, we were sure that we would be arriving in the D.C. area too early for the cherry blossoms.  Well, climate change, which seems to be bringing Spring early everywhere (daffodils two weeks early, for goodness sake) --- 



-- blessed us with early cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C., and it turned out that our free day to visit the Tidal Basin was the very day the blossoms peaked.  Not only that, but the rainy forecast magically turned to sun.  So, as we said...

After running an errand, we drove over to the local Metro stop and rode in to the L'Enfant stop, aiming to have lunch on The Wharf before walking over to the Tidal Basin to see the blossoms.  It was a cheery, breezy, sunny day on the waterfront:

We happened to pass by Union Stage at Pearl Street Warehouse, and, who should be shown on the marquee for an upcoming performance but Barenaked Ladies!

It called to mind our 1996 trip to Boston with our kids and good friend Darla, where Darla and Kathy obligingly posed for a lighthearted photo -- not knowing it would echo down the years:

We had a scrumptious lunch on an outside veranda, then walked over to the Tidal Basin, where this was our first look at the cherry blossoms:

It seemed everyone and everything were coming out here today, including these beautiful little residents sitting quietly on one of the trees along the basin:

We always enjoy returning to Washington, D.C. to walk as far as we have time, and to see our favorite monuments and memorials in ever-new perspectives.  This was the Jefferson Memorial in pink-and-white splendor ---

--- and this the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial surrounded by admiring visitors and admired flora:

These were the best photos we have to share from the day.  We might have taken more, but we were too busy admiring the beautiful blossoms and people.  Everyone at the Tidal Basin was in glorious humor and unfailingly polite to each other, enjoying this burst of sunny weather and the peak of the season.

Happy Spring!

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Raven Rock State Park

Monday, March 20, 2023 

Hi Blog!

This stop in North Carolina has been all about exploring different state parks. Near the geographic center of North Carolina is Raven Rock State Park, a 4,600-plus acre natural area that offers a variety of outdoor activities. We really enjoyed our visits to Eno River and Cliffs of the Neuse, so we were eager to visit one more North Carolina State Park before leaving the area on Wednesday.

Raven Rock offers over 30 miles of trails to explore on foot, bike or horseback. The park is split in two by the Cape Fear River. The north side contains the bridle trails while the south side has the hiking and biking trails. We planned several out-and-back hikes to see various parts of the park.

The first trail we took was the Northington Ferry Trail. We followed an old wagon road as it made its way down toward the Cape Fear River. We stopped for lunch at a convenient bench and noticed someone created a balanced rock on a nearby stump. Kathy tried to create one next to it and managed to make a mess. This is the original rock art:

[Ed: We did not take a photo of the mess. However, we did meet the artist of the original art above, as she made her way back up the trail from the river. She noticed her art work was in shambles. Kathy apologized profusely. The artist took it in good humor and said she would recreate her work.]

As we worked our way to the site of the old ferry, we had to cross a small drainage. The ferry was part of a road that stretched from Raleigh to Fayetteville and crossed the Cape Fear River via the Northington Ferry and served as the area's major transportation route. 

With no way to make it across the river, the road came to an end.

Unfortunately, there was no bridge over Campbell Creek, so we had to make our way back up the old ferry road to continue our explorations.

Today may be the first day of Spring, but with temperatures in the 40s, it didn't feel like it. However, we did see some small signs that winter is leaving.

The next trail we tackled was the Fish Traps Trail. As we made our way back down toward the river. We hiked over rocks formed more than 400 million years ago by intense heat and pressure.

Before Europeans arrived in the 1700s, the indigenous peoples, Sioux and Tuscarora Indians, lived and hunted in the area.  They used the channels between the rocks to set their fish traps.

Locks and dams were built along the river to facilitate navigation by boat. Raven Rock became an important landmark for river pilots. After a hurricane destroyed the locks and dams in 1859, the structures were not replaced; railroad transportation eliminated the need for river travel. As new roads were built, the ferry was closed and Raven Rock became a popular recreation spot.

The remnants of the Northington lock and dam can still be seen from our vantage point.

Pictured below are some amazing quartz erratics that decided to roll in to decorate the trail.

We often see felled trees along the trail. Sometimes we'll stop and count the rings. This is the first time we've ever seen a figure 8 core. Here, two young trees grew up next to each others. The larger, center tree, just absorbed its smaller neighbor.

As we hiked toward the fish traps, there was a family hiking in front of us. They stopped at this tree and hid a small paint rock. For the little boy's sake, we pretended we didn't see it.

On our way back up the trail, we stopped to check out the rock. The rock comes from Northeast Ohio Rocks and started its journey in April 2017. We will post our photo and location on their Facebook page. We put the rock back for the next family to find. In fact, we gave a hint about the rock to the next family we passed.

Raven Rock State Park is situated along the Fall Line, where the hard rock of the North Carolina piedmont transitions into the softer rock of the coastal plains. The site’s most prominent feature, and that which gives the park its name, is the 150-foot cliff that runs more than a mile along the Cape Fear’s southern bank. Originally called Patterson’s Rock after one of the area’s early settlers, it was renamed Raven Rock in the mid-1800s because of the large numbers of black birds that perched atop the ledges.

Since we had visited Raven Rock in 2018, we decided to call it a day and get back to camp so Ruby could have her afternoon walk. If you are curious about the views from Raven Rock, click the link to our 2018 blog, which this photo is from:

We finished our hike with a nice walk through the hardwood forests that surround the Cape Fear River. Mountain laurel shows the way.

It's going to be a busy couple of weeks as we get ready to purchase a sticks and bricks house, so our blogs will be unpredictable and spotty; but never doubt that we are thinking of all of you and your own adventures!

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Cliffs of the Neuse State Park

When we arrived here, east of Raleigh, North Carolina, we did not know that we were close to the Neuse River, which we had pedaled, first in 2018, and then again in 2022.  We knew it from those visits as a pleasant river running through suburban areas, but not as a wild river.  Looking for a hike this visit, we discovered Cliffs of the Neuse State Park, and it reminded us of our earlier visits.  However, reading about the cliffs along the Neuse River in the state park, we realized that there might be more to this river than we had realized.  So we headed off to put our boots on the ground and rediscover the river and its wild habitat:

We started our hike on the 350 Yard Trail, which led us across the top of the cliffs on the river:

Sure enough:  this was a different Neuse River than we had known.  Here, on these cliffs, there was no human structure in sight:

While not wilderness in the technical sense, because there is so much farmland in the area, nevertheless, the land around the river resembles wilderness and produced a wonderful hiking experience:

Today was Sunday, so there were visitors in the Park, but they were few and far between.  We spotted a few, down below on a beach along the river:

As we hiked further along the river, we descended to the banks and found visitors of another kind along the water's edge -- cypress knees!  We were a little surprised to see cypress this far north, and it brought back wonderful memories from our recent outings in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

The river flows peacefully through the park, and we enjoyed a pause to watch the breeze blow the branches of trees over the riverbanks:

Our hike was up-and-down.  Here we looked down a flight of wooden railroad tie stairs toward a string of boardwalks toward a freshet and a trail junction:

The trails in the park are well constructed and well maintained.  Here, an observation deck off the trail to the left allows a look down onto the freshet and the trail on the right:

In certain places, the park staff have built simple, traditional fences, and, where the fences have fallen into disarray, found small fallen tree trunks nearby to slip into the post-and-rail assembly and keep the fence maintained:

As we hiked, we followed the freshet upstream toward the main lake in the park.  We found one pretty little cascade as we neared the lake:

Turning a corner, we reached the lake's spillway, and then the lake, where we found a convenient bench and ate our lunch --

-- enjoying the gentle spectacle of the first apple blossom blooms, which have erupted even before the first green leaves of the surrounding deciduous trees:
After a small picnic lunch and a healthy drink of water, we continued on our way.  In the uplands above the lake, we spotted this tree with three curious burls, which were curious because of their very smooth surfaces:

The rest of our hike was uneventful; we solved all of the problems of the world, said a few hellos to other hikers, and generally enjoyed the sights, sounds and smells of early Spring.  Kathy spotted this little one on the trail just in time to avoid scaring it off before David could get a photo:

This was a short hike -- only four miles.  But it fit the time we had today and provided a nice stretch of the legs to prepare for a longer hike tomorrow, in yet another state park.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Eno River State Park

Friday, March 17, 2023 

Hi Blog!

We've made it to our next stop near Four Oaks, North Carolina. We are about an hour away from the Raleigh-Durham area. After moving on Wednesday and logistics on Thursday, we were eager to get out and stretch our legs. We set our sights on the Eno River State Park.

The Park contains more than 4,500 acres of protected natural area that provide vital water quality protection, wildlife habitat, and preservation of historic resources. There are five access areas with over 24 miles of trails offering entry into a largely unspoiled river environment. We started our adventure at the Pleasant Green Access and hiked beginning on the Laurel Bluffs Trail.

Partnering with the Nature Conservancy, the State of North Carolina, the City of Durham, and Durham and Orange Counties, the Eno River Association was able to create the Eno River State Park in 1973.  Since then, the Association has worked tirelessly to expand the Park in order to protect the natural and cultural heritage of the Eno River and to ensure that the public will be able to enjoy it for future generations. One of the Association's projects was adding birdhouses along the trail.

Spring is definitely in the air. The cardinals along the trail were busy courting. This guy stopped to catch his breath before heading back into the fray.

Dave doing his best impression of a cardinal:

Eno River State Park is home to the Parkwood bamboo grove. The Eno River Association hopes to manage the bamboo grove to create a productive and esthetically pleasing public space. A healthy grove of bamboo is uniquely beautiful, is a good habitat for birds, reduces rainwater runoff from surrounding land, and offers a pleasant parkland for walking and contemplation. We contemplated the grove (in the background in the photo below) from the bridge over Euclid Stream.

The trail leaves the Laurel Bluffs and comes down the banks of the Eno River. The Eno River, named for the Eno Native Americans who once lived along its banks, is the initial tributary of the Neuse River in North Carolina. Descendants of European immigrants settled along the Eno River in the latter 1740s and early 1750s, including many Quakers from Pennsylvania.

We followed the river downstream until we reached the cut-off for the Eno Quarry Trail. The Eno Quarry was excavated in the 1960s to provide stone for the construction of nearby Interstate 85. When the project was completed, a number of large blue boulders were left behind.

Over time, the quarry filled in naturally with water, and visitors soon followed. The quarry was originally on private property, and locals would trespass to swim, fish, or cliff jump. Today, it is part of the state park. While it is not illegal to swim, there are several rather large signs suggesting it is deep and dangerous. With the recent cold weather, no one was swimming today, although we met one hiker who said that he loves to swim in the quarry during the summers.

We followed a loop trail around the quarry lake.

The top of the quarry is rather boggy.

Rhodes Creek runs right along the edge of the quarry.

In order to continue our journey, we needed to cross the creek.

After circling the quarry, we headed toward the Cabe Lands Trail. The "Cabe" of Cabe Lands refers to Barnaby Cabe who owned the land from before the American Revolution. In 1760, Mr. Cabe purchased 112 acres of land along the Eno River. He managed a gristmill on four thousand acres, and had nine daughters. His two wives predeceased him.

After crossing the Cabe Lands, we decended back toward the banks of the Eno River.

At one point, there were thirty-two different mills along the Eno River. The last mill ceased operations in 1942 when a flood broke the dam across the river. Eventually, the building collapse from old age and neglect in 1973. There are still some foundations and diversion channels cut into the banks. These two fine bridges were an Eagle Scout project that helped us cross a couple diversions.

On our way back to the trailhead, we decided to take another hike around the quarry lake.

A diver recently went to the bottom of the quarry. It was 55 feet down, pitch black and 48 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Eno River is a swift, shallow stream flowing for 33 miles from Orange County to Durham County. It's waters roll through wilderness, passing historic mill sites, river bluffs covered with flowering shrubs, and fords used by early settlers. Here are some of the tiny wildflowers we spotted.

We had a mile left in our hike when the wind began to pick up and the rain they predicted for later this afternoon came early. The last photo we took was of a turtle family on a log.

The rain and cold predicted for this weekend may keep us home. Until the next adventure, stay thirsty my friends.