Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Cole Mill Access, Eno River State Park (Durham, NC)

Today my husband and I explored the Pea Creek trail, a 1.25 mile loop, at the Cole Mill Road access point of Eno River State Park in north Durham. For a longer option, this trail connects to the Dunnagan loop (2 miles).

We started our hike through oak (white - Quercus alba, post - Quercus stellata) and American beech (Fagus americana) uplands. The whisper of the beeches' tawny leaves in the wind added a bit of magical music to the low sound of traffic. Soon we entered the bottomlands, where the trail hugged the river's edge tightly, taking us beneath river birch (Betula nigra) and American sycamores (Platanus occidentalis), whose varied bark added visual appeal on a wintry day. We were also lucky to see a number of colorful birds this afternoon, including a downy woodpecker, yellow rumped warblers, golden crowned kinglets, white throated sparrows, plus more typical Carolina chickadees and northern cardinals.

Betula nigra

Eno River from the Pea Creek Trail

The rocky outcroppings on this trail are also beautiful, topped with large persimmons (Diospyros virginiana), beeches, and resurrection ferns (Polypodium polypodioides) - an epiphyte that gets its name because it survives drought by drying out and curling up, appearing dead until it gets water, unfurls and resurrects.

Resurrection fern on persimmon

We had one more exciting, but sad, encounter on the trail: a great blue heron (Ardea herodias). This normally keen and quick heron was hardly moving along the side of the trail. My husband (who is also a local veterinarian), was able to assess the status of the bird and we rushed it to the Piedmont Wildlife Center (http://www.piedmontwildlifecenter.org/), where it is hoped to recover quickly from its unknown trauma. Handling herons can be very dangerous. If you ever come across one, be aware that they can be quite ferocious and may attack your eyes with their very accurate beaks.

The sick great blue heron

The Piedmont Wildlife Center

All in all, our mid-afternoon walk on the Pea Creek Trail of Eno River State Park was quite surprising and rewarding. Although I can't guarantee animal rescue opportunities in the future, I can attest to the magnificent trees, chatty birds, and beautiful scenery that are available to everyone along this stretch of the Eno River.

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