Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Rare Monday Field Trip

Yesterday was another one of those spectacular-December-weather, "Dude, I could soooo get used to this" days, so I felt the undeniable itch to take my camera and go enjoy the great outdoors somewhere. High on my "Touristy To-Do List" was a little town not too far from here called Hillsborough. (I know, right--doesn't it just sound quaint and cute?) We had recently traveled near, but not precisely into, the vicinity of it when going hiking one weekend. I already knew that it served as the county seat, but further research revealed that it was founded in 1754 and adopted its current name in 1766. It boasts a historic district, an original Federal-era plantation house one can visit, and a greenway known as Riverwalk that winds through the forest along the Eno River. Yep, sounds like my kinda place!

It takes no more than 20 minutes to drive from our house to the parking garage at the very head of the Riverwalk trail...and by that time I already was able to shed the light coat I'd brought along "just in case". With the sun shining in a cloudless sky and no breeze to speak of, it felt even warmer than the 57* registered by my car's thermometer. (And I'm sorry if it seems like I keep repeating this, but I can't emphasize enough how much lighter and happier I feel when I'm not freezing all the time. Being able to frolic outside in December without a parka and gloves...it simply makes me a much more cheerful person, I'm tellin' ya...) So I set off on foot into the woods, on a nice paved path adjacent to the body of water for which it's named. At this particular point, the Eno seems more like a stream...but a merrily flowing, at times energetically bubbling one nonetheless.

I passed many intersections while navigating the central route--alternate trails that forked off into the trees in various directions. Although I didn't have time to investigate immediately, I strongly suspect future exploratory visits will occur...with the male posse in tow. Also, if you travel along it far enough, the Riverwalk supposedly joins a nearby State Park, with even more opportunities for outdoor play. While I admit it may not have been the most exciting stroll--as Derek seems to want these days--it was lovely and peaceful and pleasant, and I personally had all of my nature needs met.

Then I moved on to walking the main street through the center of town...all 4 or 5 blocks of it. Adorable brick-front shops and restaurants, several impressive Colonial-looking churches with soaring spires...and of course the requisite centuries-old cemetery. (And don't ask ME why I have such a strange fascination with gravestones....'cuz I have no idea...) In this one--I shouldn't have been surprised, but I didn't think to expect it--there were many references to the inhabitants having ties to the "CSA". Incidentally, there were many small banners placed next to headstones, bearing a design I didn't recognize as either the American flag or the familiar Confederate version.

Once again, God bless Google, who informed me that this rendition was the original emblem of the Confederacy, with the stars representing seceded states. The one that we typically associate with the south was actually the battle flag. (See, I'm not just goofing off...these little jaunts are educational! And I do so loooove learning stuff!) Anyway, the most notable dignitaries buried there were a former senator (last name of Graham) and William Hopper, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

After I had finished treading lightly on people's final resting spots, I made my way to the last site on my list: Ayr Mount. This mansion, built in 1815, is reportedly restored to authentic period-era glory both inside and out. Alas, you can't tour it on Mondays. Oh well....you are, however, welcome to meander the grounds, including a 1-mile Poet's Walk that loops around the property, offering scenic views along the way. More pounding the pavement...er "dirt"...sure, why not? As a bonus, I got to indulge my OTHER photographical obsession, which happens to involve capturing reflections in water. (Yes, I'm fairly easily amused, so what?)

So...I got to appreciate and fully take advantage of a gorgeous day...I logged about a bazillion steps (just a rough estimate, of course)...and I soaked in some historical knowledge...and whatnot. Altogether a very fulfilling day...of ducking my responsibilities!

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