The Research Triangle: Naturally First-Class
The Research Triangle gets its nickname from the cutting-edge research park and academic institutions shared by Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. The areas research-minded focus is fed by the presence of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Duke University in Durham, and Raleighs North Carolina State University.
If you can drag yourself away from the requisite basketball rivalries and college bars, you will be rewarded with a daytrip to boulder-strewn Eno River State Park, only eight miles northwest from downtown Durham on I-85. In 1965, the city of Durham wanted to dam the Eno River, but a group of activists successfully blocked the move, thus preserving a number of significant historical and archaeological sites, as well as one of the areas most beautiful natural resources. The state park officially came into existence in 1975, and it now forms a 2,600-acre buffer of protected land around the river, an area populated by cedar and dogwood trees, white-tailed deer, river otters, and beavers.
The park contains 21 miles of woodland and riverside trails, the pick of the bunch being Bobbits Hole Trail, a moderately strenuous 2.7-mile loop that is particularly atmospheric at Christmas on account of the holly and berries that dot the landscape. Combining with the Cole Mill Trail, the route will lead you through shaded hardwood forest, alongside green-shrouded bluffs overhanging the river, and to one of North Carolinas most beautiful river bendsBobbit Hole. Stop awhile and simply enjoy the beauty of your surroundings.
Eno River State Park: www.ils.unc.edu/parkproject/visit/enri/home.html; (919) 383-1686
Chapel Hill/Orange County CVB: www.chocvb.org; (888) 968-2060
Durham CVB: www.durham-nc.com; (800) 446-8604
Greater Raleigh CVB: www.raleighcvb.org; (800) 849-8499
Located less than one hours drive from the Research Triangles three cities, Chatham County is set in the geographic center of the entire state. With 198 miles of road designated as cycling routes, take the two-wheeled bait and cycle through a pastoral landscape of dairy barns, secluded rivers, cantilevered rural bridges, and small historic towns.
Set course for the small town of Pittsboro (population 3,000) and base yourself at one of its five B&Bs. The town was founded in 1787 and still retains many of the historical charms of a bygone era. Connect with Bike Route 3, a 37-mile north to south ride through Chatham Countys bucolic farmland that joins the towns of Bynum, Pittsboro, and Goldston. The 36-mile-long Bike Route 4 runs just north of Pittsboro in an east to west direction, threading through the countys dairy farmland and into Siler City, a town prized for its examples of Victorian architecture.
Alternatively, peddle eastwards to Jordan Lake, a 46,768-acre watery expanse that is the summertime roost for bald eagles, best seen at the northern end of the lake at either dusk or dawn. Chatham County has established two connector routes for cyclists wishing to access the lake; be careful on some sections as you will be sharing the road with vehicular traffic. Jordan State Recreation Area itself has a number of biking and hiking trails, as well as good spots for fishing and paddling. The recommended seasons for bike touring are spring and fall.
Jordan Lake State Recreation Area: www.ils.unc.edu/parkproject/visit/jord/home.html; (919) 362-0586
Chatham County: www.visitchathamcounty.com; (800) 316-3829
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication