Lately C and I have felt the urge to go explore our state on Saturdays. Maybe it's because the weeks themselves have been so busy, we feel the need to escape on Saturday and go see something different. This weekend we went to Hillsborough. The county seat of North Carolina, it is a place full of history, but it also holds sentimentality for us because it was where we applied for our marriage license and celebrated our upcoming marriage in 2010. And, since it is just a hop and a skip away from Durham, it's an easy place for us to go explore. This Saturday we visited two walking trails in Hillsborough. The first was "the Poet's Walk" around the grounds of Ayr Mount, an 18th century home that is now open as a sort of museum with guided tours. We didn't go inside, but walked the Poet's Walk, a delightful meander through fields, woods, around a pond, and up and down gentle hills. We glimpsed the Eno, full from recent rains, visited an old family cemetery, and marveled at the wildlife. There were many butterflies, caterpillars, centipedes, birds, fish, and frogs. Even some buzzards. I'd like to go back and paint--there were some very picturesque vistas. It would have been so lovely to live at Ayr Mount!
The next place we visited in Hillsborough was the old Occoneechee Speedway. Once a busy auto racetrack, now a woodland walking trail, it was a little spooky. The oval track is a mile, a nice walk, but there are other pathways into the woods where you can explore. We glimpsed more of the Eno River, and looked around for signs of the old racetrack. You can still see some of the guard rails, some wire fencing, and the cement bleachers, along with a lone light post that seems to be dropping brackets from time to time (I made sure not to stand under it!) The ticket booth is shot up with bullet holes and the concession stand is a haven for wasps, but the flag stand has been recreated and advertises the history of the place, as well as its affiliation with Pepsi.
As we were walking through the woods, on what turned out not to be a trail (we were a little lost at that point!) we heard a loud hissing noise and suddenly C motioned for me to stop. I froze, and he gestured to the tree in front of him. There was a huge barred owl. It hissed again, and we heard an answering hiss from a nearby tree. There were two owls! I couldn't see the other one, but the one near us was very near. It was so neat to see it, although I know we were making it a little nervous. We tried to stay still and silent, but in a few minutes a couple with a dog came along on the trail and the owl flew silently to a safer spot in a nearby tree, then turned around to continue watching us with its dark eyes.