THE BORDER LIFE
 
Winter Walks
Riverdave’s Journal
This essay appeared in the Winter 2002 issue of Eno Currents
 
In the warm season I prefer to explore the Eno River afloat rather than afoot for several reasons. I personally find hot and sultry weather unpleasant for walking as it does not energize me. In the warm season the river's edge is waist high in grasses that harbor my most fearsome foe - the chigger.
 
In my early years of scouting the Eno I once took a summer walk in shorts and sandals from the West Point Mill to the Guess Road Bridge. I realized later that chiggers had clung to my exposed legs like iron filings flying to a magnet. The worst revelation came when I discovered that these uninvited quests were also short distance migrants and had moved "north" about two feet.  I was miserable for ten days afterwards.
 
Then there are those other three summer challenges to our well being - poison ivy, ticks and the copperhead. I have since come to respectful terms with all of them after similar dramatic encounters. Therefore, any warm season walk along the Eno requires me to keep my attention focused downward to avoid stumbling inadvertently into these notorious native residents.
 
But I have cleverly learned to circumvent these challenges by two methods. By keeping to my inflatable boat in the middle of the river in the summer, I leave my gaze free to move upward and can explore the forest in comfort. A second method is to save my walking excursions on the Eno for another season.
 
Winter presents another dimention to the out of doors expereince. Unlike summer's sultry slowdown, winter walking generates body heat that feels absolutely delightful on a cool, crisp and dry day. Gentler winter sunbeams stream down on my path as the overhead leaf canopy has disappeared. The brisker my pace on the trail the better, the entire experience being most invigorating.
 
In winter, the tall grasses along the river's edge have died back and parasitic insects have no mechanism to pole-vault to my body. The copperhead is retiring in its winter ancestral den, or if out at all, is easily seen without the cover of grass. The poison ivy lies languid without leaf. Ticks are a non issue.

Echoing off the great bare trunks of the sycamore trees, seven species of woodpeckers call in the winter. The Carolina wren carols its cheery tunes even on the coldest and bleakest of winter days. It is a marvelous time to be out and about onthe banks of the Eno River.

I have walked the river from its source at a pond in northern Orange County, just a mile from the Caswell County line, all the way to Falls Lake. But the warm season is no time for this forty mile pilgrimage. Only in winter does this kind of walk make sense to me. So you will probably find me out on the Eno trails this winter giving my body a good workout. Or you may catch me seated on a rocky bluff, all wrapped up in jacket and scarf, just dreaming of lazy summer wafting days to come ...

Photo by Riverdave: winter walks along the Eno River