Cool Fun in the Summertime: Triangle

For 12 straight days in June, the temperature in Raleigh rose to 95 or above. With heat like that, it can be hard to muster the will to get out and explore.
Unless you know where to go and how to play.
Since adventure is the name of the game for us, we do everything we can to keep you from getting sidelined. So when the temperature soars, our Tudor Turtle channels Mr. Wizard in search of cool summertime adventure.
Today, we start with five cool escapes in the Triangle area. Over the next three days we’ll share similar escapes in the Triad, Charlotte and the mountains.

1. White Pines Nature Preserve
Pittsboro
Hiking
Where the Rocky and Deep rivers converge in Chatham County is a 275-acre slice of Appalachia that, because of its “cool,” became the Triangle Land Conservancy’s first save in the 1980s. But White Pines story goes back farther, 10,000 years, in fact, when the last ice age was beating a hasty retreat from central North Carolina taking the cool weather plants with it. Except for ideally situated places such as White Pines, where the north-facing slopes record temperatures often 10 degrees cooler than in nearby Pittsboro. Hiking in 90-degree weather, meh. But hiking in the low 80s?  That’s tolerable, especially on 2.5 miles of trail that take you from coastal plain wetland to Appalachian white pine forest.
More info and directions, go here.

2. Sennett Hole
West Point on the Eno city Park, Durham
Hiking, swimming hole
It’s the legend of summer as a kid: you’re hiking through the sweaty woods and stumble upon a creek and suddenly, empties into an inviting pool just waiting to send a welcome chill down your spine. From the mill area at West Point, cross the Eno and take the Eagle Trail upstream for about a half mile. You’ll hike up a rocky outcrop and behold the Eno dropping over a ledge into beautiful Sennett Hole. Even by mid August, when the surface temperature may be bathtub warm, drop down six feet, pass through the thermocline and join the summertime version of the Polar Bear Club. (And while you’re down there, check for the pot of gold that mill owner Michael Synott supposedly lost when a flood took out his operation in the mid 1700s.) An abundance of sunning rocks makes this a spot you’ll be content to spend even the hottest afternoon.
More info and directions, go here.

3. Deep River
Chatham, Lee and Moore counties
Paddling
Not all paddling options are created equal come summer: lakes and larger rivers offer precious little protection from the midday sun, while the smaller, more intimate creeks often don’t have sufficient water during the dry summer months. The Deep River, however, manages to offer the best of both worlds: an intimate paddling experience with cover overhead and dependable water for much of its run. An especially nice stretch: the 5.8-mile meander from Deep River Park to the US 15/501 takeout. About midway, river right, check out the mammoth ruins of the long-abandoned Endor Iron Furnace.
More information and directions here.

4. Occonneechee Mountain State Natural Area
Hillsborough
Hiking
At 867 feet, Occoneechee Mountain in Hillsborough is the highest point in the Triangle. That elevation contributes, in a way, to Occoneechee’s cool status. From the parking area, hike the 2.2-mile Occoneechee Mountain Loop Trail clockwise: don’t sweat the sweat you’ll soon work up. The trail wraps around the west side of the mountain, dropping down to the Eno to the north. To this point, you may have seen one or two signs of more montane flora and fauna: the brown elfin butterfly, for instance. But once you drop to the Eno and the north-facing cliff that rises 30 feet, you’re firmly ensconced in the cool climes of the Southern Appalachians. Rhododendron and mountain laurel abound, there’s sweet pinesap and the purple-fringed orchid as well. You’ll even get a whiff of that most Appalachian of smells, galax.
More info and directions here.

5. Beaverdam Recreation Area
Falls Lake State Recreation Area
Hiking, Biking, Swimming, Paddling
Beaverdam has it all — except for one thing you’ll be glad is missing. After paying the $6 per car entrance fee, there’s a smorgasbord of recreational opportunity. Bring your mountain bike and pedal the 13 miles of singletrack trail, bring your canoe or kayak and paddle the lake (and for the more intrepid, paddle under Weaver Dairy Road and explore the wetlands). There’s a short hiking trail as well. And between events, cool off at Beaverdam beach, an ample expanse that can accommodate a wealth of sun worshippers. Best of all, especially for paddlers and swimmers, the secluded Beaverdam portion of Falls Lake is closed to motor boats, adding welcome quiet to the equation.
More info and directions here.

Tomorrow: Cool fun in the Triad.