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After several consecutive rainy weekends, my wife and I were eager to get outside for some Sunday morning walking. Armed with our Fitbits and a camera, we set out for our favorite of the many walking trails through Duke Forest in Durham.

The parking lot for this trail is on Mt. Sinai Road, between Twin Mountain Road and Murphy School Road. The lot is small, so be on the lookout or you’ll drive right past it.

Duke Forest 1

This section of Duke Forest was designated as a teaching and research laboratory by Duke University in 1931 after much of the area was cleared forDuke Forest 2 timber and farmed. The plot is used to study forestry practices, natural regeneration, prescribed burning, thinning and harvesting.

Not far into our walk, we ran into our first creepy crawler: a marbled orb weaver spider. As spiders go, this one was beautiful. When looking it up online, I read that marbled orb weavers spin a new web every day. I’ll have to remember that so I can sound smart the next time I see one.

 

Duke Forest 3

Little of this part of the forest receives direct sunlight, and the recent damp weather has caused an explosion of mushrooms and fungus. This old tree stump was covered with hundreds of the smallest mushrooms I’ve ever seen.

 

This fungus reminded me of mussels clinging to shoreline rocks at low tide.

This fungus reminded me of mussels clinging to shoreline rocks at low tide.

 

The trail is actually a gravel road, regularly used by Duke researchers and maintenance crews. Dogs are welcome, but they must be on a leash.

The trail is actually a gravel road, regularly used by Duke researchers and maintenance crews. Dogs are welcome, but they must be on a leash.

 

We walked the trail in early October, at the front end of the fall color change.

We walked the trail in early October, at the front end of the fall color change.

 

About a mile into our walk, we came across a sign giving some history of the forest. “Precommercial thinning” means some trees were taken out so others would have more room to grow to full size.

About a mile into our walk, we came across a sign giving some history of the forest. “Precommercial thinning” means some trees were taken out so others would have more room to grow to full size.

 

The trail heads down to New Hope Creek, where the water is clear enough to see every fish that passes through.

The trail heads down to New Hope Creek, where the water is clear enough to see every fish that passes through.

 

We didn’t see any raccoons, but at the water’s edge, we found plenty of their footprints.

We didn’t see any raccoons, but at the water’s edge, we found plenty of their footprints.

 

You have to pay attention to where you’re walking or you might miss some of the forest’s smaller critters.

You have to pay attention to where you’re walking or you might miss some of the forest’s smaller critters.

The walk back up from the creek isn’t particularly arduous in October, but it would have been a challenge for me in 90-degree weather. From the parking lot down to the creek and back was about 3 miles, just right for a fall morning walk.

Duke Forest is one of North Carolina’s treasures, covering 7,000 acres in Durham, Orange and Alamance Counties. You can find details on its many trails online. Now get outside, North Carolina!

Chris Privett

About Chris Privett

Chris Privett is a communications specialist at BCBSNC, assisting the company’s leaders with speeches and presentations. Chris has a particular interest in sharing stories about BCBSNC’s role as a committed partner in North Carolina’s communities. His communications career began in 1990 in television news, later transitioning to public relations roles in nonprofits.

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