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STAYCATION: Lazy river offers local adventure, getaway

THE HERALD-SUN, DURHAM, N.C. | MATTHEW E. MILLIKEN | Mon, Aug 9, 2010, 2:33 AM

 

Aug. 09--DURHAM -- The Eno River between Guess and Roxboro roads seems an unlikely place to go adventure kayaking. But on a recent cool, damp Saturday, a trio of twentysomething buddies found it an ideal place to practice rolling their boats.

"This is great for us," Durham resident Matt Conley said, shrugging off the gray, drizzling skies. "It's cool and it feels nice and it's not so crowded."

Conley, a 2008 graduate of N.C. State University originally from Winston-Salem, was on the water with college classmates Matt McCoy and Aaron Hughes, both of Raleigh. The friends were practicing rolling just upstream of the dam at the West Point on the Eno city park. They repeatedly flipped their boats, dipping their heads in the murky, still water and popping back upright an instant later.

The friends have been getting more and more into shooting rapids in kayaks, often in trips once or twice a month to the western part of the state. "It's outside," Hughes said. "It's quiet, kind of. But it scares the crap out of me."

"I like sports where you can go fast and not hear a motor," McCoy said. Moments later, he clarified that whitewater kayaking isn't that fast, but involves a lot of action.

Conley professed more meditative reasons for enjoying the sport. "It's relaxing," he said. "It's nice to get out of the city. It's worshipful for me to be out in God's creation."

A little further upstream, Gibsonville resident Deborah Sweger was paddling back to the dam, which is near the landing where small boats can be put in and taken from the river. She and her boyfriend, Ryan Wagner, and her aunt, Arlene Garrett, were returning from Sennett Hole, an unofficial swimming area that marks the far end of the reliably navigable stretch upstream of the dam.

Sweger and company had been on the water for about three hours in rented kayaks. In addition to stopping at the swimming hole, they had explored a tributary overhung by foliage so dense that it kept them from getting wet during one of the afternoon's passing showers.

The main branch of the Eno is too wide to be completely sheltered from the sky, but Sweger still enjoyed the scenery. "It's really pretty how the trees form over the water," she said.

Sweger, Wagner and Garrett don't come to Durham much, but they enjoyed their expedition to the Eno. "This is great -- so close," Garrett said.

A little bit later, a married couple floated downstream. Mary and Anselmo Lastra of Orange County had been kayaking for about 90 minutes.

"Our friend told us about this place," Anselmo Lastra said. "And I was thinking there would be an inch of water on the Eno, so this is a nice surprise."

His wife described the cool gray afternoon as "peaceful and not hot."

The couple own their own kayaks and use them about five times a year. The placid stretch of the Eno hardly tested their abilities.

That was quite all right with Mary Lastra. "Not being challenging is good," she said. "It's so pleasant."