I had heard so much about this park from various Triangle websites and brochures that I was excited to find a temperate day to make a visit. I guess my expectations were high given all the hype, but I was a little disappointed with West Point. I expected it to be bigger and a bit more pastoral. Granted we went on a weekday so we weren't able to see inside any of the historic structures (the Mangum House, the Mill, and the Hugh Mangum Museum of Photography) on the property.
We turned into the park driveway, surprised to see how close the park sits to a major thoroughfare - in early Fall you can see through the trees to the shopping center across the street. Driving along the park's one way gravel road, we took in the layout of the park which is a good thing since we were never able to find a printed map. The only map we found was on a placard near the parking lot. There are also some decent park maps on this part of the website.
Once we parked the car we went looking for a bathroom. Tip: the restrooms behind the Mangum House are locked when the House is not open. My wife asked some children who were there on a school trip and they pointed us toward a picnic shelter near the Laurel Cliffs Trailhead (my wife is still home on maternity leave). While my wife was using the facilities and I was trying to feed our infant, my toddler decided to venture out on his own. Stuck in my position next to the stroller, above a set of steps, I called after him as he moved farther away from me. Luckily, a helpful gentleman offered to go after him. As my son realized his time on the lamb was fleeting, he broke into a run heading down the trail into the woods.
When we were all reunited we headed towards the mill. At the mill, my toddler was captivated when his mom pointed out that he could look through the planks in the bridge to watch the water run over the dam. We found a shaded picnic bench that provided a nice view of the mill and had a picnic lunch. The sound of water rushing over the dam was relaxing, but the sound of passing cars on the nearby road reminded us that we were still in the city.
After lunch we made our way back to the Laurel Cliffs Trailhead and began the third of a mile hike. We left the stroller at the trailhead which ended up being a very smart move since the very last portion of the trail is not stroller accessible due to steep grade and rocky terrain. Although I probably carried my toddler the majority of the time, those rare moments when he was hiking with us were a special treat - him using a stick he had found as a walking staff and stopping every so often to gleefully examine an ordinary rock. As you hike along the bluffs of this trail, there are some beautiful views of the Eno River below. The trail ends close to the Mill so we only had to hike back a short distance along the gravel drive to get back to the stroller.
We definitely had fun and Fall is a great time to enjoy the park's many splendored leaves. But as far as parks with mills go, I was far more impressed by Yates Mill Park with its' quiet rural setting and hands-on exhibits in the Visitor's Center. Next time I come to West Point I'll try to make it for the Festival on the Eno which I hear is a big deal.
|The Hugh Mangum Museum of Photography|