When I hiked Eagle Mountain last month, I passed a group of Asian tourists sitting cross-legged in a circle, chatting excitedly while frying the contents of their bento boxes over Bunsen burners. Along with the hissing of hibachi, the clattering of chopsticks is not the sort of sound you would expect on a Catskills trail, but there’s a first time for everything. Much to their annoyance, my puppy took a keen interest in the visitors’ elaborate picnic, but I would rather eat a hiker’s sock than be impolite, so I decided not to take a picture of the lean-to where they were lunching. The picture below is one that I took last year in October, so I hope you an imagine it filled in with lush greens.
The Seager trail that starts on Dry Brook Road in Arkville is one of the first trails I hiked after I moved to the Catskills and one that I repeat regularly. It’s an easy hike alongside a wide, shallow babbling brook with a deep swimming hole to which it’s always a good idea to take visitors in the summer, especially visitors who only brought their ballet flats and a boob tube. The trail winds around the brook and the hiker is required to make several low stream crossings. Because I never seem to get my footing in rocky areas, I like to just splosh through the stream in my waterproof boots. Through all the years that I hiked Seager, I never imagined it could lead on to two high peaks and I have always ended my hike at the lean-to, which is about two miles in, where I found the Asian lunch party. The Seager trail turns into the Big Indian trail halfway in and on past the Lean-to. Big Indian and Eagle can both be done in one day if you start out early enough. Alas, this time I was late again, but because I don’t want to drive all the way around to Frost Valley, I will hike Big Indian from Seager in the autumn. Catskill Mountaineer writes that its easy to get lost on the Seager trail because of all the trails leading off it, but I’ve never gone wrong on this trail.
The first two miles are a gorgeous, picturesque hike with a lot of open space that allows for a sun-drenched saunter and the prospect of a refreshing – or make that numbing – dip in the freezing swimming hole on the return journey. When you’re ambling along at a snail’s pace, you catch all the flora and fauna. The fauna is mostly chirping chipmunks warning absolutely everyone of your impending attack on the forest, but the flora was interesting: a lot of fungus and berries.
There’s no summit sign on Eagle, but after the 3500ft sign, you’ll see a natural trail leading off to the left. (As per usual, I overshot this by about 50 feet and turned back after encountering hikers ascending on the other side with a GPS navigation system, which I’m not sure is cheating or not, but if it is, we cheated.) Follow the aforementioned natural trail to a clearing where you might find the remnants of a campfire and a large cairn. If you were me, you would go past this into the brush and almost get lost for good measure.
There’s no view from the Eagle summit, so there’s no closure; no sense of achievement while gasping for breath, staring down in wonderment from the top of the planet; no ceremonious unwrapping of a PB&J while looking at the map, just a nod and a turn of the heel.
Get Catskill Mountaineer’s exact description of Eagle Mountain hike here.