Monday, May 11, 2015


Another in a string of sunny spring days in the Catskills! Today I wanted to "bag" a new peak for my 3500-footer list, but wasn't up for a long bushwhack in the warm sun. Eagle Mountain via Rider Hollow and Haynes Mountain beckoned as a great wooded ridge walk with miles of old-growth hardwood forest and the potential for lots of wildflowers. It also provided Mike with the opportunity for a trek to Balsam Mountain with its fine eastern viewpoint. And I held out hope that I might find some views from Eagle by bushwhacking west a ways off the summit, as suggested on the Catskill 3500 Club website.

A quarter-mile in from the trailhead a  relocation on the Rider Hollow Trail (aka Oliveria-Mapledale Trail) around Tropical Storm Irene damage led to a new junction with the Mine Hollow Trail.

Just beyond, we crossed a footbridge of unusual design.

We took a break at the Rider Hollow lean-to, just a half-mile in.

The lower part of the trail offers nice views of Rider Hollow Brook.

A great stretch of smooth walking high above the brook.

Red trilliums and an old stone wall.

Dutchman's breeches were starting to bloom.

Rider Hollow is a gorgeous valley.

Some big hemlocks at the start of the steeper climb up to the ridge.

Well up on the slope the trail enters first growth hardwoods.

Mike makes his way up the last fairly steep pitch to the col between Haynes and Balsam Mountains.

Trail signs in the col, at the junction with the blue-marked Pine Hill-West Branch Trail.

The col is a nice spot for a break. Mike studies his guidebook before heading north up to Balsam Mountain, where he enjoyed the eastern views for an hour and a half. Partway during his sojourn he spotted smoke off towards Hunter Mountain - the start of a forest fire that burned 200 acres.

I headed south towards Haynes Mountain, clambering up this small ledge band.

There were wonderful long stretches of level walking through first-growth hardwood on the shoulders of Haynes. According to the classic book The Catskill Forest: A History, by ecologist Michael Kudish, there are more than 11,000 acres of first-growth forest, never logged, on the Eagle Mountain Range.

Looking back at Balsam Mountain.

A long corridor with trout lilies lining the trail...

...and growing in the trail.

Looking back at a ledge band just south of the nearly indistinguishable 3420-ft. summit of Haynes.

A bright and beautiful afternoon for a long ridgecrest stroll.

Heading up to Eagle past the DEC elevation sign.

There's a fair amount of balsam fir along the crest of Eagle.

A well-beaten path leads to a clearing that is presumably the 3600-ft. summit of Eagle. The summit area is broad and flat, so it's hard to tell precisely where the highest point is. A poll of 3500 Club finishers ranked Eagle as one of the least favorite summits, but despite its lack of views, forest historian Michael Kudish ranks Eagle Mountain among his favorites because it is quiet and peaceful and offers a good representation of Catskill vegetation.

After a break under the shade of a balsam, I traversed west across the extensive summit plateau, then descended partway down the slope beyond.

I came upon a ledge band around 3300 ft. or so and found no open views, but did see some interesting rock formations.

Doubletop and Graham Mountains could be seen through the trees.

There was a really neat hardwood shelf along the base of the ledge band, which I traversed for a third of a mile or more. This area had a very remote feel to it.

Looking up at part of the ledge band.

There were some great patches of spring greenery sprouting along the shelf.

A glimpse of Balsam Lake Mountain.

After a 1 3/4 mile bushwhack loop, I returned to the summit of Eagle, then did a little poking around on the east side of the ridge. Again, no open views, but I did catch a glimpse of Slide Mountain, monarch of the Catskills.

Heading back along the trail through the Eagle-Haynes col.

There are many wonderfully gnarled old hardwoods - many of them black cherries - along this ridge.

Heading back down the Rider Hollow Trail, where I took a drink from an ice-cold spring near the top.

Evening sun on the lower Rider Hollow Trail, capping another fine spring day in the picturesque Catskills.


  1. I enjoyed your account of hiking Eagle from Rider Hollow. I attempted that last October but found the Rider Hollow Trail hard to follow and gave up after slipping and banging my knee badly on one of the stream crossings. It was nice to see from your photos what I missed. I tried again four days after you were there (May 11), coming up this time from the south over Big Indian, which was a beautiful walk. Like yourself, I felt as if I had Eagle to myself. I had the same puzzlement as to where exactly was the summit of Eagle, glad to know I'm not the only one. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for your note, David. I really enjoyed that area, beautiful forest and a real sense of solitude. That does look like a real nice walk over Big Indian.