Mount Washington Hotel, Glen House, Crawford House, Profile House, Mount Pleasant House, Ravine House — these were named for the surrounding White Mountain landscape. The same is true for the Eagle Mountain House, first built in 1849, destroyed by fire in 1915, rebuilt in 1916 and expanded in 1929.
Just to the west of this venerable structure is a small 1,613-foot peak named Eagle Mountain, the last point on a low ridge that extends south from Wildcat Mountain.
There are some ledges near the summit on the south and east side. During an earlier agrarian time, when there were fewer obstructing trees on the mountain, a farmer might have looked up from below and spotted an eagle perched there, surveying the entire area for game.
Today, a 0.9-mile trail up Eagle Mountain allows you to visit the south ledge viewpoint, and a short way further, the summit cairn in the trees.
This Monday, I was looking for a modest hike to complete before the forecasted noon rain. I headed out driving before I knew my destination. I rarely do that, but it always pans out.
Driving north between Conway and North Conway, I looked to the right and saw the sign for the Pine Hill Community Forest. I wondered if there was a trail built yet to the top of the modest 883-foot summit of Pine Hill. It would certainly be interesting to write about the new 436-acre forest.
I pulled into the L.L. Bean parking lot and called Will Abbott at the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust. He said that a meeting would take place very soon to develop plans for a trail that would traverse the peak, but there was no trail yet. I thanked him.
A minute of contemplation in the famous outdoor retailer parking lot, and Eagle Mountain in Jackson rose in my mind. I headed out again.
Staying north on Route 16, in 14 miles, I turned right under the Jackson Covered Bridge, drove around the village and over the Wildcat River, and took the next right up Carter Notch Road. In almost a mile, the striking white Eagle Mountain House appeared on the left. Just after the building, I turned in and drove behind it to the upper parking lot.
I put on foot traction, grabbed my pack and walked to an old woods road in the middle of the upper lot that traverses up to the left. There were footprints in the few inches of snow, some going to Eagle Mountain, some continuing to follow a cross-country ski trail.
The road swung around to the right and a small sign for the Eagle Mountain Trail appeared on a tree on the right side. I turned. The trail was familiar and I remembered friends I had been there with. In a while, I passed a familiar, large, shallow pool on the left. It was frozen, and I followed other footprints out onto it, my first ice venture this year.
The trail approached a long boulder. In the past, it was unclear whether to go left or right around it. I followed footprints in the snow to the right.
Then the trail got steep. I was glad I had foot traction, not so much for the few inches of snow but for the oak leaves beneath.
As I climbed, a modest rock promontory appeared through the trees on the slope to the right, at one time likely a good lookout for man or bird. There was no trail to it, and I continued up the steep trail to where the angle eased and it bore left toward the summit.
I reached the best lookout ledge on the left. The landscape below was brown under the overcast sky. In the east was the ridge of Tin Mountain and Tyrol Mountain. Below was the golf course and, rising out of the trees, the Eagle Mountain House — impressive even from where I stood.
To the south, the valley lay open, with the Moat Range angling part way across.
Though I had brought a lunch, it was too chilly. I continued up to the summit cairn and headed back down. Back at my car, there were raindrops starting to fall on the windshield.
I decided to go briefly into the lobby of the hotel by the back entrance. The warmth was pleasant and it felt like entering an earlier time. I told the inquiring clerk I had just climbed Eagle Mountain and was looking around, and he smiled with acknowledgment and let me be.