The trail up to the top of Treadway Mountain passes through several habitats but my favorite sections are the sloping, rocky, ledges with shallow pockets of soil that have a beautiful array of mosses. Around the edges there are flowering shrubs and pine trees that give the scenery the feeling of Japanese rock gardens.
The quickest way to the trailhead of Treadway is paddling across Putnam Pond from the boat launch. The sky began to drip fat raindrops as we put in our boats so we donned rain jackets but it was so warm we didn't put on full rain gear, preferring to have wet legs than be inside sweltering rain pants.
We started paddling quickly to get across before any threat of lightening but within a few strokes the rain became softer and the water smoother, settling down our pace and allowing us to relax into the day ahead. We arrived at the far shore and stored our boats where the trail meets the water near R-5, one of the nicer campsites on the Pond.
The woods were shimmering with dampness but under the canopy the rain didn't reach us. The trail was soft and quiet although a few muddy places showed how saturated the land is.
As always I am on the watch for wildflowers and I could tell we were about a week behind the flowers of the Indian Cucumber--a nice two-decker herbacious plant that has a root that tastes like cucumber. At the beaver flow about a mile along the trail we were surrounded by thick, luscious moss and then found a sprawling patch of twinflower, the double pink bells that grow on long runners.
The trail crosses a wooden bridge over the inlet to the beaver pond and then heads toward higher ground. We came to the first of the pink ladyslippers which have established themselves along the trail. This year we found a dozen or so still in bloom. If you hit the timing right you can find many dozens in a good year.
The trail gradually climbs to the sloping gray ledges. We found sheep laurel covered with buds that are probably masses of fuschia-colored flowers as I write. As you walk over the ledges you can feel rough, granular bits underfoot that come from the rose quartz outcrops. The rose quartz embedded all over the mountain make it special among the hikes in the area. The big crystals were shining and pink from the rain and contrasted with the darker, flaky minerals in the surrounding rocks.
These sloping ledges are special ecosystems and they have a feeling that is different from upland forests and from high alpine summits. Every pocket in the rock held a tiny garden soaking up all the recent moisture. The reindeer moss (actually it's a lichen) looked like thick foam underneath the blueberry bushes which were full of fruit.
By the time we got to the summit the foggy humidity lifted and we got a nice look at Pharoah Lake before heading back down the trail. When we got to our boats there was warm sunshine all over the water so we explored the North Pond. A trio of cedar waxwings let us get close enough to look them in the eyes and an enormous blue jay followed us around the shoreline. On the paddle in we found a pair of pitcher plants that were flowering scarlet red. Overall a great hike and paddle combination and we did not see anyone besides the park ranger--and about 20 red efts--all day.