A Reporter Finds Peace And Quiet On A Wild Adirondack River

Sep 26, 2021
Originally published on September 30, 2021 12:10 pm

Updated September 29, 2021 at 11:18 AM ET

I set out on the kind of leaf-peeping trip you take when you want solitude with your fall color. That means driving miles of dirt roads through New York's Adirondack Mountains to reach Quebec Brook, a winding boreal river in the middle of nowhere.

My canoe is a small, ultralight boat designed for this kind of wilderness paddling. That's good because the river is hard to navigate, winding through alder thickets, taking me into a maze of winding marsh.

Winter Berry, a kind of Holly bush that loves these boreal wetlands, puts out brilliant red fruit in the autumn.
Brian Mann / NPR

There are also beaver dams blocking the way, lots of them. Which means I scramble out of the canoe in my bare feet, perching on top of big piles of twigs and branches as I pull the canoe over.

The water still holds some of its summer warmth and I feel a little like Huck Finn with my pants rolled to my knees.

The payoff for all this work is total quiet. I'm alone. There's not another soul. No engines, no cell signal to tempt me toward my phone. And there's color.

A maple leaf pressed to a rock by the current marks the new season.
Brian Mann / NPR

I weave through hidden little ponds surrounded by golden grass. Bright red winter berries glow on shore. Bog laurel leaves have turned the color of plums.

To go deeper into the wild, I make my way up through a chain of rocky rapids. It's impossible to paddle the canoe here, so I "line" the boat. That means wading the river, my bare feet slipping and sliding over rocks as I tow the boat behind me.

In places the river opens up, framed by golden grass. You can still hear cicadas, a little echo of summer.
Brian Mann / NPR

As I splash along I see a single crimson maple leaf pressed against a rock by the current.

Soon after I reach a stretch of rapids too rocky to get through. I'm forced to carry my little canoe on my shoulders, hiking an overgrown portage trail through a shadowy forest.

There's more color here, bright green beds of moss, mushrooms, and ferns that have started to turn rust colored.

A trail through shadowy forest along the river offers more fall color, rusty ferns, green moss and mushrooms.
Brian Mann / NPR


After that the river opens up again. As I paddle on, the sun comes out. There's a warm wind and the sound of cicadas.

On this fall day, it feels for just a moment like I've found a last pool of summer.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Let's take a moment now to head outside into autumn. Yes, it is officially fall, and so NPR's Brian Mann took a break from his usual reporting to canoe down a wild river in New York's Adirondack Mountains in search of amazing fall colors because why not? And he shared this audio postcard with us.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: This is the kind of trip you take for deep solitude. The river is hard to reach. I've driven miles of dirt roads to a place in the forest...

(SOUNDBITE OF RUNNING WATER)

MANN: ...Where I slide my little, ultralight canoe to the water.

(SOUNDBITE OF PADDLING THROUGH WATER)

MANN: I've set off on Quebec Brook, this winding little river in one of the wildest corners of the Northeast.

(SOUNDBITE OF PADDLING THROUGH WATER)

MANN: It's a little hard to navigate, which means people don't come here much. Soon, I'm tangled in a maze of winding marsh, scrambling over big beaver dams that block the way.

(SOUNDBITE OF PADDLING THROUGH WATER)

MANN: Pulling the boat over now, kind of perched up on top of this big pile of twigs and branches. I'm paddling in my bare feet today just to make it easier to kind of Huck Finn my way in and out of this canoe. Fortunately, the water is still holding on to some of its summer warmth.

The payoff for all this work is total quiet. I'm alone. There's not another soul, no engines, no cell signal to tempt me toward my phone. And there's color. I weave through hidden little ponds surrounded by golden grass. Bright-red winterberries glow on the shore. And the bog laurel leaves have turned the color of plums.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPLASHING)

MANN: To go deeper into the wild, I make my way up through a chain of rocky rapids.

It's impossible to really paddle the canoe here, so I'm lining the boat, wading the river, towing it along behind me.

As I splash along, I see a single crimson maple leaf pressed against a rock by the current. Soon after, there's a stretch of rapids too rocky to get through, so I'm forced to carry my little canoe on my shoulders. I hike an overgrown portage trail, through a shadowy forest.

I'm walking through deep beds of moss, beds of ferns that have started to turn rust-colored.

(SOUNDBITE OF PADDLING THROUGH WATER)

MANN: After that, the river opens up again. As I paddle on, the sun comes out. There's a warm wind and the sound of cicadas.

(SOUNDBITE OF CICADAS CHIRPING)

MANN: On this fall day, it feels for just a moment like I found a last pool of summer. Brian Mann, NPR News in New York's Adirondack Mountains.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.