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A Reporter Finds Peace And Quiet On A Wild Adirondack River

For a wild northern river like Quebec Brook in New York's Adirondack Mountains you need a small, light canoe that's easy to carry.
For a wild northern river like Quebec Brook in New York's Adirondack Mountains you need a small, light canoe that's easy to carry.

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

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
A maple leaf pressed to a rock by the current marks the new season.

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

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


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.

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