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A last mountain swim in wild autumn color

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

It's been a warm autumn in much of the country. New York's Adirondack Mountains have seen record-setting temperatures. The changing climate is unsettling, but it has also meant a rare chemistry of summer-like days and gorgeous fall color. NPR's Brian Mann hiked to a swimming hole high in the mountains and sent us this audio postcard.

(SOUNDBITE OF LEAVES CRUNCHING)

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: I'm walking a trail high up in the mountains where the river is just really a mountain stream. Under my feet is just a carpet of color - luminous ruby red leaves, yellow gold leaves. And what's kind of crazy for an October hike like this is that it feels like summer. New York's wild Boquet River is one of my favorite places - a chain of rocky pools and waterfalls that wind into the High Peaks Wilderness. I've never come here to swim so late in the year. On this afternoon, I'm the only human here - just me and the chickadees.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRDS CHIRPING)

MANN: To reach my pool - the secret spot where I've been swimming for years - I have to wade through the river off-trail, up through the valley.

(SOUNDBITE OF WATER SPLASHING)

MANN: This day is hot. If you listen close, you can still hear the summer cicadas in the grass along the riverbank.

(SOUNDBITE OF CICADAS CHIRPING)

MANN: I climb higher, rock-hopping over mossy boulders. The river's narrow here, about as wide as a city street with sun-drenched pools the size of bathtubs.

(SOUNDBITE OF WATER TRICKLING)

MANN: All of it - the sun, the rock, the river water - is framed by crayon-box color, the beech and birch shimmering yellow, the maple garnet red.

(SOUNDBITE OF LEAVES CRUNCHING)

MANN: It's hard to explain to people who don't live in the north what a gift days like this can be, how good it is to walk in brightness and warmth before the gray and cold set in. Finally, I come to the larger pool where I'll swim. It's a deep basin fed by a waterfall, the surface decorated with afternoon light and fallen leaves.

(SOUNDBITE OF WATERFALL FLOWING)

MANN: This is going to be cold.

(SOUNDBITE OF WATER SPLASHING)

MANN: Whew.

It is icy cold, like a first touch of winter on my sunburned skin. But it's a sweet kind of pain as I float under the trees.

(SOUNDBITE OF WATER SPLASHING)

MANN: So that was it, my last mountain swim of the year in this beautiful little river - truly magical, wild place.

Brian Mann, NPR News, in New York's Adirondack Mountains.

(SOUNDBITE OF NICOLE WRAY SONG, "LADY - MONEY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Brian Mann
Brian Mann is NPR's first national addiction correspondent. He also covers breaking news in the U.S. and around the world.