Those who follow Deerfield River westward from the Catamount State Forest to the Mohawk Trail State Forest travel through the hilly terrain of historic Charlemont. There, in 1989, the Berkshire Mountains and other geographical spoils caught the eyes of Bruce Lessels and Karen Blom—a medaling member of the US whitewater team and a public health nutritionist looking to make the outdoors more accessible. They built Zoar Outdoor on the river, establishing an 80-acre facility to be a base for ziplining, rock climbing, camping, and solar-powered lodging. Today, a staff of adventurers keeps that base running. They not only sell an arsenal of outdoor gear and continue those establishing activities, but also lead whitewater rafting and kayaking trips down their home river, slicing through the waves and rearranging a slew of fishes' living rooms along the way.
In the early ’70s, Boston-area resident Mike Farny dreamed of creating affordable outdoor recreational activities for his community to enjoy. In May of 1973, Mike set up shop in the MDC Norumbega Police Substation of Newton/Auburndale and began realizing his dream. The location—directly next to the historic Totem Pole Ballroom—perfectly enabled the environmentally friendly practice of canoeing and kayaking. Mike's vision blossomed over the years to include four other locations, each offering rentals, tours, and instruction.
Today, on-staff guides lead tours of the Charles River and Boston Harbor to educate participants in ecosystem conservation, view the skyline and sunset, or explore historic structures. Select trips also include lunch to fuel participants as they navigate difficult waterways and jump through flaming hoops. To prepare customers entering the water for the first time, instructors coach riders of all levels in private or group lessons at the paddling school, which draws on more than 30 years of instructional tradition. Staffers can also equip boaters in the shop—where P&H and Boréal kayaks hang alongside Tahoe paddleboards and Wenonah canoes, dreaming of one day being the inspiration for a traditional sea chantey. Crew members help clients choose their ride and accessories from these selections and others through free daily demonstrations.
Crab Apple Whitewater sends adventure seekers on river-bound thrill rides daily from early April through mid-October using inflatable kayaks for Class I–II rapids and larger group rafts for Class II–IV rapids. Crab Apple Whitewater charts routes through the Berkshire Mountains on rivers such as the Deerfield, making use of natural flows and daily dam releases in order to control the challenge for kayakers and rafters of all skill levels. Trips are consistent due to dam control, but vary based on interpretations of fortunes found in the guide’s tea leaves the night before. All adventurers strap on provided helmets and life jackets and attend a safety lecture prior to casting off.
North Ridge Mountain Guides founder Jamie Leahy first fell in love with scaling peaks while tackling the heights of Mount Washington. The AMGA Certified Single-Pitch Instructor has since defied gravity on inclines of ice and rock around the United States and in Ecuador, summiting peaks of more than 19,000 feet to touch the sky and harvest his crops of clouds by following a simple philosophy: climb hard, climb safe. This mantra guides his approach to teaching the ins and outs of belaying and rappelling and steers the expeditions he leads up the less-traveled routes of Mount Monadnock. He also shares the art of ice climbing with pupils during introductory courses that delve into subjects such as crampon placement, swinging an ice axe, and how to read the ice, which often obscures its messages in Wingdings fonts.
Nashoba Paddler traverses the bends and twists of the mighty Nashua River and its tributaries, giving tourists a view of the wild from the safety of rental canoes and kayaks. Soak up some natural vitamin D and ripple the wave tattoos on your triceps during a full day of paddling in Old Town river vessels. Before shoving off onto the waterway, experienced guides can provide field guides, maps, and safety and paddling advice, as well as tips for fun routes and how to harmonize on wildlife motets. Then explorers can solemnly begin shoving paddles into the Nashua and floating through habitats ranging from woodsy bends to marshy areas replete with swans and herons eager to perform splish-splash acrobatics. Nashoba Paddler is open through June 20 on weekends and holidays from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and on weekdays by appointment.