"Hold your paddle like this," says Zoar Outdoor instructor Tony Hernandez, raising his arms to shoulder level. In this placid cove on the Deerfield River, students bob in plastic kayaks. It's day three of a five-day novice clinic in white-water paddling, and water drips from their helmets after practicing an Eskimo roll. Upstream, Zoar's base camp serves as a gateway to the Berkshire foothills and the rivers running through them. Neoprene-clad rafters gather here to ride the rapids. Campers emerge from tents, and guests trickle out of Hawk Mountain Lodge, a converted farmhouse next door. Some tote backpacks and trail maps, others rent bikes or gear up for a rock-climbing class. Cars pull into the parking lot for a day of guided float fishing or a relaxed river run. What, only 2 1/2 hours from Boston to this radical change of scenery and a half-dozen ways to explore it? Shhhh.
Zoar Outdoor, 7 Main St. (Route 2), Charlemont, 800-532-7483, zoaroutdoor.com.
(Text: Jane Roy Brown; Photo: Bill Regan for The Boston Globe)