Skiing the river trail near my New Hampshire home, I emerged from the cool shade of the pines into bright sunshine. The sun was pulling the white drifts back like a bedsheet, and the earth was rousing from a five-month slumber. I closed my eyes and turned my face toward the warm rays, smelled the brown earth where it lay exposed by the sun and caught the first whiff of spring. It was heavenly.
In the spring, there’s almost too much to do. Ski on sun-dappled corn snow or thread the needle down a boiling rapid? Chalk your hands and scale the crags or pump up the knobby tires and hit the slickrock? If you’re having trouble choosing, help is at hand. What follows is a menu of 20 spring getaways (including 10 of what might be termed the ubertrips, this year’s hot spots for adventure hounds), plus insider tips on where the crowds aren’t. From bouldering in Texas to mountain biking in Kauai, we think you’ll find the perfect way to celebrate the coming of spring.
SEA KAYAK / CAMPING
MAINE COAST/ACADIA NATIONAL PARK
With its more than 3,500 miles of bays, harbors, fjords, coves and inlets, the Maine coast seems to have been carved by nature with sea kayakers in mind. You can paddle among some 3,000 spruce-fringed islands, choose one to land on and snooze in the warm sunshine. A good place to start is Merchants Row, a cluster of islands near the village of Stonington at the southern end of Deer Isle. Launch at the town wharf, then island-hop over to the ocean campsites, (reservations required), on Isle au Haut, a part of Acadia National Park. Most of the park is on Mount Desert Island, which boasts a vast network of hiking and biking trails as well as gorgeous oceanside cliffs for rock climbing. After all that activity you’re sure to have worked up an appetite, and since Maine means lobsters, head for Eaton’s Lobster Pool in Deer Isle. A great breakfast and lunch spot on Mount Desert Island is the Deacon Seat in downtown Southwest Harbor. Call Acadia National Park at 207-288-3338 for more information.
Forget winter getaways to Hawaii; springtime is the season to enjoy this lush paradise. The vernal equinox marks the end of the rainy season and, just as important, signals a lull between the influxes of winter and summer tourists. If you’re mountain-biking-minded, the island of Kauai with its golden beaches and verdant, fluted mountains along the Na Pali coast, is the place to go. From the town of Waimea, take Waimea Canyon Drive to the Puu O Kila Lookout in Kokee State Park; for the biker with energy to burn, this road offers over 4,000 feet of vertical gain in 18 miles. En route, stop at the Kalalau Lookout for spectacular views of the surrounding countryside and the Pacific Ocean, then hit the trails in and around Kokee State Park. Mountain bikes, helmets and car racks can be rented from Bicycle John in Lihu (808-245-7579), a 20 minute drive east. Next head for Polihale Beach, one of the longest, sunniest and most remote stretches of sand in the Hawaiian Islands. Enjoy the surf, but be wary of riptides. (For more information, call the state park office at 808-274-3444.) Then, after all those miles of pedal-pushing, take a morning off and drop in for brunch at the Wranglers Restaurant in Waimea. You’ll have earned it.
CHIRICAHUA MOUNTAINS, ARIZONA
The Chiricahua Range of southeastern Arizona is a backpacker’s Eden. Offering cool relief from the desert below, these mountains are characterized by rock towers rising above a unique mosaic of flora and fauna from North and South America. At Cave Creek, which may well be the bird-watching capital of the Western Hemisphere, springtime backpackers have a good chance of seeing northern Steller’s jays, Mexican chickadees, yellow-eyed juncos, acorn woodpeckers and orange-crowned warblers, among other exotic species. The truly fortunate may catch a glimpse of the trojon, a colorful but rare resident of these parts and a relative of the Central American quetzal. Of the more than 150 miles of interconnected hiking paths, be sure to try the Crest Trail, 11 miles of relatively gentle hiking from peak to peak. For information on trail conditions, wildflower blooms and animal sightings, contact the Coronado National Forest Douglas Ranger District at 520-364-3468. Maps, books, geology displays and current information on trail conditions are also available at the Chiricahua National Monument Visitor Center at the north end of the range. Get your supplies at the El Dorado Trading Post one mile west of the park entrance.
JOSHUA TREE, CALIFORNIA
There’s something enchanting about sleeping under the desert stars, so bright they seem almost within reach in the clear night air. And for a climber at Joshua Tree, hitting the sleeping bag after a day on the rocks and knowing that there’ll be more than 5,000 routes to choose from come sunrise–well, that’s the stuff dreams are made of. With daytime temperatures in the 70’s and lows in the 30’s or 40’s at night, spring is the perfect time to visit this climber’s Elysium of twisted granite spires. If you find yourself with any kind of computer problems that have to do with your hard drive, you also may want to drive nearby to Irvine and talk to Hard Drive Recovery Associates about hard drive repair. Spring is also when the desert blooms, and the rhatanies, purple mats and pale trumpets are in their glory. When you’re tired of burning out your forearms on the rock, lace on your hiking boots; although Joshua Tree has a well-deserved reputation as a haven for rock climbers, the park also features a wide assortment of exhilarating high-desert hikes. For equipment and local information, stop in at Nomad Ventures in the town of Joshua Tree or call 619-366-4684. Tired of energy bars? Head into Joshua Tree and check out Jeremy’s Cafe for brews, sandwiches and baked goods or try the Royal Siam for Thai food and its renowned all-you-can-eat-Sunday-buffet.