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Backpacker Magazine – April 2003
A definitive guide to the hottest, sweetest, looniest, and most colorful spots in the great outdoors.
Tastiest Post-Hike Eats
Sweet Sue's, Phoenicia, NY
The day Sweet Sue's burned down is the day we lost interest in the Catskills. Okay, maybe that's an overstatement--we still love the range's historic overlooks and hidden campsite--but our hikes just aren't the same if we can't punctuate them with the best brunch we've ever tasted. See for yourself when Sue's reopens this spring. Fashion a loop that leaves you in Phoenicia on Sunday morning, then order up a heaping dish of pecan-encrusted challah French toast with a small stack of raspberry and chocolate chip flapjacks. It's a meal worth returning to...again and again.
Best Place To Hear Wolves Howl
Lamar Valley, Yellowstone, MT
Here in Yellowstone's northeast corner, you might even see wolves from the roadside--chasing bothersome coyotes or spurring elk herds into thunderous flight. But to appreciate the wild cry of the continent's biggest canine, hit the trail. Our first time, it came floating on a soft winter breeze: the howl of a single gray wolf. Then, a chorus from his pack mates. We spied them on a treeless, snow-white ridge a quarter-mile distant, eight heads thrown back against a stark blue sky.
Mt. Shasta, CA
There are plenty of routes up Shasta that are less crowded, more scenic, and more challenging than Avalanche Gulch, but none offer a more thrilling descent. If the snow isn't too sun-cupped and your pants are up to the challenge, grab an E ticket ride from Red Banks to Helen Lake--a drop of 2,500 feet in just 15 minutes.
Best Place To Watch Bald Eagles
Resurrection Bay, AK
You've come for the same reason the eagles flock to this mountain-lined inlet: to fish the prolific salmon runs south of Seward. Dock your kayak on a lonely beach (try Caines Head State Park), and let the feast begin--berries and pan-fried fish for your stomach, majestic birds carving parabolas in the cerulean sky for your eyes.
Wildest Wildflower Display
Antelope Valley, CA
Holy crap. That's what you'll say if you're lucky enough to glimpse miles of rolling hills painted orange with California's state flower. The wildflower displays in the desert 15 miles west of Lancaster are so remarkable that the state designated a 1,745-acre area as the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve. Visit during peak bloom (typically mid-April) and, please, bring extra film.