Next Weekend: Chill Factor

WEST

Bunk in a Lighthouse, California
North of ultraquaint Mendocino, grassy bluffs give way to the ultrawild headlands of Point Cabrillo -- a lonely, wavepounded promontory crowned by a century-old lighthouse and lightkeeper's cabin. The lighthouse's Fresnel lens was restored in 1999, and now the cabin is back in order too, doubling as a rustic bed-and- breakfast ($177; www.pointcabrillo.org). Come dusk, when day hikers retreat to their cars, guests have three-plus miles (five-plus kilometers) of bluff-top trails all to themselves.

Hike an Oasis (or Four), California
The "springs" in Palm Springs refers to the stunning oases situated on Cahuilla Indian land adjacent to the low-desert resort town. To hike all four palm-lined pools in a single weekend, start with the three -- Palm Canyon, Murray Canyon and Andreas Canyon -- accessed via well-marked trails near the Trading Post, at the end of South Palm Canyon Drive. The fourth, Tahquitz Canyon, which passes a 60-foot (18-meter) falls that served as Shangri-la in the Frank Capra film Lost Horizon, is just a two-mile (three-kilometer) hike from the visitors center near downtown.

Float With Bald Eagles, Washington
The action on a rafting trip down Washington's Skagit River isn't in the water; it's over it. Winter is a veritable national symbol convention in the Skagit River Bald Eagle Reserve, where raptors from points north gather to feast on spawned-out salmon. To float the river in style (post-paddle massage, anyone?), sign up for the Salish Lodge & Spa eagle-watching tour ($713; www.salishlodge.com), which combines a meet-and-greet with 400 balds with two nights' stay alongside 268-foot (82-meter) Snoqualmie Falls.

EAST

Kayak From Key to Shining Key, Florida
Paddlers on Florida Bay near Key Largo will almost certainly spot dolphins, tarpon and sharks. And they'll likely come across manatees and crocodiles. But the real reason to kayak this quiet corner of Everglades National Park is the number of humans you'll view: zero. Florida Bay Outfitters rents boats ($50 a day; www.kayakfloridakeys.com) and provides intel (a tidal chart is essential) for a primitive camping tour of the bay's turquoise, tropical waters. Ambitious paddlers can mount a flatwater trip that traverses four keys in a long weekend -- Indian Key to Little Rabbit Key (11 miles [18 kilometers]), Little Rabbit Key to Johnson Key (8 miles [13 kilometers]) and Johnson Key to the mainland at Flamingo (8 miles). For a less demanding option, paddle across Blackwater Sound into the Boggies channels and on to North Nest Key (11 miles [18 kilometers]). Either way, there's ample opportunity to play castaway.

Climb an Icicle, New Hampshire
In February, ice floes outnumber rock-climbing routes along the Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire's White Mountains. For the requisite gear, guide and skills to climb the 60- to 100-foot (18- to 30-meter) falls and the multipitch routes on 1,250-foot (381-meter) Frankenstein Cliff, sign up with Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School (www.emsclimb.com) in North Conway. A two-day clinic ($360) includes the uses of ropes, axes and crampons; instruction for any skill level; and two nights at Nereledge Inn, a 1787 farmhouse turned cushy B&B. After front-pointing your day away, sample the organic, nitrate-free pepperoni pizza at Flatbread Company (www.flatbreadcompany.com) -- a prime spot to replenish calories and courage.

Skate a Five-Mile Rink, Ontario
Tired of ice-skating in circles to the sweet sounds of elevator music? Scoot up to Ottawa's Rideau Canal Skateway , a perpetually groomed expanse of ice nearly five miles long that doubles as the world's longest seasonal skating rink. From February 2 to 18, the frozen byway is the nexus of festivities (music, ice sculptures, snow volleyball) for Ottawa's annual Winterlude. Rentals are available at both ends of the canal, warm-up huts offer open fires, and four "beavertail" stops dole out the area's signature pastry, deep-fried and dredged in cinnamon and sugar. Just a 25-minute drive from the canal, the Wakefield Mill Inn & Spa ($234; www.wakefieldmill.com) is a draw in its own right: The 27-room converted mill is set on the wilderness doorstep of 89,200-acre (36,098-hectare) Gatineau Park (laced with X-C ski trails).

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