a. Canoeing on Attean Pond, Maine
This is the kind of isolation you fantasize about when you're stuck in traffic: More than 15 uninhabited islands break the cool, black waters of Maine's Attean Pond, where you'll find 28 miles of spruce-and-maple shoreline. Launch a canoe from Attean Landing, three and a half hours north of Portland, and paddle west about four miles to Hodgeman's Beach to pitch a tent on a broad and sandy strand just west of a small bay popular with moose. Don't miss the 1.5-mile hike to the top of nearby 2,200-foot Sally Mountain for views west into Holeb Pond, or drift out to cast for salmon and trout. ACT OF NATURE: Get up early and float a quarter-mile from Hodgeman's to Supper Island, a rocky, uninhabited 200-by-80-foot speck perfect for catching the sunrise. DETAILS: Cry of the Loon Outdoor Adventures, in Jackman, offers canoe rentals ($20 per day) and can outfit you with food and most camping gear for a self-guided tour; 207-668-7808, www.cryoftheloon.net.
b. Bear Valley Hot Springs, Boise National Forest, Idaho
Not so secret that they're hard to find, not so popular that they're overrun, Bear Valley Hot Springs consists of seven glassy pools set amid lodgepole pines and burbling creeks in Idaho's Frank ChurchRiver of No Return Wilderness Area. Hike through elk-and-moose terrain for 3.5 miles along the Bear Valley Creek Trail, near Fir Creek Campground, 30 miles northwest of Stanley and three hours from Boise. Your reward: a grassy meadow and choice base camp for round-the-clock soaking. The first pool is practically scalding (about 130 degrees), but they cool as you move toward the creek. A mile's hike farther downstream will bring you to the headwaters of the Middle Fork of the Salmon. ACT OF NATURE: Most folks day-hike to the pools and leave by dusk. Come nightfall, soak the evening away with only Orion's gaze to keep you company. DETAILS: Salmon-Challis National Forest, Middle Fork District, 208-756-5100.
c. Badlands, South Dakota
The joke says if you've seen one tree in South Dakota, you've seen them both. And that's a great thing. About 40 miles east of Rapid City, the storied American plains funnel into Badlands National Park, a sea of overwhelming emptiness punctuated by bizarre earthen pinnacles. From primitive Sage Creek Campground, within a 64,000-acre wilderness area about 21 miles northeast of the town of Scenic off Route 44, blaze your own trail along the dry Sage Creek and pitch your tent in the shade of a cottonwood (there are actually plenty). ACT OF NATURE: Wake up one morning and you may find that the park's herd of 800 buffalo has moved in; they, along with blue herons, coyotes, and pronghorns, frequent the area. DETAILS: Water is scarce in the park, so pack it in; no permit required, but check in at the visitor center if you plan to overnight in the backcountry; 605-433-5361, www.nps.gov/badl.