Deep in the heart of Maine's National Forest, sunshine poked through the ancient trees. Bouncing off the lime green foliage, it cast a glow against the fur of the spotted llamas hiking up the White Mountains.
Our guides paved the way for our group of three, removing debris as we llama-trekked through rivers, brush-covered paths and a collapsed bridge. Lunch was alfresco at the top of a waterfall (I slipped my llama some leftover cookies). Then we remounted for a tranquil descent down the mountain.
Plan your trip
Llama-trekking is among several guided tours involving animals that can be found on the East Coast, along with dog-sledding and lobstering and any number of horseback-riding excursions.
In most cases, outfitters provide one or more guides who are responsible for handling the animals, navigating the trail, leaving you to sit back and enjoy the trip.
You need not have experience handling animals to participate in most tours, although a certain comfort level around them is bound to improve the experience.
Reservations are recommended - be sure to ask about specific clothing or footwear requirements, as well as how the outfitter handles inclement weather.
Take a llama trek
WHY GO The llama's calm disposition and sure-footedness makes them ideal for traversing mountains, canyons or broad acres of wilderness. The Telemark Inn offers several trek packages (and other outdoor excursions) that are ideal for families or solitary trips. It's a good way to explore Maine's mountainside without the weight of a backpack.
Rides start with a quick lesson on working with your llama - staples such as water and lunch are provided.
TOURS A half-day llama trek is a three-hour trip into White Mountain National Forest with stops at a private swimming hole, waterfall and active beaver dams ($75, includes lunch). Overnight accommodations are available at the historic lodge (from $125).
Go dog sledding
WHY GO Sledding through the hills of Baltimore County, the power of three sprinting dogs pulls you around the corner and into the cool summer breeze. That's right - summer. Mushers Catherine and Eric Benson have been teaching people how to "haw," "gee" or "line out" their dogs for three years. Their team of five huskies conduct dry land sledding when it's not snowing. Participants bike, scooter or run while being pulled along by the dogs. The advantage is being able to feel the power of the dogs, without the bitter cold of winter. Note: Due to the animals' heavy fur, the dogs don't run in extreme summer heat, so avoid booking in mid-August.
TOURS Two-hour "canicross" (running with a dog) and "bikejoring" (biking with one to three dogs) lessons are available, weather permitting, for $150 ($90 for second participant). Three-hour dry land dog sledding tours cost $275.
WHY GO Captain Tom Martin motors into Seal Harbor and passes lighthouses on cruises that turn passengers into novice lobstermen. The 90-minute trips include demonstrations on baiting and hauling in traps, as well as measuring catches and rubber-banding claws. The keepers are available for passengers to purchase at wholesale prices (about $4 a pound). Boil them on your own to relish the sweetness of a hand-hauled catch for dinner, or walk them over the pier to the Portland Lobster Co., where the staff will prepare them.
TOURS Lucky Catch's 90-minute tours depart several times a day in the summer (but not on Sundays). Trips cost $25 for adults ($15-$20 ages 2-18).