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Chapman: Maryland mountains breathe life

By Staff | Mar 11, 2014

A relaxing stroll through the western Maryland hills was just what I needed Monday morning. Anxiety was building as a weekend trip back east – which should’ve ended back in Rugby on Sunday evening – was extended because of flight cancellations.

“There’s so much to do,” I kept thinking. “The paper has to go out and I need to be in Grand Forks for the state tournament before our usual Thursday deadline.”

The crisp, fresh air cascaded through my systems, opening me up as I joined my girlfriend, Mariel, and her family’s 10-year-old coonhound, Alice, for a walk around Middletown, Md.

I nearly forgot how enjoyable a walk through the snow can be because of the brutal cold we’ve had in Rugby.

About four inches of the powdery stuff fell over the D.C. metropolitan area, which means everyone freaks out and airports temporarily shut down. The temperature hovered around 20 degrees as we left the wooded, nine-acre plot that Mariel’s paternal grandparents left for their children.

About 50 robust robins claimed a nearby tree, their burnt orange breasts scattered throughout the naked branches. Many held firm as we approached and a neighbor’s bushy, sandy-brown Pomeranian bounded down a hill for some attention from the bundled up duo and the Treeing Walker Coonhound.

Greyish-blue warblers fluttered around the woods, making for the most noise and activity. Their chipper dispositions had me yearning for spring and the endless chirping that gives one a little more pep getting out of bed each morning.

We wandered out to Ridge Road and looked out over the Middletown Valley between the Catoctin Mountain to the east and South Mountain to the West. More than two centuries earlier George Washington romped through this area in the Revolutionary War. It’s amazing to think so many people fought and shed blood in that war and the Civil War with such a beautiful backdrop begging to be explored. Though the land is sure worth fighting for.

The snow crunched under our feet and nary a sound escaped Alice, who seemed in a blissful state. She’s likely approaching her last months due to an assortment of old-age issues and doesn’t like to spend too much time in the cold. Yet the morning air, the cusp of spring and companionship roused the once playful pup. For a short while her slouched shoulders lifted high and she moved with a newfound enthusiasm. Troubles retreated for a time and Alice was free to be a part of nature.

The feeling was mutual; the darkness is nearing an end. The snow will melt and the damp soil will soak up the sun. New life will take the form of wildflowers of pastel varieties. The four young deer we passed will again see green and forage through the offerings of the thick woods. Alice will be more apt to enjoy the outdoors.

The moment was short and I was soon back in flight en route to a winter that will last a few weeks longer than that of the Blue Ridge.

What may seem a tease was more of a reawakening. The walk reinvigorated my affinity for the mountains and my desires to be under the sun and among the wild.

Winter’s grip is loosening, even on the prairie.

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