WANT A cool idea for a late-summer getaway?

No sweat.

Really, what's so hot about the beach? Everything! Sultry, steamy, torrid, florid, sticky, wicked, wilting -- and that's just your haaaiiiiir! It's a sauna by the surf, especially in August, with the "breeze" like a blast from a pizza oven, the black flies feasting on your fundamentals and that coconut-scented sunblock starting to smell like scorched macaroons. Sand in your shorts, in your shoes, in your shower, sand in the salt shaker, for crying out loud. And that endless horizon thing: flat, blue, blah, blah, blah. Not to mention the commute, you and a hundred thousand of your very closest bridge-backup friends watching the air over your car hood shimmering and raising the ozone level a few more notches.

So chill out. Hill out. Turn your back on the beach and head for the hills. Washington is blessed with the Blue Ridge and Massanutten Mountain, the Great North and Alleghenys and Appalachians, and a host of smaller hillocks, humps and rocky tops. There you can feel a real breeze (and smell trees and grass instead of suntan oil and Old Bay). You can count deer instead of hermit crabs and hear birds that sing instead of gulls that screech. You can wander the backwoods instead of the boardwalk. You can lose yourself in small-town America instead of super-mall sprawl. You might even discover you like feeding your soul instead of feeding the meter.

You can still watch the sunset, only over a horizon with a shape. And if you're still determined to get into the water, you can do that, too, because around these parts, pretty much, where there's a ridge, there's a river.

With luck, you won't see a single stupid T-shirt.

-- Eve Zibart