In Southern Maryland on Thursday, they went sledding. In Charles County, they swooshed down a country club's large hill, taking care not to notice "No trespassing/No sledding" signs.
At Wicomico Shores Municipal Golf Course in St. Mary's, they flung themselves down at least four different "tees" carpeted in white. In The Highlands neighborhood of Chesapeake Beach, steep back yards on St. Andrews Drive became perfect, private sledding slopes.
The thick snow fell all morning and by midday the ground was covered in "packing" snow, a perfect consistency for sledding and many other kinds of winter mischief. One brave produce stand manager along Route 301--Bela Turi Jr., 37, of Glasva--decided to build an igloo to attract customers.
There was no school, of course. But students had plenty of other plans for the day. Tyrone Turner, 18, a McDonough High School senior, was in such a hurry to go sledding--such a rare opportunity in recent years of warm winters--that he rushed out of the house without gloves.
"I wish I had brought 'em, but I was too anxious to get here," Turner said, standing atop the forbidden snowy hill at the Hawthorne Country Club in La Plata, blowing on his icy hands. Around him were more than two dozen other naughty sledders of all ages who were brazenly gliding down the steep hill--with its two thrilling bumps halfway down--seemingly daring the ownership to come and run them off.
Things used to be a lot different around here, of course. Sledders didn't have to sneak around. Open hills were plentiful, sledding spots abounded. Now many of the best places to sled, like old Turkey Hill, have been lost to subdivisions.
"Somebody built a house and a swimming pool on our best hill in the neighborhood, and we couldn't go there anymore," explained Ellie Taylor, a La Plata homemaker and mother of three, poised at the top of the hill as the sledders frolicked below. Her daughter Erika, 8, came up, hat in hand, and turned her red, wet face upwards to her mother.
"Mom, whenever I go down I keep on turning sideways and I get this snow on my face," she giggled.
"I do, too, baby," her mother said. "I turned all the way around."
Hawthorne's hill, really the golf course driving range, seemed a scene from a past time on Thursday--looking over a frozen pond, trees tipped in white and bright red barns.
On the hill, there were whoops and shouts. Snowballs were flying. Tyrone Turner and three friends tried to form a human chain of sleds but they ran aground after a few yards, laughing.
It was a scene that, for the day at least, seemed to blot out modern cares. Concerns about global warming and shrinking open land were set aside.
At the Wicomico Shores golf course, a similar winter tableau unfolded on several different hills above the smoky gray waters of the Wicomico River. Here, too, a snowball fight ensued. Couples walked their dogs through the white drifts. Snowboarders swooped down one hill, sledders another. By the end of the afternoon, so many sledders had gone down so many times that they had worn grassy paths in the snow.
Golf course superintendent James Farren, 33, of Mechanicsville, didn't seem to mind, even as his daughter sped by on her sled toward his precious 18th hole.
"A lot of superintendents would panic over this, but it's all in good fun," Farren said. Daughter Dani Farren, 9, had a "real" sled, a wooden Flexible Flyer, left over from when the family lived in more snowy West Virginia.
The Flexible Flyer wasn't as fast as those newfangled plastic saucers or inner tubes, but it seemed to do the job. Once down the hill, Dani Farren made it back up quickly, tugging the sled behind her.
"I want to go again," Dani instructed her father, and he gave her another push.
CAPTION: After a bottom-of-the-hill spill, Steven Strine, 13, of Chesapeake Beach, gets a comforting lick from Fluke, 4 months.
CAPTION: Cassidy Cutlip eats snow off the gloves she borrowed from her sister.
CAPTION: James Farren pushes daughter Dani, 9, and her Flexible Flyer down a hill Thursday at the Wicomico Shores golf course in St. Mary's County.
CAPTION: William Howard, 10, and his brother Ronny, 12, pat the final touches on their six-foot snowman Thursday off Route 231 in Hughesville. With the help of older brother Michael, 16, they used croquet balls for eyes and a football for a nose.
CAPTION: Cassidy Cutlip, 3, of Chesapeake Beach, carries her sled up a hill for another ride.