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The spring we thought would never come has blossomed.

Layers of snow are finally soaking into the ground under a radiant sun, while the winds that once nipped nastily at our noses are, more often than not, pleasant and sweet.

To burn off their extra winter pounds, many Harford County residents are emerging from hibernation to hit the Ma & Pa Heritage Trail, a five-mile path that stretches from Edgeley Grove and Annie’s Playground in Fallston to Forest Hill, with a brief break in between.

It is a favorite outdoor destination for locals and out-of-state visitors alike, and since it is open year-round, it knows no seasonal boundaries.

Yet, if there is one thing to be learned from Maryland’s historic snowfall, it is the weather isn’t always in a cooperative mood. Sometimes, it is downright tiresome.

It took considerable time for the state to dig out from beneath the 30-plus inches left in the blizzards’ wake.

The Ma & Pa Trail was among the many Harford County hangouts left buried deep beneath the snow.

The determined few who still used the trail during the winter season suddenly found themselves without a place to work off their cabin fever.

Kay Ruby, of Fallston, who habitually follows the Edgeley Grove section of the trail in all four seasons, was limited to just one or two brief visits this winter.

Abingdon residents and runners, Brett and Rebecca Schrader, skipped 30 days.

“We didn’t go the whole month of February,” Brett Schrader said.

“We drove around a few times to see if it was clear and it wasn’t,” Rebecca Schrader said.

“They should plow it when it snows,” she continued. “If it is clear, we are usually here.”

The Schraders are understandably overjoyed to be reunited with their favorite trail segments.

“My favorite stretch is probably between the tunnel under 24 to Tollgate Road,” Rebecca Schrader said.

“I like from here [Williams St.] to the 24 tunnel,” Brett admitted. “I like the streams and going over the bridges.”

After an eternal winter, the Schraders are experiencing their long-awaited Ma & Pa homecoming.

They are equally eager to start running with their friends.

“In the summer, we have a Wednesday night run club,” Brett Schrader said. “We get together with friends and run together.”

Bob Fitzpatrick, of Bel Air, is another frequent visitor to the trail who was trapped indoors by the February storms. Like most, Fitzpatrick enjoys the convenience and natural beauty of the trail

“Normally, I walk this trail two or three times a week,” he replied, blinking against the glittering sunlight. “In the summer, I go four times a week, usually in the early morning because it is so hot.”

“When there were two feet of snow on the ground, I didn’t come out,” he added.

Fitzpatrick grew up in Bel Air on Broadway, what he called “the prettiest street in the town,” and was a member of the first graduating class of the old Bel Air High School.

He also has a personal connection to his beloved trail’s history.

“The Ma & Pa Railroad went through my wife’s farm, Grafton Farm, on Vale Road,” he said.

In a way, walking this trail helps him remain connected to Bel Air’s past.

With the reappearance of the sunshine, Fitzpatrick said he will resume his strolling routine.

Other trekkers, like Kevin Kennelly, who recently moved to Bel Air from Annapolis, are taking advantage of the warmer weather to become acquainted with the Ma & Pa Trail.

So far, Kennelly has only toured the trail twice.

Fortunately, he has his partner and longtime Harford County resident, Christine D’Andrea, to show him the way.

“I love it,” he raved. “It’s wonderful.”

“Everyone is so friendly,” D’Andrea chimed in, “and I am happy that it is pet-friendly.”

The snow has retired, and the end of daylight savings time has provided an extra hour of sunlight at the end of the day, so there is no longer any excuse for sitting indoors.

The Ma & Pa Trail is in your backyard and it has everything a nature-lover could ever desire: frothing streams, towering trees, winding pathways, untamed wildflowers and the symphonies of songbirds.

Plan a rustic adventure of your own on what the Schraders deem is “a great resource for the area.”

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