A journey across the state

You made me cry.

Of course I made myself cry, too.

Knife wounds, insect attacks and tandoori-hot temperatures aside, my favorite story involved me and you and the outdoors. In July, during one of the hottest stretches in a summer of hot stretches, I compressed a season's worth of state park visits into one week. Twenty four parks, seven days, from Deep Creek Lake to the Atlantic Ocean.

The stunt was to promote the Maryland Park Service's "Park Quest" family challenge, the best idea to come out of Annapolis since the coining of the state motto: "Manly deeds, womanly words."

The parks were great. The challenges were fun. But you -- you -- made it memorable. You passed along tips about great ice cream and lemonade shops along the way, accompanied me on quests and, when I sat down in an open field and cried in frustration near the end, you sent me emails of encouragement.

Park employees stayed late so that I could finish my daily rounds, put icy bottles of water in my sweaty hand and called ahead to the next stop to grease the skids.

Not once during the 1,492-mile adventure did I feel alone, except in the final moments.

After getting the last stamp on my Park Quest passport at Assateague State Park, I walked to the edge and reread all of your messages stored on my Blackberry. And I cried.

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