As we drove along the Peak to Peak Highway, the winds buffeted my car. I clutched the steering wheel as first one gust, then another, caused the car to shift sideways. As we pushed on, the sand deposited by the CDOT trucks whirled into sandy, snowy cyclones that whipped against the car, the rocks and sands pummeling us. The snow whipped so badly, at times it obscured my visibility of the road. It’s strange how my first instinct is to stop dead in the road, as if the road has become a black hole that will swallow me if I proceed forward into this white abyss.
Still, we push forward, eager to return home after a weekend of skiing. After a drive along the Peak to Peak that seemed to take twice as long, we arrive home. The winds are blowing so hard, the trees to our west are bowing back and forth. We take cover inside the house as the lights flicker several times. I fully expect to lose power at any moment and am thankful Bryon purchased a generator for us last summer.
Bryon checks his weather station, discovering wind gusts of 70+ mph have already hit us. But as we go online, we find that even higher winds have clocked in at NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research) as well as the tiny town of Gold Hill to our north, with winds of 97 mph. It’s hard for people to comprehend that the mountains of Colorado in fact can have hurricane-force winds on a routine basis.
Even I, seasoned veteran, start to feel apprehensive, listening to the house creak and watching the trees as the wind howls. It just seems to go on and on, minute after minute, hour after hour. Bryon jumps up as a tree comes crashing down, just missing our shed. We later find out, the a healthy, mature Lodgepole pine, with a diameter of three feet was completely uprooted and brought down by the gale force.
These crazy downsloping winds come speeding down the crest of the 13,000-foot mountains of the Continental Divide, gathering speed and force as they speed down through the foothills. On this night, they sound and force of them are so great, even the dogs don’t want to go outside for the late night potty break. Shawnee stands on the porch, a look of fear on her face, refusing to go out into nature’s fury. I finally escort her out into the driveway, both of us unwilling to risk the peril of the forest. Simon, being somewhat deaf, and more conditioned, ventures out a little further, but doesn’t staying long, returning to the safety of our log home within a minute or two.
These are the nights that test newcomers to Nederland. It’s easy to love living up here during summer and fall when the winds are calm and the temperatures are moderate. But spend a few winters here when the winds roar, and it can test your resolve for mountain living. We just met a new couple from Texas last month, spending their first winter here — I wonder how they are doing on this night.
I’m reminded of a story a local told me of a couple from back east who bought a home in June, and by February, the wife was threatening divorce if they didn’t sell their home and move.
These are the times that try a Nederlander’s soul. But what doesn’t break you makes you stronger, and we make it through the night to find sunshine and calm the next day.