As I was driving home the other night, I came upon flashing lights and the ubiquitous tow truck that can be so common during the winter and spring months. Yet, again, a car had lost control and ended up in the creek. One of the joys and beauty of Highway 119, otherwise known as Boulder Canyon is that it parallels Boulder Creek as it cuts through the soaring granite walls. After a snowfall, it can be quite scenic with snow lining the walls, and decking the trees as the frozen creek runs alongside the road. But it can also be quite perilous as well.
Highway 119 through Boulder Canyon drops almost 3000 feet along 17 miles from Nederland to Boulder, with grades as steep as 10%. It can be treacherous any time of year, but particularly so when temperatures drop below freezing and we can get snowstorms, or in the case of last night, freezing drizzle (quite unusual!). Most of the Nederland residents work somewhere down below, either in Boulder, or other nearby communities, so the road gets a lot of commuter traffic. Commuters jokingly refer to Boulder Canyon as the “Boulder Speedway” as they get so familiar with the road, they routinely will drive 50 to 55 mph on curves where the suggested speeds are 35 mph. And in wintertime, when Eldora Ski Resort is open, there are even more people on the road going back and forth to the ski resort, many of those, not altogether familiar with either the road, or winter driving conditions.
All those people combined with a winding and steep mountain road can oftentimes result in traffic accidents. Buses will get turned sideways, completely blocking the road, as will commercial trucks. Likewise, two-wheel drive cars who can’t manage the grades will often leave their cars abandoned by the side of the road during wintry weather. But the most common accident seems to be those that drive too fast, and brake too quickly, losing control, and ending up in the creek. It seems every winter, there are several accidents where folks end up in the creek, and the tow truck has to pull them out. Bryon was driving home one night a couple of years ago, and a car was pulled over on the shoulder and waved him over to stop. When he got out of his car, he saw and SUV with a mother and three kids upside down in the creek. Fortunately, they were wearing the seat belts, and all were able to walk away from the accident.
It’s a good reminder to myself, when I see the police cars and wreckers, that I need to give myself extra time during winter getting up and down the canyon, nothing is worth putting yourself at risk of ending up in the creek.