As I was walking the dogs tonight, we decided to take a stroll through the deep snow down The Summer Road. We had gotten an e-mail from our neighbor saying the road was impassable because a car had flipped and was blocking the road. Seeing the car and all the snow reminded me of my own adventures on The Summer Road the first winter after we had moved here.
When purchasing a house, you often hear the mantra, “location, location, location.” When we were looking for a home in the mountains, location played a huge part in it, specifically the commute to work in nearby Boulder. So when we came upon the listing for our house that mentioned a private access road to Boulder Canyon that significantly shortened the drive to Boulder, from around 35-40 minutes to 20 minutes, we took notice.
Fast forward years later, and we have become intimately acquainted with what all Nederland residents affectionately refer to as “The Summer Road.” The Summer Road is a half-mile dirt road that goes up 500 feet through four switchbacks. The Summer Road was constructed when our neighborhood, St. Anton Highlands was built, to provide an emergency egress route to Boulder Canyon in case of wildfire. It is too steep to meet county standards, and therefore is considered a private road, and is maintained through our HOA and fees we pay into maintenance.
Early on, within a few months after we moved in, we quickly found out that The Summer Road is not The Winter Road. Bryon still had a 2-wheel drive Mazda hatchback, and routinely took The Summer Road back and forth to work. In October of that year, we got an early snow that dropped a couple of inches of snow. No problem! Bryon took The Summer Road as usual, and lost it about 2/3 of the way down when the anti-lock brakes went off and he was skidding down the road, with no clue of whether he would be able to stop at the bottom or not, thus giving it the nickname, “The Luge Ride.”
I had my own travails on The Summer Road that winter, when I tried to go up it on fateful night. That first winter, I decided since I had an AWD Subaru, I didn’t need dedicated snow tires. I also made the fatal mistake of stopping on the way up, only to find myself sliding backwards down The Summer Road. If you want to know true terror, you should try replicating this experience. The only way I could get my slipping, sliding car to stop was to yank on the parking brake as hard as I could.
But the memory that comes to mind first and foremost when I think of The Summer Road is the night Bryon pulled me out with a tow strap. Despite my earlier drama-filled episode, I still decided to go up it again a month later after it had been snowing. Everything would have been fine, except that as I was driving up the first steep slope, I saw an Audi sports car careening from side to side out of conrtol, coming straight at me. Terrified I would be hit, I inched my car over as far as I could to one side and stopped the car. They went flying by me, and once they had passed, I rethought my idea to go up, instead opting to turn around. I ended up trying to do a 10-point turn, and hooked my wheel into a ditch on the inside of the road and couldn’t drive myself out. After walking up the road, and getting a ride from a neighbor, I called Bryon to let him know what happened.
Since he was already on his way home, he suggested I wait for him so that we could assess the situation. After driving back down, and eyeing the situation, we realized there was a problem. Just a few yards in front of my car was a giant boulder that was blocking my car. So, in the dark, with snow falling, Bryon and I hatch a plan to roll the boulder to the other side of the road. The rock was so heavy, we would have to push with all our might, and roll it a 1/4 turn, catch our breath, and then push again. It probably took us a good 20 minutes to roll this rock across the road, made all the more difficult by the fact that we kept losing our footing on the packed snow. But we finally got that darned rock across the road. The final hold-your-breath moment came we Bryon hooked up the tow strap to pull me out. Even though we had gotten the boulder out of the way, a culvert was about a 50 yards down from my car — if the car didn’t get pulled out, it was probably going to hit the culvert, causing significant damage. As Bryon gunned the engine, at the last possible moment, my car popped out of the ditch onto the road — success!
I am happy to say that was my last crazy adventure of driving the Summer Road in winter. However, we have learned that we are not alone. Almost everyone who lives along the north ridge of Boulder Canyon, has a story of driving The Summer Road and suffering some sort of calamity. Every year, we get to witness the carnage of newbies in the neighborhood having their own adventures on The Summer Road. Everyone has a story of their first winter, and how they survived a harrowing drive, slide, or most recently flip (see picture). I guess the question to ask, as you decide whether saving those 15 minutes is worth having your heart in your throat is “Do I feel lucky today?”