As I trod up the dirt road, my steps becoming smaller. As the grade becomes even steeper, I find myself sweating, and my ponytail clings to the nape of my neck. My breathing becomes more labored as I continue up and up.

Finally, I’m reduced to a pace of a turtle, going heel to toe, heel to toe.

And if the steepness doesn’t get you, the dust will. Every time a car goes up or down the road, a cloud of dust blows over me.

Why is it all the times I’ve driven this road, it never seemed quite this vertical. Barreling along in my all wheel drive Subaru Forester, it takes a minute or two to go from the bottom at Boulder Canyon to Ridge Road.

You might ask, why would I subject myself to walking up The Summer Road anyway?

Point the finger at the Covid-19 pandemic. While overall, my life hasn’t changed that much, I’ve been a bit more challenged in finding a good cardio workout in the great outdoors.

As a former Park Ranger, I crave a connection with nature. Working out at home with weights is great, but something about being outside invigorates me. I usually satisfy this through challenging hikes in the Flatirons or Indian Peaks Wilderness.

A year ago, you would have found me climbing Mt. Sanitas after work. Or going for a run after work on the Boulder Creek Trail. Or maybe hiking out of Chautauqua up to Royal Arch.

Even in Nederland, a warm day in spring would find me running the Rim Trail near Barker Reservoir. Or maybe I would have taken the dogs up to Lost Lake from Hessie Trailhead. Maybe I’d head to Mud Lake for an evening mountain bike ride.

But those places are narrow hiking trails that draw lots of people. I’d end up jumping off the trail every two seconds, dodging into the woods, to try and preserve my 6-foot buffer with humanity.

Too many people on narrow, single-track trails where it’s hard to avoid coming face to face with people.

The pandemic had made it much more challenging to find places to walk and practice social distancing. Even our dirt roads in our neighborhood have now become like the Pearl Street Mall during a warm weekend day. A constant parade of people, kids, dogs, and bicycles pass our house for hours.

Few people bother to walk the Summer Road. On this dirt road, I can find some solace as well as a good cardiovascular workout. It gets the heart pumping and I can have space that allows me for a moment not to worry about catching the Coronavirus.

I joke with my neighbor about this.

“I could start a whole weight-loss program — The Summer Road Workout! Ninety jaunts up The Summer Road in ninety days will melt the pounds off and get you in swimsuit shape!”

So if you’re looking for me on a week day evening, take a drive down Boulder Canyon. You’ll see a lonely figure of a woman with a black dog, trudging ever so slowly up the hill.