The day started with doughnuts, so there was nowhere to go but down.
All we wanted was a hike. After a few weekends’ worth of home confinement due to human engagements, the dogs were itching to get outdoors. After a few weekends’ worth of human engagements, so was I.
“What do you want for breakfast?” I inquired of my better half, reviewing our options of toast, eggs, or eggs between slices of toast.
“I was thinking doughnuts,” came the reply from the person who usually serves as my health conscience.
Sweet. I hold doughnuts in high regard as a breakfast food. We would torch those calories anyway, I figured. And I was right. Although we didn’t burn the calories hiking.
We coasted down the southwest side of Kenosha Pass, which tops out at a humble 10,000 feet, and toward a patchwork of low-laying forestland that typically provides easy access and limited people on winter weekends. But as we reached the base of the pass and swung due south away from the Kenosha batholith, a furious gust slammed the car and created a foreboding billow of recently fallen snow.
We veered away from the wind down a county road toward a stretch of Pike National Forest, but high drifts soon blocked the path. We turned around, drove farther south, and set off down another county road toward lolling foothills that we believed would shield the road (and us) from the jarring winds, which they did … for a couple miles, when we again encountered an impenetrable wall of snow. U-turn.
Finally, we struck upon another forest-access road that looked like it had actually been maintained. The Subaru plowed effectively, if loosely, through a few speed-bump-size snow mounds, but again the drifts became too frequent and too high before we could reach land open to anything other than cows and Republicans.
With restlessness rising behind us, the humans decided to head back toward civilization; there were at least a couple spots on the northeast side of the pass where the dogs could get out before they mutinied and the car wouldn’t become trapped in snow. But the winds were as industrious as they were ill-tempered, and they worked with fearsome speed.
The tracks we made through humps of snow just minutes before had filled in, and the humps themselves had shifted and spread. We charged ahead, sliding and powering through the powdery ridges.
Within a mile-and-a-half of the main road, only one snowy obstacle remained; I accelerated and steered toward the remnants of the ruts we made on the way in. Within a few feet of banging into the drumlin-like drift, we were stuck.
After I ran through every combination of curses I could think of, we tried to dig the car out with a backpacking shovel, and generate traction with strategically placed tree branches and stones. No dice.
Fortunately, we were not the only ones out and about in this gale. Through a haze of blowing snow, others appeared from both ahead of and behind us, including the man who would turn out to be our savior, a bearded, bespectacled fellow in his late 50s or early 60s who drove a Chevy pickup armed with a snow plow, tow strap and “Ben Carson ’16” bumper sticker. He liberated the Subaru, then cleared a path for those on the opposite side of the drift, which included his son, a dreadlocked young Bernie Sanders supporter driving a Honda Civic.
The dogs finally had their day, and romped through deep snow in a blessedly wind-free valley on the downward-sloping northeast side of Kenosha Pass. I was too exhausted to join them in play; my partner tried, but he nearly impaled himself on a snow-covered sapling. It was that kind of day.
I aimed the car toward Denver, home still an hour or so away. My stomach, at that point more than six hours removed from breakfast, complained loudly. My better half offered me an apple. I imagined it was a doughnut.