After breakfast, the girls biked the dirt road, and I chatted with our neighbor from the next campsite over, Randy. A retired postal worker from New Mexico, he had run the Hard Rock 100 on sixteen occasions, and finished every time—"almost a record," he mumbled shyly. He was hiking and running five hours a day with his two Rhodesian Ridgebacks, in pursuit of his 17th finish. Randy shared what he knew about local trails: the ribbon of jeep road in the distance climbed nearly 4,000 feet to the summit of Kendall Mountain, in just under four miles. But as much as we would have liked to have tackled Kendall that morning, it was Father's Day, and we needed a mellow family hike suited for the littlest of legs.
Just over Molas Pass, towards Durango, Andrews Lake is a glittery disk surrounded by 13,000-foot peaks; a trail snakes gradually uphill towards Crater Lake, in the Weminuche Wilderness, six miles away. Without a baby carrier, we wouldn't make it even close to that far, either, but in just over a mile we topped out on a high, open basin at the foot of 13,000-foot Mount Snowden.
A clear spring bubbled up in the meadow, and then dove again, disappearing under a large boulder. Two small mirror-image ponds flanked the trail, and we sat down in the sedge beside the spring to gawk at the view and eat cherries. Maisy promptly took her shoes and socks off and soaked her feet in the chilly water.
As we stretched out in the sun, I asked Pippa if she might want to come back here someday for her first backpacking trip, just the two of us. Maybe even later this summer. "Yeah!" she exclaimed happily, and her enthusiasm was infectious. I might not have the freedom to camp and run for three weeks straight, but I can take my daughter into a pristine alpine meadow on her first backpacking trip. This, I realized, was becoming our new normal, and it suited me fine.
It was after lunch when we got back to Durango, and as we drove along the Animas, Pippa pointed out her window and announced, "That's Captain Rob's raft!" Steve swerved and turned into a driveway, hopped out, and ran out onto a footbridge. Sure enough, there was Rob and Amy, in true Durango style, taking advantage of yet another sweet day on the river. They offered to pick us up below Smelter for the final stretch to WalMart, but we had a date with Serious Texas Bar-B-Q.