It was nearing 9 p.m. but still light when we rolled into Durango on Friday evening and downtown was hopping. College kids spilled out of rooftop bars, and impressively fit, Teva-wearing tourists strolled along Main Street. We made straight for Old Tymer's Cafe, a classic burgers-and-beer joint for a pint with our friends, Rob and Amy Haggart, and their two kids. They've lived in Durango for the past four years and had graciously staked out a tent site for us up at Junction Creek Campground, a popular spot with stellar trail access less than five from downtown.
When we pulled into Junction Creek, we found that they'd done more than score us a permit. They'd actually camped there the night before, and had left their six-person Kelty set up and ready for us to move in. I can't stress enough the awesomeness of pulling into a campground at 10 p.m. with small, exhausted children up way past their bedtime and not having to put up a tent. No arguing over whether the ground is lumpy or flat. No fumbling for poles or pounding stakes. Rob and Amy had thoughtfully pitched the Kelty on a pine-needle-covered platform behind a screen of shrubs—the sites at Junction are roomy and spread out— and had even left a couple of camp chairs and a few pieces of wood beside the fire pit.
We unrolled sleeping pads and bags, and within 15 minutes, our daughters were snoring and we were sitting out under enormous ponderosas, with the stars peeking through, sharing a beer from the cooler and plotting our next day's adventure.