The Current

48 Hours in Durango: Camping at Molas Pass

With fire and drought ravaging New Mexico, Katie Arnold and family head up to southern Colorado on a multisport adventure

    Photo: Ken Hurst/Shutterstock

Even though it was blustery and windy and threatening to rain, we said our goodbyes and pulled out of town, heading north toward Silverton and into the San Juans.

An hour later, on Amy's recommendation, we pulled into the undeveloped campground at the top of Molas Pass. The 10 campsites were already taken, so we drove on another half mile to an unmarked turnoff. In the distance, we could see a lone tent in a high, open meadow with 360-degree alpine views. A quarter mile down the rutted track, we found a flat spot to throw down our tent, a stone fire ring, and a welcoming committee consisting of two large, curious marmots.

Before we had kids, Steve and I spent many summer weekends in Colorado climbing fourteeners and riding singletrack, returning to Santa Fe sunburnt and exhausted. But now with little ones in tow, it's gotten much harder to pull off truly epic weekend adventures. All evening, as we cooked dinner and put the girls to sleep, I looked longingly at the exposed granite ridgelines of the San Juans staring down. Skinny fingers of snow wriggled down 60-degree couloirs. Far to the east, a jeep road climbed steeply up the guts of a narrow valley.

Now, it was simply epic to sleep at 10,900 feet in a tent with two young girls on a stormy evening in mid-June. By 10 p.m., I'd already put on every layer I'd brought and was prepping for a long night. Miraculously, sleep came for all of us, and when we awoke, the sun was just heaving itself over the lip of the mountains, melting the thin skin of frost on the camp stove. It was a brilliant, cloudless morning, almost blindingly so, and it felt like the sum of all the best summer mornings we'd ever woken up in a tent in the Rockies.

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