We were closing on a a week into our trip which is when I schedule some housekeeping time. This includes laundry, reorganization, and making a list for groceries. Lucky for me, Cortez/Mesa Verde KOA has a a small, but very clean and budget-friendly laundry room. While I was contending with my to-do list, Troy took the kids to the campground pool which was also very clean and in good repair. I could hear them as I walked back and forth to the laundry room, hooting, hollering and splashing. It definitely put a smile on my face to hear them having fun. Since they had the pool to themselves, their volume level wasn’t an issue and it provided a way for them to burn off some energy before our drive to Durango today.
Only a quick one hour drive and we had arrived in beautiful Durango. I researched a lot when looking at where to stay in Durango as there are many choices. What I found is that many of the campgrounds are either on near the train tracks or on main roads. Not only is Lightner Creek Campground the closest campground to downtown (only 8-miles), but Lightner Creek Campground is located off the main highway about a mile which would provide us with the road-noise-free stay that I was looking for. As a bonus, it’s situated in a beautiful mountain setting!
The staff here are super friendly and had no problem with us checking-in a day early. I was really happy when I saw site #3 as it was on a corner with a small grassy area and a shade tree. Our site backed up to Lightner Creek which is dry this time of year, however, the kids found it to be a great place to explore and hang out with a few kids they met.
We set up for a lovely lunch at our picnic table and noticed someone across the way had a multitude of hummingbird feeders that attracted dozens of birds. Watching them fly, dive and bicker at the feeders made for a fun lunch. While sitting there, we made the family decision to go check out downtown Durango.
Durango is a Nationally Registered Historic District and it is easy to imagine it’s days as a mining town with men on horseback and ladies dressed for town. Today, the historic buildings house a plethora of unique shops and restaurants. We found the locals to be super friendly and welcoming. It was quite warm walking around so after a hour or so, we ducked into Top That! yogurt shop for a sweet treat. Then, it was back in the car to get better acquainted with greater Durango. We found an amazing farm stand located in the high school parking lot that sold the most glorious peaches (the kind the juice runs down your arm) and the sweetest Colorado-grown corn. In fact, the corn was so amazing, we stopped at that stand for it every day of our Durango stay!
It was time to head back to camp so we could enjoy the rest of the fabulous afternoon. For me, that meant mixing a cocktail and enjoying my latest book, while Troy decided on a little siesta. The kids took advantage of the paved campground loops and rode their bikes around. It was that perfect opportunity for us all to slow down, enjoy some idle time and soak in the outdoors. As evening approached, we fired up our propane grill (no open fires allowed) for some BBQ and enjoyed the evening with some of our neighbors. Fun times!
Day 7 was our river rafting day. There are many river rafting providers in Durango. Mild to Wild Rafting stood out to me as they had received a TripAdvisor 2014 Certificate of Excellence Award. We went to their office and purchased same-day tickets for the Lower Animas River half-day tour leaving in the early afternoon. We had plenty of time to eat lunch, get changed and find me some water shoes (I had forgotten to pack mine)!
Next, we had to drop off our truck at Durango Muffler and Brake which was conveniently located downtown. Our technician was very accommodating. Even though is was last minute, he promised he could tighten the headers and be done before we returned from rafting. We were impressed and thankful for his help. He recommended that we use Durango’s free public trolley service to get us to the Mild to Wild office. Although the trolley was running behind schedule, it was a clean and comfortable ride that dropped us right off at our destination.
After checking in with Mild to Wild, we boarded their bus that took us to the rafting launch point. There was a brief safety speech, then everyone was assigned to their rafts. We were fortunate to have our very own guide in a raft all to ourselves. We could see immediately after launch that the water level was pretty low. As a result, our raft got stuck a lot on the rocks. We would have to rock the raft, push off rocks or our guide would have to get out of our raft to free us. Our guide told us that they were pretty much at the end of the rafting season with maybe a week left. If I had known that, I may have skipped this activity. Now I know that the next time we want to go rafting, I will be asking about the condition of the river.
Even though our white water rafting trip ended up being more of a float, we did enjoy our time on the river. Our guide was great with the kids offering encouragement and inquiring about their trip thus far. He also pointed out things along the river and provided anecdotes of life in Durango. The most excitement came from our one Class II rapid (that’s being generous) which was disappointing to Drake. He had been so excited about the “big rapids.” There is always next time!
Half-way through our journey, we stopped for a nutritious snack of fresh fruit, granola bars and water. It was nice to be able to stretch a bit and wade in the river. Mia, with her eagle eyes, found a little snake next to the water. At closer inspection, we realized that he (or she) was eating this fish that was so much bigger than him it was comical. When Mia pointed it out to the guides, they said they have never seen anything like that before. And can you believe, he got the whole fish down?
Mia hadn’t been feeling too well before the rafting trip and wasn’t much better after so we headed straight back to camp. I got Mia all set up in the back of the trailer and it wasn’t long before she got sick. Ha! We have had this happen before and it didn’t turn out so good. This time, my preparations prevented a a messy situation. Afterwards, she was feeling better and content in resting with a movie while we had our dinner. It ended up being an early night for all of us as a rain storm came through and kept us indoors. I laid down with my book next to the open window breathing in the smell of the rain. We don’t get too much these days in Huntington Beach. Enjoyed falling asleep to the sound of it too. Great way to end the day.
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