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  • J.F. Rowan

Junction Creek Made Frankie Freak!

So there we were sitting all comfy next to the Navaho River without a care in the world and then, “…holy smokes, look at the date! We have to get up to Durango for a house sit, we better get moving.” So, with much regret, we left the peaceful riverside setting in the Jicarilla Apache Reservation and headed north. A dirt road about 35 miles long with the Navaho Lake State Park as our destination. At Navaho, we knew we would be able to take showers, empty any garbage we had accumulated, and do some laundry. We weren’t sure whether we would overnight there, but even if we choose to move on after our “chores”, we could always keep heading torward Durango.

Jicarilla Apache Reservation, Dulce NM

The Navaho River passing through one of the many camp/fishing access points.

Navaho Lake State Park, CO

Navaho Lake State Park (Google File)

As it turns out, that’s exactly what we did. Yes, we did some laundry and had a shower at Navaho lake SP. And, after was all said and done, we set our new destination as the Town of Durango for an early supper and then meander into the mountains north of town to lay up in a campground named Junction Creek. We stopped in Durango for a great wood fired oven pizza and then off to the campground. By the time we rolled into Junction Creek, it was about 8 PM. Low light conditions always make choosing a site a bit challenging, but we were successful. No sooner had we pulled in and set up camp (we were intending on staying a least a few nights, the house sit in Durango was about a week away.) and here comes the campground host pulled up in her spiffy hi-performance golf cart looking for a camp permit payment. “$35? Wow!” (See what happens when you camp too close to town?!) It was then that my alter ego “Frankie” began to emerge. I was one crankie-pissed-off padre. Then on top of that, they didn’t take our pass so no discount either. $35 doesn’t sound like a lot of money (I can here you all chanting "Walmart, Walmart, Walmart...) but when compared to other campgrounds we’ve stayed in, it was considerably more expensive especially when comparing site quality and the level of noise. I am always amazed how when the money exchange needs to take place, the camp host almost materializes before your very eyes like magic. But when there is an issue like a dog barking all night long, the hosts are nowhere to be found.

Junction Creek Camp Ground. (Google Photo)

We (okay maybe Frankie made the decision) made the decision the next morning to beat feet out of Junction Creek and head back to town for breakfast and a "re-group." After a great breakfast and a bucket of hot coffee, we decided to head to a place called Lemon Lake and the two campgrounds located there.

Lemon Lake, CO

Driving by Lemon lake, North of Durango. Campground is at the other end.

Transfer Park and Florida campgrounds (pronounced “Floor-Eye-Da) were in the same National Forest as Junction Creek and yet, they were $10 cheaper. AND, we were able to get a discount to boot! We settled into a nice spot in the Transfer Park campground. But just when we were getting comfortable, the other shoe dropped.

Transfer Park Campground, CO

Transfer Park Campground just north of Durango.

The following day was Thursday and even though we had parked in the more remote part of the park while returning from a quick trip to town, someone had moved in below our site with a travel trailer complete with about 20 gallons of extra gas and a generator. That generator ran non-stop from the time they got there, 24 hours a day for the next 4 days. The camp host made a visit to the site in question and apparently, the campers claimed they had a CPAP machine that the lady of the trailer needed at night. Fine. But what about the daytime? Why run the generator all day? Well, that’s where the satellite TV comes into play. Hey, I get you want to keep your creature comforts with you while you camp, but why not head down the hill to the other campground that had a full hook up? Then it got even better. More campers started coming into the campground early Friday. Weekend warriors jockeyed for prime spots for the next 24hours including a few groups of locals that were geared up for a swinging weekend. The campground was full (actually about 15% overfilled) by Friday afternoon. But traffic didn’t slow down. Hikers, curious folks, rock climbers and campers making beer runs kept the dust level pretty high for three days.

Florida River, Transfer Park Campground, CO

Aerial View of the Florida River. A magnet for both fisherman and rock climbers alike.

Thankfully by Sunday afternoon, almost everyone was gone and by Monday morning, all was quiet once again. Look, I don’t mind a full campground and I’m not against anyone having a good time. But being considerate goes a long way. And a dash or two of common sense doesn’t hurt either. Still, the campground had a great river that ran through it, though the fish eluded me once again. We did some great bush-whacking and exploring and would certainly go back again, just not on the weekend.

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