Travel Tuesday: Showing Mom Life on the Road

Travel Tuesday: Showing Mom Life on the Road

We’ve all heard it hundreds of times…what you see on social media is the happy snippets of life. According to the #yourlead_van’s Instagram feed   we’re cruising around the country leading a pretty fan-freaking-tastic life. And we are, don’t get me wrong. However, sometimes things go awry. This past week had a lot of wrenches getting tossed into our not-so-carefully-planned adventures. Somehow we still managed to enjoy ourselves + do crazy cool things with our time on the road…funny how that works!


Not that things went wrong, per say. Things just weren’t going quite right + it was all happening at once. To say the least, it’s been a crazy week! I spent a night with pterodactyls, I pushed my mom far outside of her comfort zone + I survived a 100K race better than I expected to. So, a crazy week but a really good week!

Dates: July 16 – 24

Miles Driven: 2,191 [14,820 – 17,011]

States Explored: 5 [WA, ID, MT, WY, CO]

Wildlife Spotted: mama bear + baby bear, many moose, all the birds

Nights of Van Life’ing: 8

Showers Taken: 2

People are Awesome: Befriended a few seasonal bus-life’ers in Jackson…stories were shared!

So, what did we do with a full week of van life’ing as a mother/daughter duo? Well, for starters, we did not kill each other or even yell [except that one time when we almost hit a moose, but that was worth it]. It was good! I got to spend a full week dragging my mother out of her comfort zone + showing off the ups + downs of life on the road.


I picked my mom up in Missoula, MT on Monday night. Our first stop was a local ice cream shop then we headed into the National Forest to find a camping spot for the night. I won’t sugar coat it — my mom’s first night of van life was a bit lackluster. We simply drove into the National Forest until we found a flat pull off then called it a night. Thankfully Mother Nature was on my side + we woke up to a deer right outside our van door! Welcome to van life, Mom!

We kicked off my mom’s first full day of van life with a should-have-been-three hour drive to Big Sky, MT. It didn’t take long to figure out where I get my “oh, shiny” distraction gene from. It took us nearly 6 hours to get from Missoula to Big Sky because we kept veering off to check out whatever looked interesting.

Our first official stop was in Big Sky, MT. I knew nothing about this area + only stopped by because a handful of people said “oooh, are you going to Big Sky” making me assume it was a really cool place. Maybe I was just hungry + spoiled by Colorado’s mountains but that town was no our cup of tea…so off we went.


After a stop at the West Yellowstone Visitor’s Center we decided to ditch all the “must do” pressure for our time in Montana + decided to venture out to make our own “must do” list. This is how we found the Johnny Sack Cabin, a house built by a single German immigrant, using primarily hand tools, in 1929. He leased the land from the US Forest Service + it just happened to be plopped right atop a fresh spring that pumps out 120 million gallons of water, at exactly 52 degrees, every day. Who knew little snippets of history were so interesting!? As in, I was so stoked on those random facts that I did not even need to re-Google them before confidently typing them out here!


It was a short stop with about 1.5 miles of hiking but it’s exactly what we needed before heading into the BLM land near Henrys Lake to snag a crazy beautiful dispersed camping spot for our first night of “real” van life’ing. With a few hours before sunset we settled in for some reading, some foot soaking + some casual camp cooking.

Ahhh, welcome to van life, Mom!

The next day was kicked off with another bout of “oh, shiny” driving as we made our way into Jackson, WY for an afternoon of rafting along the Snake River with Mad River Boat Trips! I’ve been rafting before but this was my mom’s first time. The crew at Mad River was awesome + hooked my mom up with a helmet cam. Oooh, as soon as we get our hands on those photos + video we will be oversharing them. Pinky promise. It was an awesome rafting trip…if you’re in Jackson, DO IT!


Of course, you cannot go to Jackson without at least taking a peak at the Grand Tetons so on Thursday we strapped on our TETON Sports packs + headed into the National Park. Rather than hit up the crazy popular Jenny Lake Trailhead we ventured a bit further up the road to park at Spring Lake. From there we hiked along the Spring Lake Trail to connect with Jenny Lake, Hidden Falls + Inspiration Point. We created a bit of a lollipop loop by dropping down Cascade Canyon to connect back to the Spring Lake Trail. It was a perfect taper hike for me + I got to show off my mom how to maneuver around some legitimate mountain trails!


Our finally day truly on the road was Friday…a very long Friday. We spent the entire day driving from Jackson, WY to Gould, CO with a few wildfire detours + Sportsman’s Warehouse store visits. It was a big day without much adventure off the pavement. Granted, we did get to see actual flames leaping off the tops of trees. Awesome, in a tragic, terrifying sort of way. On Friday night we arrived in Gould, CO so I’d be right on site for my Saturday morning ultra race. We parked the van in an open National Forest meadow alongside a handful of vans, pick-ups and SUVs…all of them harboring ultra runners trying to snag as much sleep as possible before the 4am alarms started going off.

My alarm never had a chance to go off…I was up 15 minutes earlier + prepping for the day when the first car pulled out onto the Forest Service road en route to the start line a few miles away. It was time to run the Never Summer 100K.


I was excited; too excited to be scared. My mom claimed to be excited but I think she was scared! The poor woman had never witnessed the crazy of an ultra marathon + I was about to toss her to the wolves [very friendly, helpful ultra wolves, mind you!] as I headed into some rugged, unforgiving mountains for 65 hours/24 hours of running. In short, it was an incredible day in the mountains. I survived with a smile + my mom only got lost once!

We snagged a few hours of sleep after the race, then we were off like a herd of turtles. It was time for my mom to return to civilization + I had a few days of real adulting [in an office!] ahead of me…goodbye mountains!

All in all…it was a really good week. Things went wrong left + right — stubborn credit cards, a broken taillight, an undercharged GoalZero, a missing MiFi, a lost shoe, wildfire detours, a temporarily broken camera — but we survived. More importantly, my mom had fun. I think. I mean, at least she survived!

About the Author


Heidi Kumm

Heidi Kumm is a trail runner, world traveler, mountain climber, and all around adventure enthusiast. She is so stoked on adventure that she has made it her career as the owner of Adventure Feet First, a travel company that focuses on getting people outside to explore the world around them. Over the past years Heidi has spent months living abroad, volunteering around the world, living out of a van/car/truck, and finding new ways to explore on foot, by bike, or with a backpack. She has learned the ins and outs of self propelled exploration the hard way, so she's here to help us learn from her mistakes and to help us become more informed on how to make your own mistakes, safely.