Tuesday Travel: Calming the Chaos

Tuesday Travel: Calming the Chaos


My life has been rather nomadic for nearly 18 months + I’m still battling to find some semblance of a manageable work/life/play balance. Some days are better than others, building up to flawless weeks…other days are brutal, making chaotic weeks drag by. It’s become obvious that there isn’t a prefect system, just a long learning curve to figuring out your own chaos triggers. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch them early on + end up with far more good days than bad!

All of that is leading up to this fun fact — the first half of this week was brutal. I was back “home” in Denver. This meant I was working long hours in the office, meeting up with as many friends as possible, squeezing in last minute appointments + fighting Denver traffic for three days. Needless to say, when the van left Denver on Wednesday afternoon I was a bundle of nerves twisted up with why-did-I-plan-so-much regret. Going into the summer, I knew this would happen. I’m honestly surprised the pressure of be pulled in so many directions took so long to break me. Maybe I am getting better at spotting those chaos triggers + taking a step back? Either way…the mountains have mended my crazy + we’re back to regularly not-so-scheduled happy chaos.


Luckily I didn’t have to suffer through Wednesday’s “ugh, I can’t do all the things” melt down on my own! I had just picked my brother up from the Denver Airport + we were headed out on a 10 day adventure through CO, NM + UT. Ooooh, welcome to van life! Ha. Poor guy. It didn’t take long for me to ditch my own stress in favor of tormenting him with hours of country music followed up with “oh, that’s your comfort zone? great, let’s go 5 miles past it”. I’m a good sister like that! Now, beyond the #realtalk of van life, here’s a look at the last week of van life!

Dates: July 25 – 31

Miles Driven: 1,478 [17,011 – 18,489]

States Explored: 2 [CO + NM]

Noteworthy Wildlife Spotted: suckling fawn + herds of cows + fearless pikas

Nights of Van Life’ing: 6 [thanks for the couch Lynne!]

Showers Taken: 4 [thanks to the Ibotta office’s gym + Lynne!]

People are Awesome: Everyone in Colorado has been so chatty + fun on the trails!

Like I said, the first part of my week was spent in the city, but Betsy still did her part to make #vanlife happen! The first few nights we slept on random streets — welcome to Colorado, where this isn’t exactly frowned upon. Heck, one night I actually had to do a second loop around Chautauqua Park to find a spot to park among the other vans who beat me to the punch! Oooh, Colorado, I do love you!

Boy, oh boy, was I ready to get out of the city come Wednesday afternoon! I snagged my brother from the Denver Airport [uh, at the “drop off” gates because the van doesn’t fit in the “pick up” gates] + we were off, headed south! A quick stop by the Colorado Springs store + resupply at the Maverik then we were off into the wilderness! Our first night was spent up a canyon near Canon City, CO.

It was the perfect setting for a early morning drive [filled with “ooh, shiny” distractions along the way] to Great Sand Dunes National Park. In true never-on-time-for-anything fashion we showed up at the sand dunes just before high noon. For the record, this is not recommended as the sand gets VERY hot. Unfortunately we are nothing if not stupidly stubborn + we still headed out into the dune. My post-race recovery legs were happy to play their tourist card + we only hiked a short bit, not making it to the top. Not as cool as it could have been but, eh. Next time we won’t be three hours late!


We spent the rest of Thursday afternoon powering through the drive down toward Albuquerque, NM. This was no where near our original plan but…we got an invite to play in the Colorado mountains with friends. I may sink hours into well planned spreadsheets but as soon as a friend says “hey, let’s go climb mountains” I forget the spreadsheet existed!

While in search of some dispersed camping on National Forest land we stumbled upon the Bandelier National Monument, an area full of cliff dweller ruins. Um, yes please! Of course, we discovered this place just before dark so we had to re-plan our Friday last minute…those ruins needed us to explore them!


[side note: White Rock, NM looks awesome…as does Los Alamos + anything near the Jemez Mountains. I’ll be back!]

Our adventures into the Bandelier National Monument had to start early, before they started requiring bus rides into the park…so we were back on the road by 9am, headed back north into Colorado for a weekend of frolicking in my beloved Colorado Rockies. We met up with Robb + friends near the Shavano + Tabeguache trailhead for a night of camping…followed by really early alarms! We were on the trail by 5:30am, headed up, up, up…

The original plan was to summit both mountains…but Wayne, Mika + I decided one summit was enough. Turns out that was the perfect plan! The rest of the crew powered up to the first summit ahead of us + gave us a solid two hours of nap time at the top of Shavano while they were off playing on Tabeguache! Life win, for sure! Well, except for the sunburn I gave myself but hey…at least it was crazy beautiful up there!


The first half of our crew hit the trailhead just as the rain started…then I became a wet narwhal trekking out to the campsite with a fresh chunk of watermelon in hand to snag the van. I either have incredible friends for encouraging my crazy, or terrible friends for letting this kind of lunacy out of the house [er, van]…


After all the climbing of Saturday I offered myself up to be on dog duty on Sunday. The rest of the crew had plans to summit another 14er but Robb’s dog, Max, didn’t seem to have another 14er in him [he usually does multiple a year, but this was his first of the season since he had to have surgery to remove a tumor earlier in the year…it wore him out!]. Wayne was more than happy to jump on board with dog duty + we spent our Sunday morning draped in hammock, sprawled on the grass + indulging in delicious local food. Um, yes, please…we earned it!

I’m not quite done with my Colorado mountain fun yet…we may be avoiding mountain tops but we are still finding some crazy beautiful mountain lakes + meadows. Oh, Colorado… [insert pink puffy heart emoji]

PS — If you’re at OR next week…come hang out! As always, there will be a #hikerchat meet up on Saturday morning at the TETON Sports HQ! Y’all get to vote on whether or not the narwhal comes with… [ftr, it’s really HOT to hike in, so be nice when voting!]

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.