Recently, we were reminded of one of our favorite road trip adventures... It was Memorial Day weekend two years ago when we borrowed a friend's converted Sprinter van in Denver, CO and hit the road. This was our first #vanlife adventure and a test to determine whether we’d ever want to own our own converted camper van. (If you’ve seen our Van Conversion blog or follow us @seekdrygoods on Instagram, you know how that test ended!)
The whole trip was about 700 miles through some of the coolest little mountain towns. Over the course of 4-days, we made a big circle throughout the Rocky Mountains with our first stop in Aspen. Think: perfectly warm air with a slight breeze, sunny skies, and THOSE VIEWS! We spent an afternoon checking out the town and doing a little hike. The post-hike beers at Aspen Brewing Company are highly recommended :) We met up with a couple of friends at a local campsite for the evening and enjoyed a dinner and beverages by the fire.
On the morning of Day-2 we waved good-bye to Aspen as we headed to the North Rim of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. This was a new National Park for us and the views of the canyon were spectacular. We hiked the North Vista Trail, a moderate 3 mile round trip trek with some great look-out points. We would have loved to spend more time here, but still had a bit of driving to do to get to our next campsite in Cimarron. The campsite was just off the highway and nothing special other than easily accessible. However, a storm rolled in around 8pm and brought with it the most AMAZING sunset!
Day-3: We took our time this morning to make our favorite breakfast: avocado toast with soft boiled eggs (recipe HERE) and of course lots of coffee. We stopped in downtown Gunnison for a beer at High Alpine Brewing Company (YUM!). From there, we made a last minute decision to drive to Crested Butte for the afternoon since it’s only a 35 minute drive. In Crested Butte, we walked around town, had a snack at Brick Oven Pizzeria & Pub and explored the fun little shops/boutiques. This town was lively and fun, with a true mountain-town atmosphere. We had been here before to ski, but the whole area had a different feel without the cold and snow!
It was about a two hour drive to our next campsite, which was located down a long and winding dirt road. Picture a slow rolling stream, high aspen trees and distant mountain views. This campsite was tucked away and felt very remote. There was still some daylight, so we explored a bit of the area before grilling up some burgers and enjoying a few beers we had picked up at the brewery that morning.
Our last day of the trip was a long drive, but we managed to make two stops: Buena Vista and Salida. First off- Salida is the coolest little mountain town with the Arkansas river running right through it. We walked around the shops here, got coffee and chatted with a few of the locals. (We loved it so much, we actually traveled back for a weekend a few months later!) The town has a lot of character and is surrounded by the Collegiate Peaks (a grouping of some of the most gorgeous 14,000 foot mountains in CO). Buena Vista’s downtown is quite smaller than Salida, but it has a similar mountain/whitewater kayak chill vibe.
Our arrival back in Denver came all too soon. This trip taught us a lot about travel. Prior to our #vanlife adventure, all we wanted to do was fly places. It seemed the easiest and most logical option. However, after this short trip in the van, we learned there’s something special about slowing down. In a van, you’re forced to travel through, not over, places. You get to experience small towns, big mountains and the various cultures/personalities of those that live in between each major destination. There’s something really special in this. I’m not saying we never fly anymore; sometimes it is necessary. But when we are able to sit back and take a few extra days on the road, we seek the road.
Vanlife for us is currently saved for weekends and vacations. Maybe someday we'll go full time, but for now it's a fun way to travel and explore in our own tiny little home. Check out our van and how we built it on our Van Conversion blog.