A few weeks ago, I was watching the E! channel and admiring the latest in celebrity fashion when my husband peered over his Wall Street Journal and mentioned that he would like to visit a yurt.
A what? Is that one of those exotic huts on the sandy beaches of Fiji?
Fingers crossed, I beat a trail to my computer. From Google, I learned that a yurt is not an exotic hut on a tropical island. Instead, it’s a circular tent-like structure with a lattice wood frame and canvas walls. Darn. Well, no matter. For once, my very outdoorsy husband actually asked for something, and I resolved to get it for him. Within minutes, I had reserved a yurt in the secluded mountainous region of Utah’s high Uintas.
When the reservations were made - and after I gave myself a well-deserved pat on the back for acquiring the perfect Christmas gift - I began preparing for a romantic wintry getaway. I imagined gentle snowflakes falling outside while my husband and I cuddled before a crackling fire inside. We’d eat delicious food, read good books, and maybe take a hike to the frozen river before returning to our yurt for an evening of solitude and relaxation. It was a picture-perfect plan - a trip my husband would never forget.
When I bragged to my girlfriends about my impending escape from civilization, I was surprised by their reactions. Every one of them found it necessary to wish me good luck. Did I need luck? Would my ready, fire, aim approach to the ideal Christmas gift backfire? True, I hadn’t done my homework. Recognizing this, I was faced with a couple of choices. I considered embracing the “ignorance is bliss” attitude. Instead, I decided on the “better late than never” approach and did some ex post facto research. For an indoor girl, the results of my research were a tad frightening.
I learned that some yurts are extravagant and offer all the luxuries of a five-star hotel, while others, such as the one I’d rented, are considerably less lavish. My yurt’s description included such amenities as a pit toilet (Google says that’s another word for “outhouse”), bunk beds, and a wood burning stove. The disclaimer (the one I signed without reading it), informed me that any of these items may be missing or broken, so come prepared.
Our yurt: not too shabby!
Reminding myself that I’d been camping a time or two and could surely survive a few days without the comforts of home, I decide to maximize my experience by packing extra supplies - an air mattress and maybe a few spare gallons of water to heat up for a sponge bath. The take-along-extra-supplies idea changed when I learned that we would be parking our car at the trailhead and skiing to the yurt while pulling our provisions on a sled. Fortunately, the disclaimer describes the trail as relatively easy. Whew! Wait, what do they mean by relatively? Time to downsize - replace the cast iron Dutch oven with an aluminum mess kit and leave the extra water at home. After all, if we need more water, we can always follow the advice in the aforementioned disclaimer - melt snow. Why didn’t I think of that?
As it turned out, pulling our supplies over the river and though the woods wasn’t all that difficult. At least that’s what my husband said. He didn’t even complain when I hitched a brief ride on the back of the sled he’d built especially for the occasion.
When we finally arrived at the sign directing us toward the yurt, my pulse quickened. I’d gone to a lot of effort to get this far and I was excited, at long last, to get a glimpse of my yurt. A short detour off the trail led us to our journey's end. When I saw my yurt, blanketed in newly fallen snow and secluded amongst the aspens and evergreens, I forgot about the not-so-relatively-easy hike and hurried to get a closer look at my home away from home.
From our front porch, we were treated to stunning views of Mount Beulah and a snow covered meadow below Dead Man’s Pass - lovely in spite of its name. The yurt was surrounded by thousands of acres of unspoiled forest and offered incredible scenery as well as terrain perfect for skiing and snow shoeing.
No key was needed. The door wasn’t locked and it’s wasn’t necessary to check in. However, you do need a reservation and a trip permit. Inside the yurt we found cozy accommodations that were more than adequately stocked with everything a person could need. Way to under promise and over deliver! My husband built a crackling fire and, within minutes, the yurt was toasty warm and filled with the rustic comfort only a wood burning stove can provide. The fire also supplied the means to cook the tin foil dinners I’d learned to prepare prior to the trip. They were delicious - thanks to Youtube for the tutorial.
The yurt at dusk.
My first opportunity to make friends with the outhouse came late the evening of our first day. I took a flashlight along, but didn’t need it. Though the sky had grown dark, and the moon illuminated the landscape perfectly. Gazing at the black sky and the thousands of brilliantly shining stars, I relished the beauty that exists in my own backyard - well, two hours from my backyard, but you get the gist. It was an exquisite encounter with nature such as I have never had before. Although using a pit toilet is not enjoyable - and there is basically no way to improve the experience - the walk to and from the outhouse more than made up for any unpleasantness. Even in the frigid temperatures (a couple degrees below zero) I lingered outside for a time, enjoying the beauty of my pristine surroundings.
My and “my” yurt.
In the morning, my husband used the mess kit to prepare a delicious breakfast of omelets and bacon before he set out on a cross country ski trip. I stayed behind and enjoyed a glorious day relaxing while reading Sherlock Holmes, sipping hot cocoa, and thoroughly savoring the temporary interruption from my ordinarily busy life. Existing for 72 hours without my cell phone, laptop, and television altered my attitude toward living simply. I appreciated the opportunity to sit in silence in a beautiful setting where, for a brief time, life was uncomplicated. The necessity to downsize from a heavy cast iron dutch oven to a lightweight aluminum mess kit could be seen as symbolic of the perspective shift I experienced while on this trip. I’m hoping to incorporate this new approach into my daily life by lightening up, literally and figuratively.
My yurt adventure was a magnificent experience that pulled me way out of my comfort zone and gave me memories to last a lifetime. Unlike my husband, I would never want to live in a yurt; but I am excited for my next yurt adventure.