One of our close friends (and yurt trip enthusiast) has a saying that whenever planning a yurt trip, expect at least a third of the group to cancel on short notice. I assume that the initial idea of camping in a tiny hut with limited resources in the middle of winter seems adventurous and fun, but as the trip grows near, the harsh reality of potentially being wet and cold for 48 hours becomes a more top-of-mind concern.
My husband, Nick, and I had been invited to join four of our friends at Boundary Creek Yurt in the Uinta Mountains in northeastern Utah. Boundary Creek Yurt was the most remote of the Bear River Outdoor Recreation Alliance (BRORA) yurts, requiring a 6.5 mile skin-in with two of those miles being on un-groomed terrain. I was fairly apathetic through the planning process. I knew we had this trip planned for New Years Eve weekend, but with being gone for so long the six weeks prior visiting our families in Florida, it was pushed to the back of my mind. You’re going to have to tour 6 miles in - Okay! You’re going to have to figure out what to cook everyone for dinner - Sounds good! You’re going to have to chop wood for warmth- Fun!
Now the trip was only a few days away. We had only been back in our house for two days, yet I found myself packing again, except this time trying to fit the most moisture wicking clothes and food into tiny, waterproof bags that could be carried in via sled. I started to set the stage for my grand bail. I mentioned to Nick my throat was feeling scratchy.
“I don’t know, maybe I’m getting sick. I hope I feel better in time for the trip,” I said in my most soft and pathetic voice, positive he wouldn’t be able to detect my blatant lie.
“Hannah, you’re not sick. You’re going,” Nick replied sternly. “You’re going to have fun.”
“How do you know?!” I snarled. “There’s a high likelihood I will have an absolutely miserable time!”
My phone suddenly buzzed on the counter. I picked it up and read a message from one of our friends in our yurt group-chat, stating she wasn’t going to be able to make it due to an illness. Damn! That was my excuse! Her husband also made the decision to stay back as well so she wouldn’t have to spend New Years Eve alone. My brain immediately started calculating how I could possibly get out of this weekend now.
However, an actual concern developed the next day regarding the status of my feet. I had not yet figured out the most ideal touring boot setup, and the insides of my heels had mostly ripped away on a short tour that day leaving bright pink and macerated skin. I had serious doubts whether I could tour the 6.5 miles without significant pain from my heels. I settled on this as my most reasonable explanation for why I was bailing.
“I don’t want to turn into a bitch and make everyone miserable,” I explained to my friend, Giselle. “I’m going to be in so much pain.”
I could hear what I sounded like over the phone - someone desperate for an excuse. I’ve never been the type of person to just say “no” when asked to do an activity I don’t want to do. I don’t want to be cold or wet, or in pain. I don’t want to think about avalanche danger or route finding or packing logistics (I fucking hate packing). I would much rather be wrapped in a comfy blanket, with a face mask on, smelling my favorite lavender candle watching something on HBO. But I also like the feeling after I’ve done something hard. And I’ve assumed I’m going to hate a lot of things only to end up making them core aspects of my personality. Could I possibly become a yurt trip enthusiast as well? After 24 hours of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance, I zipped up my final bag. I decided that this was going to be a chance to be with my friends, a chance to ski on my new, lighter touring skis, and a chance to unplug and decompress from the past month of driving across the Southeast. If I ended up in pain from the trek in, I could always sit and read and watch the snow fall from the yurt.
The weather was nerve-wracking driving down into the Uintas from Evanston, WY. We have snow tires on our CR-V, but this proved to be quite the test. Giselle’s white van disappeared into the abyss as a dense cloud of snow encompassed us. Nick’s hands gripped the wheel.
“How many more miles on the road,” he asked through clenched teeth.
“Twenty,” I said.
Nick let out a long sigh and we continued blindly ahead.
We managed to arrive at the parking lot safely and donned our boots and gear in the heavy snow. So much for staying dry I thought. Surprisingly, the first 4-5 miles wasn’t too bad. The slope was very gradual and I was pleased to discover that the adjustments I made to my feet and boots were working well - no raw heels yet. As a delightful bonus, Nick’s usual speedy pace was slowed by the weight of the sled. This is actually kind of nice I thought, surprised that my initial bad attitude hadn’t grown. The final push to the yurt was more challenging, requiring us to take turns breaking trail through almost a foot of new snow. I felt strong and accomplished when we finally got to the door.
Once inside, Giselle and her husband, Andrew, immediately began to prepare dinner in the yurt’s makeshift kitchen. Meanwhile, Nick grabbed a shovel and started digging out a pathway to the outhouse. The yurt was quite small, housing a wooden bunk bed, a cot-like bunk bed, and a round table in the middle. The “kitchen” was a countertop with a small drying rack. There were several dishes as well as pots and pans. A black Fischer stove sat in the corner near the door. Once the fire was going, I changed out of my sweaty clothes and hung them over a clothesline above the stove to dry and was surprised by how warm I felt. I watched as Giselle packed fresh snow into a large pot and placed it on top of the stove to melt. After several minutes, she then poured some of the water into a tin cup and placed a teabag in it, offering it to me. My hands clutched the warm cup with enthusiasm as I felt my blood recirculate through my fingertips. The tea tasted wonderful.
We spent the rest of our evening eating dinner, making ski plans for the next day, and reflecting on the past year. Exhausted, we decided to have our own New Year’s Eve countdown just a bit earlier. Ten seconds from 9:15pm, the four of us counted down and toasted. I kissed Nick and thought about the many other New Years Eves we had spent together - most involving crowds, cheers, and festivities. This year was quiet. Although a winter storm raged outside, the snowflakes made no sound as they fell. I stared at Nick in the dim light thinking that of all the things I don’t like to do, this was most certainly not one of them.