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  • Writer's pictureNicole Olsen

Yurting Ain't So Easy

I have been pretty neglectful of blogging recently despite our many recent adventures but this weekend's excursion has to be the most adventurous ever so I can not pass up the chance to write about it.

Almost immediately after moving to Colorado, Jedediah and I began making lists of places to visit, hikes to do, and adventures to be had in our new state, and pretty high on that list was staying in a yurt in the wilderness of State Forrest State Park. Disclaimers on the reservation website said that in winter when roads were snowed in there would be a 2-mile hike into the mountains to reach your yurt, which is no more than a large tent with bunk beds and a fire stove to keep you warm. So we made the wise decision to book our stay for Memorial Day weekend when surly the weather would be warm enough for us to drive right up to our yurt so as to easily unpack bedding, water, clothes, and food. Oh how naive we were.

The week before our stay we realized the road would not be opened as snow at this elevation is an almost permanent fixture in the mountains. So we made some last-minute purchases like a water purification kit so we could drink as much water as we could gather from the nearby stream. A hiking backpack, sleeping bags, and some solar lights were delivered by Amazon and with that we congratulated ourselves with our superior planning skills and courageous spirit. After all how hard could it be to pack everything you need for a 3-night stay and hike it all in yourself two-miles up to your mountain retreat?

It seems obvious to say this now, perhaps we were blinded with optimism at the time, but not all two-mile hikes are equal. Two miles walking in the dark in several feet of snow at an elevation of 9,600' with a gain of nearly 1,000' loaded up like pack mules with all your bedding and food for the weekend is nothing like the two-mile strolls we've walked around town. We are slow hikers so we estimated an hour to make the journey, but arrived at our yurt cold, tired, wet, and breathless at 10 pm, even after cheating and having Jedediah illegally drive us up as far as he could in stealth mode (without headlights) and then letting him hike the whole way on his own (yep, he's a stud and we love him!)

I don't think any of us will ever forget that journey, but the next morning still feeling breathless in the thin mountain air we had no choice but to enjoy the beautiful Clark Peak, since it nearly killed us all to get there. The whole day we enjoyed the amazing scenery, weather, and fresh air. We were alone on a mountain with not another person for miles. Together we played card games like spoons and bullshit, laughing so hard we cried and gasped for air. We all took our turns retrieving water from the stream, washing dishes by hand, stoking the fire, and doing what became the most popular activity, chopping firewood. We wandered, explored, and threw a few snowballs before watching the sunset and going to bed in our newly acquired sleeping bags. All the chopped firewood was put to good use that night to the detriment of everyone, as we all woke up dehydrated and sweating from an overzealous fire.

It was a beautiful day, one that we were ready to reenact the following morning until we woke up to lots and lots of snow and a quickly disappearing pantry of food. Apparently my calculations for how much 3 boys can eat in a single day of camping were hugely inaccurate. The correct sum is there is no limit to what 3 boys can eat in a day. Basically, they will eat whatever you have; and since our packs couldn't possibly carry that amount of food it was looking like mom's oatmeal, that no one else would touch, was all that remained on the menu.

So it was decided we would pack up and leave before we got snowed in and had to resort to cannibalism, the older boys joked with Holden. Fortunately, our packs going out were far lighter than the ones we carried up and we knew from experience that today's journey was all downhill. Even still we had plenty of snow to contend with as we trudged down the mountain in the heavy snowfall.

At first no one really minded. It was an adventure, among many we'd had in the last 48 hours. The dogs ran happily back and forth between the kids up in front and me pulling up the rear, stopping to smell every tree along the way. But as our bags begin to waterlog and weigh us down and our coats soaked through to our shirts we laughed as we realized maybe we weren't quite cut out for the true wilderness.

The whole way home the car reeked of wet dog and unwashed human. We stopped at the first gas station we saw to treat ourselves to candy bars and soda. As we drove down the canyon we followed the Poudre River surging with the spring melt off. The whole way home we watched and shrieked as we saw kayakers and rafters hurl down the churning rapids. Two hours later when we emerged from the canyon the kids rejoiced as our phones received service for the first time since leaving Fort Collins and the car buzzed with hundreds of notifications we missed while alone on our mountain. Back home it was raining instead of snowing and we all ran in threw our pillows around the house to dry before bedtime. Then we showered, ordered takeout, and binged several hours of television for what ended up being our most adventurous weekend ever.

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