Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Yurting Expedition...

Part of the view from yurt the first morning.
I had packed my borrowed backpack the night before. It weighed in at 35 lbs. which I thought wasn’t too bad. Bee, a friend, was planning on joining us for the yurting but then got offered a warmer and better deal of backpacking the Canyonlands back country. She had offered to go up part of the way with us and carry some of our supplies. I carpooled with her; leaving approximately 10-15 minutes before Polly and Eric said they would be ready. They were cross country skiing the way up and would probably pass me hiking on the way up; or so we all figured.

The snow gate- there's Bee and Zephyr!

About 10am, with a misting of rain I found myself hiking up the canyon. Bee helped me put on the backpack. We ended up having to jerry-rig the bottom supporting strap with a fanny pack and a bungee cord because I was a little larger around than the 28” waisted friend (Bee’s tall skinny hubby) that the backpack belonged to. There was no taking this pack off without help to put it back on.

A close up I took myself shortly after starting out.

I started out at an easy pace with my snow boots with the yakstrax attached. Check in time for the yurt was 1pm. So, there was really no rush to hike the 4.75miles up to the yurt. Within a mile, I turned to notice that Bee was no longer in sight. She had my snowshoes that I would have strapped to the outside of my pack. I only let her take those because I really wanted to go up under my own steam. Two years ago when I went yurting with this group I had really been a burden with one carrying my sleeping bag and another ending up carrying my backpack. This year I was determined not to be a burden.

Most of the snow was between 4 to 6 feet.

It was the 1.5 mile marker that I took a bit of a break. I stood and drank from my water bottle; enjoying string cheese from my fanny pack. I waited there for about 4-5 minutes figuring that it was just a matter of time before Polly, Eric, & Bee would arrive on their cross country skies. Nope, no sign and the misting rain was starting to turn sleet. I continued on.

A bit of fog combined with misty rain on the way up.

About 2/3 of the way up, I saw my last cross country skier coming down. I was then all by myself. It was really quiet and sometimes I found myself almost jumping out of my skin when a clump of snow would plop down off a nearby pine tree. ¾ of the way up, I was starting to really feel the weight of my pack. I took my mittens and tucked them under the shoulder straps to help pad a little bit. I also started counting steps; about every 25 steps I would pause for a bit. The sleet was turning to big flakes of snow.
The yurt during the second day.

The last ½ mile, I was REALLY feeling that pack and wondering where in the H – E – double hockey sticks the yurt was. I started swearing out loud and I tell you it would have embarrassed a sailor to hear me. But I figured I was alone. Though, I did have the image of a rabbit coming out and saying,” Lady! Do you mind? My little bunnies really shouldn’t be hearing this.” Not that anything like that would happen except in the movies. The swearing and the anger were helping me along. Finally, with a huge sigh the yurt came into view. I was never so happy to see a structure in my life.

Snow- woman & man that someone had made before we arrived at the yurt.

Polly geting wood for the wood stove.

Eric doing abit of reading the first night.

I took off my pack and waited. Polly and Eric had the keys to the yurt. I moved around after taking off my pack to keep warm. I shoveled a bit. The snow was coming down lightly. After almost an hour, I started walking down the road to look for Polly, Eric, & dogs. I was wondering if they had a problem and had to turn around. ¾ of a mile later, there they all were moving very slowly. I took the leash for Jack and walked along with them to the yurt.

Myself and the ever spoiled one-eyed Jack!
 It ended up going between rain and snow all the first night. We could hear an owl hooting in a nearby tree for some of the night. The next morning it was beautiful! We all went out. I followed on my snowshoes and tried to keep up as they cross country skied. After a half hour, I decided to turn around. I was having a tough time keeping up and the snow was melting. There was one instance, where I stepped outside of their cross country ski track and ended up going in the snow up to my lower thigh. I turned around and went back to the yurt; where Jack cuddled up to me and I did a bit of reading.

You could hear the snow melting around the yurt, but no leaking in the yurt. It kept us nice, dry, and warm as long as the wood stove was fed. One little problem, with the melting snow was the restrooms. During the afternoon, there ended up being almost 2” of water in the women’s restroom. Later on in the early evening, we discovered the women’s restroom door was frozen shut. We all ended up using the men’s and left the door open just in case during the night.

The second night in the “wee” hours of the morning, I heard howling of coyotes. I woke up Polly and Eric to listen. One coyote sounded as though it was maybe 15 yards away from the yurt and the other answering coyote’s howl came from a distance. I thought that it was really amazing listening to them. I was also getting a kick out of Zephyr’s reaction to the howling. He seemed to have this quizzical look and would tilt his head a bit.

The beautiful sunrise the second morning!

Another beautiful morning, and the day we would be heading back to civilization. It was with a bit of disappointment that I started to repack. I left 1 hour before Polly & Eric left. Since they were skiing down it would only take them about an hour. We figured it would take me about 2 hours to hike down. So I would start out early while they did cleaning and restocked the firewood from the lean to that was behind the yurt.

One of many amazing views on the way down.

About ¼ of a mile down, my yakstrax got tied up in the shoe laces of the other snow boot. I went down; almost face planted it. I tell you it is REALLY hard to stand up when you have 35 lbs. of weight on your back. I opted to take off the yakstrax and retied the snow boots. Then I continued hiking down the canyon. About 1/3 of the way down I found a group of gals that were out hiking the day with their dogs. I hiked at a good clip and quite often said hi or answered questions about the yurt as I went down. I arrived at the bottom but couldn’t manage to take the backpack off by myself. I ended up enlisting a cyclist that was taking a break near the snow gate. I beat Polly, Eric, & the dogs by about 5 minutes.
My first sighting of civilization-- a group of ladies out for the day.

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