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Night at Yurt Offers Magical Opportunity for Bonding
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Kingsley and Callahan Quinn carry BB guns for afternoon paper target practice as they snowshoe into the yurt.
   
Monday, November 8, 2021
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KELLY CAVANAUGH

Want to connect with your loved ones off the grid?

Why not try a remote backcountry yurts, in which you can discover rich new backcountry landscapes, wildlife and adventures.  It’s a surefire way of disconnecting your kids from their devices. You can even grab some BB guns and skis, and get your Frontiersman on!

Trying to get my daughters away from the creature comforts of home life, their friends, their gadgets and running water is not an easy task.  Selling them on trekking to a stand-alone yurt in the middle of the Boulder range would take some creative persuading. 

 
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The Boulder Yurt is surprisingly cozy.
 

It was a Wednesday school night in early March, and a reservation for one of the Sun Valley Mountain Huts opened up at the last minute.  The opportunity presented itself and I took it. 

Never having loved camping, I was intrigued by these historic standalone yurts that offered enough structure, warmth and comfort to lure me in.  After quickly reading the guidelines, the FAQ’s and equipment lists, I headed for Backwoods and rented the necessary snowshoes and sleeping bag. I borrowed a friend’s pull-sled that I attached to my backpack to carry our load in, bought some BB guns from Silver Creek Outfitters to bribe the girls with the prospects of target practice and surprised my girls at school with my plan for the night.

It wasn’t until we got to the trailhead with snowshoes and BB guns safely stowed in backpacks that the complaining subsided.  It was an interesting experiment to hear the chatter of “How much further?” and “My feet are cold” blend slowly into recanting old childhood songs.

The worries that we were lost crossed their impressionable minds almost as much as the need to stop for snacks and clothing layer changes.  Our short 1.5-mile trek, which to them felt like 15 miles, met with apprehension. Exposure to the cold, stark glistening snow at sunset and the fears of not knowing what was next made us bond and trust, like no other activity had.

 
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Even negotiating the outhouse offers stories these kids will remember the rest of their lives.
 

We are lucky to live near the Sawtooth National Recreation Area’s 756,000 acres of wilderness that some of us may only enjoy 2 percent of in our lifetime.  We grow accustomed to our favorite hikes, know what trails will be friendly and open during our lunch hour and rarely take the time to seriously get out there.

The reason most people seek out yurt adventures is not the yurt itself but the landscape it is nestled upon.  By having secure and safe lodging, adventures, hikers, skiers, mountain bikers and the like can go further than their marched day hikes. 

For our overnight trip, we made spaghetti by melting snow for boiling water, brought in sauce and cheese, and made s’mores, of course.  Sleeping was cozy with the padded bunks and our lofty bags keeping us snug.  The stars and moon were understated compared to the Milky Way band and shooting stars too many to wish upon.   We also had target practice with our BB guns and got a glimpse of hawks, owls and moose. We even had a magical wolf sighting the morning of our descent back to school.  Yes, we woke up at 6 a.m. to hike and ski out to make it in time for school that day. 

This abbreviated adventure encouraged us and gave us the confidence to be spontaneous,    to feel like pioneer women and be a little more badass.  Next time, we may even go further than a mile and stay two nights--let the complaining begin!

There are multiple backcountry yurts to pick from, and a great way to start planning is to decide who is going and for how long.

Galena Lodge is a short distance from Ketchum and has four yurts to choose from at reasonable prices. All are accessible to the comforts and food of the main lodge.  Details and booking can be found at  https://www.galenalodge.com/yurt-rentals.html

For some, celebrating a special occasion with friends and family at a yurt may be the perfect way to see if huts are for you.  Sun Valley Guides offers custom chef dinner options for up to 10 guests that are beautifully crafted  https://svguides.com/boulder-yurt-dinner.  These are hosted in the Boulder Yurt which is a fairly easy 1.5-mile snowshoe or ski in, followed by a gourmet meal in the cozy warm yurt. The return is an easy hike or ski downhill under the moon and stars. Details for this hut can be found at  https://svtrek.com/boulder-winter

Yurts are a great destination for family bonding.  Most yurts can hold eight or more guests comfortably, have stocked kitchens, outhouses, games and wildlife viewing. A few offer saunas and even a hot tub!  https://svtrek.com/faq.

Meals can be provided by your outfitter in advance to make things even easier for newbies.   Renting sleeping bags and basic camping gear can be done cheaply and on the fly through any number of local outfitters in the valley. 

For the adventure-going couples or groups, yurts are an amazing way to get to some of the state’s premier backcountry skiing.  Pioneer Hut, Tornac and hut-to-hut ski trips are available through https://svguides.com/hut-trips.  Williams Peak Hut trips, booked through https://sawtoothguides.com/trips/#hut-trips, offer breathtaking options for overnighting in the Sawtooths and custom ski trips.

Booking tips:

  1. Book in advance—spending a night in a yurt is quite a popular thing to do here in the valley. Research what hut interests your needs.Most companies recommend a hut host for your first adventure.The host will guide your group and get your fire started!
  2. Pack slippers and booties for walking around inside.This will make your feet happy and stop snow from entering the common areas.
  3. Take headlamps, books and games for the downtime after outside exploration.
  4. Brace yourself for laughs if unaccustomed to midnight outhouse runs.

Highlights on Hut Trips:

  1. Doing the unexpected and learning as you go!
  2. Stargazing at its best.
  3. Wildlife viewing.Yurt-goers have seen wolves, coyotes, foxes, moose, eagles, turkeys and owls.
  4. Stories.Even after one-night trips the laughter and bonding will last a lifetime.
  5. Powder skiing!Escape the crowds and highway trekkers in your own private Idaho.

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