Do you Groupon?
Groupon is one of those “Deal of the Day” websites featuring discounted gift certificates for restaurants or activities near you. I get an email every day, alerting me of today’s bargain. A few weeks ago, I purchased two nights in a yurt for half off, thinking that it would make a fun surprise get-away for my hard-working hubby. We decided to spend this past weekend at the yurt, and well…I might win the Good Wife Award.
Now that you know what a Groupon is, what is a YURT? It’s a funny name for a round, semi-permanent tent structure. Yurts have been used by nomadic tribes in Central Asia for three thousand years, but the practicality of the architecture has been recognized all over the world. Yurts in the U.S. became more common in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and since then, they’ve become popular at ski resorts and campgrounds. Many people build yurts as an alternative to a cabin or as a smaller, cost-effective home. And there happens to be one available for nightly rent, tucked into the hillsides not far from our home in Park City.
Blue Sky Adventures, based out of Wanship, Utah, is a guide service that will organize pretty much any outdoor activity you want, summer or winter: fly-fishing, mountain biking, trap shooting, horseback rides, snowshoeing, ski tours, dog-sledding. If there’s something fun to be done here in the mountains of Utah, these guys will help make it happen for you. But I didn’t know any of that when I snatched up two nights in the yurt. We weren’t sure what the amenities would be like, so we packed like we were camping. (We know how to pack for camping.)
We hopped on the highway and literally two exits later, we got back off- 10 minutes from home. We met Troy at the Blue Sky offices, and followed him through a gate and up a dirt road into the green, sunlit hills between Wanship and our house.
I spotted the yurt first, its roof poking up from behind a bluff in the distance. As we pulled up to our home for the next two nights, we both sighed a happy sigh. The setting is ideal. We were less than five miles down the dirt road, less than 15 miles from home- but it felt removed.
Troy showed us around the yurt, explaining the compost toilet and solar power system, pointing out the “outhouse” (which contained a port-a-potty), demonstrating how to open the windows. He and John chatted about different trails visible from the deck. He mentioned a small lake, just a bit further up the road, and then left us to it.
We soaked in the view, the rolling hills east of Park City with the larger, snow-topped mountains further in the distance- Clayton Peak, 9990, Scott’s Peak, Deer Valley. These are the same mountains we gaze at from home, but from a different angle. Glorious.
The interior of the yurt was large and comfortable, especially we opened a few of the windows for a cross breeze. There were two cozy-looking bunks, one with a queen-sized bed on the bottom. Two log-cabiny chairs and a big coffee table grounded the room, directly below the circular skylight all yurts have. There was a semi-stocked kitchen cupboard on one side of the room and a big, beautiful wood stove on the other. Cholula immediately located the tennis ball in the Chuck-it by the stove, commandeering it as her own. I’m pretty sure that from the moment we arrived, she decided this should be our new home.
We unpacked the truck, poured a drink, and explored our new digs. We decided on a happy hour stroll over the hill to the lake while we still had some daylight. Just before we left, we spied a couple of deer enjoying their own happy hour.
At the top of the hill, we passed a marker for one of the trails. Cholula spotted the lake and was in the water before we’d even started down the hill. We walked to the far end of the little lake to check out the view (and steal a kiss) before heading back to our temporary home to start dinner.
I lit candles and prepped some veggies on the coffee table, enjoying the view through the open double doors. John discovered a telescope in the yurt and examined the peaks in the distance before tackling the grill. We clinked our plastic cups of wine and munched on grilled halibut, veggies, and quinoa on the picnic table outside. Yum!
As the setting sun turned the clouds shades of pink and red, John started a fire in the massive fire pit. He played me some songs on his guitar as the sky grew dark. We ended the day by candle light, reading books and munching a caramel cookie bar from Whole Foods in bed. So far, the yurt adventure ROCKED.
With no agenda for Saturday, we slept in a little. The sky was big and blue and bright. We enjoyed a lazy morning- sipping coffee, finishing up dishes from dinner, spying on a hawk who was hunting for his breakfast. I prepped some veggies and herbs for a breakfast scramble on the picnic table, tossing toys for a very happy Cholula in the sunshine.
John worked some magic with some hashbrowns, bacon, and eggs full of veggie/herb goodness. He created a breakfast burrito, while I opted for a deconstructed plate of deliciousness. I wish every Saturday brunch could be this amazing!
We fought the desire to laze around with full bellies and headed off to explore. Following the trail map we found at the yurt, we drove on a four-wheel drive road to a trailhead at Left Fork. Cholula dipped right into Beaver Creek, and I paused frequently to enjoy the various wildflowers in full bloom along the trail.
It was actually mostly hot, exposed, and steep for the first half of the hike. We followed a sign toward the tavern- it wasn’t open, we knew, but we wanted to see it. We cooled off in a shaded pine tree zone before discovering a field of yellow flowers and a horse corral. I daydreamed about ranch life in the mountains and could see the yurt, far in the distance.
Soon, we reached a fenced meadow with a tiny, adorable cabin set back against the aspens- the tavern. The rocking chairs on the shaded porch beckoned us, and as we approached, we saw that the door was wide open. I fell in love with everything about the little cabin- the rustic wood, the rusty bell in the roof, the bar tables made from thick slices of tree, the wood stove tucked into the corner. Ranch daydreams continued.
After sittin’ for a spell on the front porch, we headed back the way we’d come. Cholula and I cooled our feet in the creek before we returned to the yurt.
We took a family nap during the hot part of the day, feeling the breeze blow over us through the yurt’s screened windows. When we woke up, I read for a bit while John prepped his fly-fishing gear. We took our happy hour up to the lake again.
(My sweet husband took that last photo because he secretly didn’t believe I could fit through the gate and wanted to have it on camera if I got stuck. I did not get stuck.)
I set out a towel, sipped wine, and read my book for a short time, but playing with Cholula by the water was more fun. John dragged one of the canoes down to the water and did a little fishing. Cholula alternated between playing with me, chasing dragonflies, and hunting the invisible bullfrog who teased her with his song.
We headed back to the yurt while the sun was still shining. John challenged me to a game of horseshoes before dinner, which I won (because he let me).
Our tummies were grumbling, so we got to work on dinner. Tonight’s feast: grilled cheeseburgers with spicy potatoes and arugula salad. We joked that we eat better on camping trips than many people do at HOME. We love camp food!
Saturday night was a bit chillier than Friday. We sat around the campfire for a while, John serenading me again until we retired to the comfy bed.
On Sunday, John and Cholula were gone when I woke up. I sat cross-legged on the picnic table, sipping coffee and soaking in the view until my family returned from their morning walk. John heated up some fabulous breakfast burritos and we got to work. It was time to go home.
Cholula pouted as soon as she realized we were packing up, that we’d be leaving this heavenly spot. I confess that I pouted a little, too. Though close enough to home to be considered a “stay-cation,” our little getaway to the yurt had been basically perfect. We’d spent a weekend laughing, playing, resting, exploring- we hit the re-set button, which is exactly what we’d hoped to do. I may have intended for the nights at the yurt to be a surprise for John, but I needed the time away just as much.
Dear Groupon: THANK YOU.
**For more of our wanderings, near and far, check out the TRAVEL BLISS page!**