Yurt Trip: Badass or Glamping? Yes
I recently took both boys on a camping trip by myself. Kind of, at least. Since I discovered the adventure life I have always wanted to go camping in a yurt, mostly because they just sound so badass. The women that I have seen go on yurt trips will typically hike in a few miles, sometimes in the winter months, to get to the yurt and then be completely self-sufficient with a group of other strong and independent women. It seemed like the pinnacle of adventure to me. As it turns out, that was not my experience, and I could not be more grateful for that!
I decided to baby step my way into yurt-camping and do one in the spring with only two other mothers, and yes all of our kiddos. Since it was in an established campground in the desert, we were able to drive right up to the yurt and basically enjoy what I consider a ‘glamping’ experience. There were beds for everyone (one per family at least), there was heat and there were outlets for a coffee maker. While there was not a bathroom inside the yurt, there was an actual flushing toilet just across the parking lot. That might seem trivial, but if you have spent any amount of time camping with pit toilets you can understand the joy that brought me.
I was excited to get on the road and to be honest with the boys schedule, early driving works best for us (see: last week's article How:To-Car Trips With Kids) so we were up and out as soon as I could. That got us to the campsite as soon as check in was allowed and we were greeted with an empty parking lot and clean yurt. We unloaded the car, ate a snack and started exploring our surroundings. Sadly, the weather for the whole trip was less than ideal with a lot of clouds and a lot of rain. These dark clouds drove us in from our hike early, but we continued to play outside and just stay within striking distance of the yurt in case of a downpour.
I had forgotten the fire starters I had made up, but was incredibly proud of my ability to get a good fire started anyways. Thank you to all of the pyromaniacs on my dads side of the family and my long long history of bonfire living! I had been pretty nervous about the whole trip so all of our food was prepped and mostly just needed to be reheated. Jeff is our house chef, so we kept it simple with tacos in a bag, tuna sandwiches and ham and cheese crackers. They were all a hit! While I warmed up our tacos meat over the fire the boys found multiple anthills and I overheard RM explain every detail about the cactus, lizards and dirt all around. They managed to stay occupied enough that the fire was hardly interesting to them. Since we were now fully invested in the glamping lifestyle this weekend was sure to provide, along with the wind starting to pick up, we ate our tacos at the dinner table inside the yurt (is this even real life?!) That turned out to be a great decision since the downpour started about 5 minutes later. The fire was ruined, but with rain falling the rest of the night I was not all that upset about it.
Our early arrival granted us the freedom of about four hours solo before our first friend showed up. I was starting to get nervous at that point we might end up solo so I was thankful for the friendly face and playmate for the boys. Our third mama didn’t make it to us until all the kiddos were passed out. That night, in the safety of our well constructed yurt, we got the pleasure of hearing the absolute craziest storm I have ever heard. There was hail that sounded like every major league pitcher in the league slamming our yurt with fastballs; wind, rain, lightning and roaring thunder. Somehow through all of this only one kiddo woke up and none of them freaked out. No worries though, the moms were silently and furiously praying enough for everyone in that whole campsite. Without a doubt, a storm like that would have torn a ten to pieces.
The morning greeted us with cool temperatures and clear skies. While we are usually the first ones to find the most epic hike in the area, I decided to keep it simple and declared that our little unit would be taking a short hike to the visitors center so RM could check out if they had any new fun stuffed animals for him to con me into. Since kids work best in groups, I was thankful that everyone decided to join us. The trail map they gave us when we came into the park seemed helpful enough so we set off without much of a plan. The map was not helpful. Or sufficient in anything besides getting us more lost. We took what I imagine to be every wrong turn possible in getting to the Visitor Center, turning what should have been 1.5 miles (which was already a stretch for my boys) into a 2.5 mile exploration including hiking on the road for awhile (so so scenic). With less complaining than I would have imagined we finally arrived and took the time to relax and enjoy everything the Visitor Center had to offer including snack breaks and a better map.
When we had regrouped enough to want to start the trek back I was thankful to have a simple route to follow with only one turn to stay on the trail back to our yurt. The sun was shining and it was a completely perfect day. The kids pushed each other and splashed in every possible puddle, played games and had a blast. We saw incredible meadows and Grand Canyon level views and shared grown up conversation. It was soul filling and much needed. Then we got to an overlook only to discover we had been on the wrong path the entire time, and were at least 1-1.5 miles out from the yurts still. The wind had picked up, because that is what happens when you are at the edge of a canyon, especially at the monsoonal time of day we had creeped into. The most prudent thing we could do at this point was to keep pushing forward and encouraging the kids, and so that is what we did.
I was completely defeated in that moment. Thankfully another mama had a fitness watch on (mine has been on the fritz) and kept track of us in that way. We had already gone 5 miles. FIVE MILES. RM is four years old and had already joyfully hiked five stinking miles. I am completely convinced that if the wind had not picked up he would have never noticed how incredibly epic that hike had been and how far he had come. He slowly started to complain about his feet hurting (duh! Splashing in puddles like that and hiking that far was sure to mean blisters for the poor guy) but managed to keep hiking until about a half a mile from the yurts. While the kids and moms lost steam at the end, everyone did so well and I was reminded how resilient we can all be when we are forced to keep moving forward.
JR had been freeloading in that backpack carrier I had for the whole trip, but for the last half a mile or so I had to carry both boys. In those moments you have to dig deep and really get something to motivate you through the mental struggle. For reasons unknown to me, I went in my head to a family song that I have not thought about in at least ten years. It is completely inappropriate in all ways and so I mumble-sang it under my breath and just kept putting one foot in front of the other until we came around a corner to see the most glorious sight yet: our yurt! We all made it! The weather held out for us the whole time and we made a whole day of a hike and made some incredible memories along the way. Assuming the kids would be famished we immediately fed everyone and before finishing their food every single one of them was running around the yurt laughing, playing and chasing each other around like nothing had happened. The moms all convened outside to take a collective deep breath; envious of the never ending energy of a toddler.
The other mamas had to leave early that night and head back to the city, so I was left with the decision on whether I should stay, truly solo with the boys in the desert, or pack it up and head home to the comfort of our beds. We stayed, endured another huge stormy night, and soaked each other up as much as possible in those moments. The next morning we were again greeted with sunshine and blue skies. We cleaned up, packed the car and headed back to the Visitor Center (driving this time!). I promised the boys they could each pick out a new animal friend for how well they did the previous day, so we all picked out a prize. When we left that I was fully anticipating getting on the road to head home, but was reminded how close we were to another beautiful park full of hikes. I gave RM and JR the choice of either getting on the road or doing another hike where everyone would hike on their own two feet. To my surprise they both excitedly shouted for another hike.
That second hike was the first hike RM had ever done on his own feet, two years ago on a trip with my in-laws, so I thought it would be fitting to have JR make it his first solo hike too. They both hiked the whole way on their own, splashed in more puddles and made it to a stunning arch view that they could care less about, because there was dirt and puddles you see. That half a mile hike was exactly what my soul needed in that moment and I am so thankful for energizer-bunny boys that are always down for a new adventure. I am excited to see where their little legs take them next. Also, I am super proud of myself for taking a leap and doing that, because if nothing else, now I know that I can. That is a really good feeling.