Sunday, January 19, 2014

Never Summer Yurt Trip

Dave came to visit me in Colorado before both of our stressful seasons started.  His flight was accidentally out of Newark and then delayed two hours, but he eventually arrived at DIA around 11:30PM on Wednesday night.  We stopped on the way home for the staple that is missing in Dave's NYC life:  Taco Bell. 

The next morning we went skiing at Loveland and enjoyed some great powder, but some big winds and snow at the end of the day.





Best hot cocoa EVER!
Dave knit me this hat! 
 We skied together all day until about 3:30, then I sent Dave off to do his own adventure, but we went up one of the high lifts to start that process and I had a hard time getting down, so while Dave got in 4 more runs, I just had the one.  Oops.  Fun day. 

Looking south in Poudre leading to Big Thompson, wash out.
We spent the weekend visiting with friends (Ben and Alice) and getting ready for our yurt trip.  The yurt was difficult to find two days in a row at the same yurt, so we booked two nights at different yurts.  I got all of our food ready and Dave got the gear ready and we headed out Sunday morning.  We knew Poudre Canyon was open after all of the flooding, but should have looked into our shortcut before taking it.  We went up Big Thompson Canyon for a few miles then turned onto Buckhorn to hook us up to Poudre without having to go through Ft Collins.  Yeah, we had just about made it to Poudre and the road was closed!  Before then about four bridges had been washed out, but temporary solutions were in place.  Of course this is all remnants from the Colorado flood of September 2013 compounded by the previous year's High Park Fire.  Allow me to quote Wikipedia"This culminated in the major rain/flood event of September 2013 when, over the period of just a couple of days, the front range of Colorado received extremely heavy and persistent rain. Rain gages in Rist Canyon recorded over 15" of rain. Due to the extra preparation post High Park, the Rist Canyon Road remained relatively intact. While many of the new culvert structures overtopped (as designed), they did not plug or fail and the road remained. Neighboring roads that had not received the same preparation were destroyed. For example, the Buckhorn Canyon Road - used to access the High Park Ignition point - was destroyed. Helicopter flights after the flood showed that, in many places, all signs of the road were gone."  Yeah, that was our road.  No thanks to Google Maps (with traffic) for the warning.  We had to turn around, go all the way back, go through the city, and take Poudre from the mouth.  We had just been set back about 45 minutes.  We later passed our campsite from a previous trip only to find the fire had reached just across the river.  This fire happened the same summer as the Flagstaff fire near our house. 
High Park fire of 2012 evidence as we drove down the canyon on the way home.

Cameron Pass was much better on the way up than it was on the return trip!   Glad the subi made it!
We finally made it over the pass, which had a few white outs when the wind blew, and onto our turn off for 41 into the forest service area.  We parked at the Montgomery Yurt parking area, which was the yurt for night 2, thinking we wouldn't want to come back to the car in between.  The yurts are run by Never Summer Nordic if you want to give it a try.  We got changed into our ski gear and I put on my snowshoes, Dave put on his skis and skins, and we were on our way. 

We needed to cross a frozen creek and then hike along it to get to the path for the yurt, a total of about 1.2 miles.  It was pretty late in the day, the drive took several hours more than expected, and we had about an hour of daylight left.  The problem was, we couldn't seem to find the path once we crossed the creek, meaning the path might not have been used all winter, so it may have not really existed.  We kept sinking through the snow!  We'd go a few steps on top of the snow, then fall through.  Once through, I was in snow up to my belly button and had to lift my snow and snow-shoe covered foot up to my belly button onto the next step up, then I'd fall through again.  I had a heavy backpack on with 3 days of food and water and gear and the snow was not packed down, so the weight, my small snow shoes, and the snow conditions made it nearly impossible for me and Dave (who was in his powder telemark skis) to stay above the snow.  The worst part was when I would trip over the snow and fall forward and have to use my upper body strength with my ski poles to get myself back upright.  I felt like I was drowning!  The snow was too heavy to just plow through, so each step had to go back to the top of the snow before I would fall back down.  I panicked, I swore, but Dave stayed positive and we eventually got to a fence and then eventually spotted the blue diamonds indicating the path in the distance.  Honestly, if we would have gotten there 15 minutes later, it would have been too dark to see them and we might have missed it.  This is when I started cheering
Yay we found the path, I'm not going to die of exhaustion 80 miles from the nearest hospital !
and got really excited for the rest of the trip.  Once on the path, we only sank through a few inches at a time and Dave did a good job of keeping us on the path.  If he sunk through he would poke around until he found the path again.  We finally made it to Grass Creek Yurt.
A few inches on either side of this path is 3-4 feet of unpacked snow.  Dave did a good job of keeping us on the path.  As you can see, there's no visual indication where it is because it had snowed so much!  It was starting to get pretty dark and we still had about half a mile to go.

It's a sign!  A yurt sign!
The yurt was such a great sight and Dave started a fire in the wood burning stove while I turned on the propane and got a few extra pieces of wood and filled up the snow pot to melt for water.  It took us a few hours to get the temperature up, but we started around 20 and got up to 80 degrees, not bad!  After our unintentionally difficult hike, we were starving!  We made gluten free spaghetti noodles and poured piping hot home made chili over it.  We even made cheesy garlic bread over the wood burning stove.  A few days earlier we picked up a box of red wine and it went perfectly with the chili!  We played games, listened to the radio, and drifted off to sleep.  Eventually the fire goes out and the yurt drops temperature to about 40, which is about my limit, so I woke up and restarted the fire twice during the early morning hours.  In the morning we made oatmeal and coffee, cleaned up a bit, did dishes, and started our hike to the next yurt. 

The yurt has bunk beds, bottom was a full.  We set up the table and enjoyed our camping wine glasses from the Westy days.

Initially we had planned to take the path further away from the road, then hike over a ridge and then up the path to the Montgomery yurt.  Because of our previous night's experience, we figured bush wacking a 4 mile hike in 4 feet of unpacked snow might kill us both, so we simply hiked back to the car, except instead of going through the deep stuff (our path disappeared in the night), we walked over a frozen reservoir onto a road to get back to our car, picked up more water, then hiked on a packed path 3.5 miles up the mountain to the Montgomery Pass yurt. 



Leaving Grass Creek Yurt in the morning.  So beautiful!
Let's do this!
Gloomy, flurrying, but a beautiful view!


We decided to eat some lunch, so I thought I would make a chair in the snow drift on the side of the path.  Not so chair-like, I sunk all the way through!  Thankful for my snow skirt!
Looks like our turn off to go uphill!
One of the final of the really steep climbs to the yurt.  Almost there, baby steps, forget that your pack is bruising your hips!

Lower Montgomery Yurt!  We made it!
This is my "Yay, but I am numb" face.

Sweet view at the top!

Skins
Wood burning stove with melting snow in the pot and melting frozen water bottle on the side. 
We made kielbasa with red peppers and onions with chicken soup on the side.  I forgot to pack a sandwich roll for Dave.  Let's just say he didn't grow up eating ring bologna and the texture was not his favorite.  We played more games and Dave split tons of wood because the stock was mostly whole.  It was a pretty windy night, little did we know a snow storm was brewing outside, and we woke up cold and to several fresh inches of snow! 


 Dave was going to hike out a different way and see if he could get in some turns on the way down, so I left early.  Turns out the snow was too deep, so he turned around and took my path down anyway.  He was a ways behind me and I was a little worried when I got to the car and he wasn't there.  Apparently he had taken his skins off to ski down and this slowed him down quite a bit on the flat parts. 
No sign of Dave back there, but I'm enjoying the quiet.
 I found the car covered in half a foot of snow and the road under about the same.  Dave drove us out and over Cameron pass, which was totally sketchy and covered in snow, white out conditions in many areas.  We made it home safely and enjoyed some Southern Sun after much-deserved showers.  It was a great trip, wish he was here year-round! 




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