- CJ Wolf
Castle Peak Yurt Winter Camping
I have three boys, Sebastian (15), Beckett (14) and Fletcher (11), and let’s just say they don’t enjoy the outdoors as much as I do but then again- I don’t think any kid these days does as they all seem addicted to their devices. That is not to say that my kids don’t enjoy sports as they love basketball, soccer, football and lacrosse but I haven’t won them over yet on snowmobiling and camping. So my strategy to get my boys to snowmobile to Castle’s Peak yurt and camp overnight – is to invite their good friends and allow peer pressure to do its job. I made a call to my buddy, Todd, whose son, Sean, is good friends with my middle son, Beckett (did you follow that?). Todd grew up in Wyoming so camping in the middle of winter at a yurt didn’t intimidate him and he convinced his son to go. Now with Sean on board, he asked their other buddy, Carson, and once he was a go, my boys would be a shoo-in (well at least two of them which is still a win).
I reserved the yurt for December 30th and we were in the middle of a cold spell so temps were predicted to be in the single digits but that wouldn’t deter this hardy bunch. We drove out to the Uintas past Kamas and then turned off at Upper Setting Road which is about 8 miles outside of Kamas. There were 6 of us with only two snowmobiles so we had to shuttle a few of the kids up to the yurt and then circle back to pick up Todd and Sean who volunteered to start hiking in. The access road to the yurt is about 4 miles and we passed the previous night’s guest coming down on foot and they said it took them several hours to hike in the day before so I was relieved that we had snowmobiles otherwise the boys would have killed me if I made them hike in.
The yurt is what you expected a yurt to be: it offers 4 bunk beds, a wood burning stove, a gas oven, plenty of pots/pan/utensils, a table, chairs and most importantly a portable potty. Oh and I almost forgot the best thing, the yurt has an adjacent sauna but we didn’t get it working. The yurt had plenty of wood but you are responsible for replacing what you use so we commissioned the boys to go chop some wood. I am confident that none of them have ever lifted an ax before in their life (at least my boys) so I was a little concerned that someone might but the ax through their tibia. But Carson and Sean took charge and marched out determined to take down a dead tree. Beckett and Fletcher followed in pursuit of a good time and after taking turns hacking at a tree- they got it to fall and carried it back to the yurt like real lumberjacks.
Beckett and I took the two sleds for what was supposed to be a “quick” spin around the neighborhood but the snow was deep and my snowmobiling skills were still very much at the novice level. The area around Castle’s yurt is pretty dense forest so inevitably I got stuck within a few hundred yards of the yurt. I told Beckett to stay on the track so he didn’t get stuck and since it was getting dark and starting to snow- we jumped on his sled and rode back safely to the yurt with the intention of getting my sled in the morning.
Despite stoking the fire regularly, the yurt only warmed up to a "toasty" 50 degrees. Todd and I whipped up some pasta for dinner while the boys actually engaged in non-electronic games. After dinner, Todd and I joined the kids in this silly card called exploding kittens which we proceeded to play for about 3 hours. This experience alone made the trip worthwhile.
As bedtime arrived, we stuffed the fireplace with more logs and attempted to fall asleep. I am not sure I ever entered a deep sleep the entire night and it felt more like a succession of mini catnaps. I have never dreaded getting up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night more than this night as you had to leave the yurt walk into the blistery cold night. At around 4 in the morning I was awoken by my teeth chattering as the fire started to flame out. I am sure it wasn’t much warmer than 30 degrees so again I had to get out of my comfy sleeping bag to restock the fire.
The next morning I trekked out to my snowmobile and after some heated digging, I was able to pop the sled out. As much as I wanted to take it for another spin, I knew that wasn’t the responsible move as I would probably get stuck again so I did the right thing and headed back to the yurt. The crew packed up and once we reconnected with civilization, we made a beeline to the Cutting Board in Kamas for a well-deserved lunch.
Despite the shivering night, I would be up for a return visit next winter just to play cards with my boys and their friends. As they say- priceless.