We had two options for reaching the yurt: a) skiing on a closed and pretty much idiot-proof road or b) a short pleasant ski on a trail followed by a long bushwhack up a creek drainage. Needless to say, we chose the latter. Humans are incorrigible optimists, and thus, regardless of how many times in the past John had turned a pleasant stroll into a white-knuckle adventure, we trusted him when he wrote in an email just before we left:
"I'm not seeing a coffee shop in XXX ... how about let's meet at 1:00 PM at the bridge where XXX Highway crosses the XXX? This should get us to the yurt before dark with plenty of margin for error."
Flash forward, pictured here, to said margin of error circa 6:30 p.m. Friday (hint: we haven't arrived at the yurt yet):
I'm all for the time-honored tradition of finding a supreme and properly short pre-trail espresso, but maybe instead of worrying about that we should have spent a little time with the map.
But actually, if you're wondering why we seem so happy in the above photo, this is because it captured the best moment of the trip: the instant when we reached the path on the way to the yurt and thus finally knew for sure that we weren't going to spend the night in the woods walking 50 minutes per hour to prevent frostbite (says the guy who has already had frostbite). John was so happy that he shotgunned a beer before proceeding. Let's just say that we had a little more adventure than we bargained for.
The afternoon had started out with a beautiful ski. Though maybe, as shown by his expression here in the parking lot, John might have had a sense things would go awry from the outset.
After a mile or so of actually kicking and gliding it was time to leave the trail and switch from skis to snowshoes. No problem so far, especially after a WheatThinspause, to invent a German word.
As you can tell, J is accustomed to stopping for Wheat Thins in strange places. The slog went fine for a while, until it dawned on us that breaking track on snowshoes is hard work -- despite the relatively poor snow year, it was over a foot deep in most places and at some points up to J's waist -- and especially when some of us were carrying very heavy telemark skis. And especially when we were bushwhacking up steep hills full of crappy brush and small trees. When we turned off the trail, we were only about 3/4ths of a mile from our destination, but, after establishing a pace of about a half-hour per tenth of a mile, it was pretty clear we weren't going to make it in by nightfall. Of course, there are advantages to staying out on the trail too late ...
After a bit farther we made the decision to ditch our skis, which at least gave us the chance of sleeping before midnight. Look, J and I love winter hiking with headlamps and full packs carrying skis somewhat lost as much as anyone (it's hard with a GPS to be really lost, of course), but the low-point was definitely the scramble up one last steep, snow-free hill -- but at least here we learned that snowshoes are pretty effective on mud. Sometimes the best laid plans do down the drain(age) ... Finally, however, we reached the awesomeness (pictured the next morning).
And it's funny how steaks and quadruple ales in a yurt can make up for almost anything.
It's also funny that the yurt had a disco ball.
Dirty socks and smoky air always make for good photos.
The next morning, the men chivalrously set out to retrieve the skis. I mean, how manly is it when three guys stare at a GPS screen to make sure they don't get lost, and one guy points optimistically in the general direction to be taken?
Luckily the skis were no worse for the wear.
At this point, John could no longer take it, so he bailed back to his car via the flats, while Brian and I set out on the last bushwhack up to the yurt.
At this point, we had the option of a) another sleepless night, albeit in a gorgeous setting or b) an easy ski down the road, an espresso, a stop at a smoked trout shop, a warm restaurant, and what became, as predicted, no exaggeration, a 12-hour sleep at home. We chose b. The weather changed during the ski from snowstorm to too sunny for good photos.
It was unfortunate that Katie missed the moose in the woods, but the restaurant made up for that.