Backcountry skiing in Pike National Forest...
In late April, Koren and I took a trip to west-central Colorado to do some backcountry skiing. Koren had reserved this yurt earlier in the season and we had asked a group of friends to join us. Fortunately, (no offence guys) everyone bailed and Koren and I were left with a nice cozy mountain yurt for ourselves. :) The drive took about 4 hours and was quite beautiful.; the highlight being a wetland in the forest which was home to a dozen or more beaver houses.
The trek to the yurt proved to be the crux of the weekend. We started out skiing a road, which was nice, but soon had to remove our skis due to lack of snow. We then proceeded to lose the trail. Undaunted by being lost and the lack of trail, we pulled out the GPS and took a bearing for the Yurt. We started our bushwhack across steep slopes filled with aspens. I don't recommend this in tele boots with two skis sticking out of the top of your 40lb pack.
Eventually, we came to a clearing in the forest which led to where we hoped we would regain the trail. Of course, this was also when the lightning started. Did I mention it was raining? Not wanting to wait around, we hiked quickly, and separately, around the rim of the opening. It was an intense five minutes. Once past the lightning danger, I took another GPS reading and noted that we still had over a mile to go. The maps however disagreed. We had found the trail and 10 minutes later, we found the yurt. As it turned out, the GPS coordinates we were given for the yurt were WRONG!! All was well though and we settled into a nice evening.
This was my first time to a yurt and I was impressed with the structure itself. Basically, a round, wood floor is installed with three 12' posts sticking up in the center of the room. Then a six-foot tall perimeter is built around the rim of the floor with wood and wire. (forming the walls) The next step involves connecting the top of the perimeter fence with the top of the three posts in the center of the room. (forming the ceiling) Lastly, a heavy canvas skin is added to a frame of wood wire, and a door is installed. I learned this from a binder left at the yurt, which documented the construction process. That was just the beginning of the amenities though. There were three propane lantern-lights in the yurt. We had a large wood-burning stove as well as a dual range propane grill. Wood for the first night was already cut for us and I got to cut a lot more with an axe and maul before the weekend was over. The beds were comfortable. There was a full table as well as two plastic lounge chairs. Generally speaking, if you had not had to melt your water and use an outhouse, you might have thought you were in town
... until you stepped outside.
Hidden Treasure Yurt lies on the northern flank of New York Mountain, nestled in a grove of pines just 500 feet below treeline. The skiing was excellent right off our front step and a sheltered opening in the trees allowed us to escape the wind when the upper mountain was blowing. Of course, we braved the wind to ski up to summit ridge and gain the southern view. This proved worthwhile as the views were truly magnificent.
Koren's experience was evident in the skiing arena. I found it next to impossible to ski the crusty snow above treeline. Ironically, that was where I felt most in my element. The wind was blowing snow across the slope and the ridge line itself was spectacularly corniced. We hiked up and spent some time on a rocky outcrop which protruded from the ridgeline before we skied back down to our sheltered spot and then to the yurt. I skied better on the lower slopes as long as I made alpine turns. Koren was now in her element and loving life as an accomplished telemark skier. It was fun to see her so happy.
Later that afternoon we packed up and headed back to the car. The ski down was nice and were able to ski all but a short section. A few deft driving maneuvers from Koren saw us through the snowdrifts and we were on our way home from a really wonderful weekend. Not wanting the weekend to end, we took our time, stopping to meet some horses on the side of the road. :) Good Stuff!