Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Arriving at the Y u r t s...(Colorado: Part Two)

Monday morning we woke up in our hotel room in Alamosa, Colorado. We had a two hour drive ahead of us before we reached Leadville, and finally, our Yurt.
We had been warned on the phone ahead of time that unless we had 4 wheel drive, it would be a long hike to the 2 Yurts hidden in Leadville back country. Petey has 4 wheel drive, so we headed confidently into the mountains, expecting to drive right up to our destination.

We spent a little time in Leadville, a historic city built in the mountains. Once an old mining town, it is full of museums, antique stores, and run down mine shafts.
The city is surrounded by the 14ers, and it's absolutely breath-taking. It feels like no tiny bit of world exists outside of what your eye can see.

Every store we went into proudly displayed tshirts, posters, and souvenirs naming each and every one of the 54 mountains in the area that you could summit. And at the top of every list was Elbert. I felt sick, knowing that in 3 days it would be me on that mountain.

Before we left town to spend 2 days in the middle of nowhere, we stopped at a few old mines. Still intact, 100 + years after they were first used.

The road to the Yurts was rocky, steep, and slow. With every minute that passed we stretched farther and farther away from anyone or any thing familiar. Our phones lost service, the woods grew thicker, and Petey dragged on.
And then about half an hour into our drive, he gave up. We backed up and tried pushing forward faster, but not even our 4 wheel drive was enough to climb the steep rocks that were marked "road." I wondered what kind of vehicle actually could make it up these mountains.

So we had to abandon Petey. We parked him in some trees and peed all around him in case some bears decided to come sniff out the food we had to leave behind. And as we packed 100 pounds of gear and started our long hike to the Yurts, it started to rain. Perfectly ironic.

One backpack on the front, one on the back, carrying almost 40 pounds of extra weight, I wasn't doing so well.
And then before I knew it, I was sick. Really sick. I told Michael to get the backpack off my stomach because I felt like I was going to pass out. Two seconds later I was gone. Laying on the ground and feeling cold mountain rain on my cheeks. All I wanted to do was poop. Seriously. It is all I could think about at that point. My dear husband was in charge of finding me the most soft, supple leaves possible, and I made like a bear and pooped in the woods.

Not even a week later, I was standing in the bathroom staring at 2 lines, and suddenly my moment of getting sick, passing out, and pooping in the woods made complete sense. Little did I know I was almost 4 weeks pregnant that day, backpacking to our Yurt in Leadville back country.

Finally the sun came out and the trees thinned. We knew we were almost above treeline, and almost to our Yurt. We stopped at an old abandoned cabin, and I may or may not have brought home a little piece of it.

We passed a reservoir along the way, that was home to 3 sweet lady cows. We named them all Bessie, and saw them quite a few times over the next 2 days that we stayed.

The last leg of the hike was the worst. It was the steepest part of our hike, and the air had thinned now that we were above treeline. I wanted nothing more than to be there. We didn't know what to expect, but I knew it was better than what I was feeling at that point.

And then we found our Yurt. With one map and directions on how to get there, we made it. And it was perfect. Two Yurts, one outhouse, and one wood shed.

Inside we found everything we needed. No running water, electricity, or phone service, but we had towels, firewood, pots and pans, a wood burning stove to keep us warm and cook on, and prayer flags hung from the ceiling.

Hello, Yurt.

I started cooking our soup while Hunter snoozed at my feet, tired from our long hike to the Yurt. I should have made him carry the backpack full of canned food.

Michael chopped extra wood and I explored and found some old bones. I wonder who they belonged to.

The Yurt was like a dream. Two full days away from everything. No tv, internet, phones, people, cars, or static. We were a 45 minute drive away from Leadville, with nothing around for miles. Perfect.

After dinner we headed back down to the watering hole to look around. Hunter went for a swim and we rested our tired bones.

It was so quiet. A kind of quiet I've never experienced before. One that echos so loud in your head that it's almost deafening.

There was a steep mountain up above our Yurt, so we decided to hike up it and see what was on the other side.

And there was Leadville. Reality sunk in that we were just that far away from the closest person. They couldn't even see us standing on top of that mountain if they squinted, and I wouldn't have had it any other way.

On one side we had Leadville, one big squint away. And on the other side below us, we had our Yurts. I felt like I was standing on top of the world.

And up there was something else. Miles away we were staring at the monster. Elbert towered in the distance, reminding me that I wasn't even close to being on top of the world. 2,300 feet higher than where we stood was the summit of that mountain. It was in the clouds, tipped with snow and intimidation.

We waited for the sunset, and stayed until it was so cold that we had to run back down to our Yurt to start a fire.

We turned on our lantern and made some hot tea on the stove while dinner was cooking: cornbread, beans, and rice. I think every moth in the Rocky Mountains was inside our Yurt, and we took turns smooshing them so I could sleep that night, without worrying about moths in my hair.

Finally it was dark, and it was the first night I got to run outside and completely disappear into one of my favorite things about Colorado: the stars.

We ate dinner outside. If it hadn't been 30 degrees, I could have slept out there under that sea of lights. The stark spine of the mountain against that night sky, I didn't want to be anywhere but there.

We went to bed early, because when morning came, it would be time to tackle Horeshoe Mountain. Tomorrow we would be hiking to it from the Yurt, and climbing to the top. One more full day of hiking to prepare us for Thursday. Elbert, here we come.

next: Part Three: Day two in the Yurt, and a day of hiking.


Trina Y. said...

wow, what a beautiful post! I could use some of that quiet!


Jacki said...

I never knew what a yurt was until I read your blog post. That is so fun! No pitching of tent anymore :)

Anonymous said...

Oh my. I could live in a Yurt (now that I know what one is! :)) How beautiful to be so far from anything, and yet have more than what you need. Your pictures, as always, are glorious. Thank you for giving me another place to add to my "must visit" list! :) :) :)

Snappy-Q said...

Aura, your pictures are stunning (as always), and this looks and sounds like such an awesome adventure! It reminds me of why I love the mountains so much. Looking forward to reading the rest of your adventure.

Amanda said...

What amazing pictures! I love the stars photos the best. Can you share you settings for those in particular? Can't wait to read more.

Kathleen said...

i love getting off the grid! there lots of yurt communities in northern california... how did you find these? how many people do they sleep?

Octohawk said...

God.. you're really making me miss my life in Colorado. I thought it would never leave me, and it really hasn't, but at the same time it feels so far away.

kati said...

beautiful, beautiful post. gorgeous landscape photos (love those cloud shadows!) and epic sentiment. you done good :)

Aura said...

Amanda- The longer you leave your shutter open (lower ISO speed) the more detail you will get in the stars. But you have to hold the camera really, really still for a good amount of time, so it works best on a tripod. A long open shutter can give you a bit of static/pixelation in some photos as well. If that's the case and you can't get a clear shot, you can use the Shadows/Highlights in Photoshop to lighten the dark areas and bring more stars out.

Kathleen- I was searching for some primitive cabins near Mt. Elbert when I came across these! We loved them. As soon as we got home we started researching how much a Yurt would be to buy :)
These slept 5, because they had bunk beds. It's a VERY cozy 5, though. They're pretty small on the inside.

a little black cloud in a dress said...

I love this!! I feel so much better know that I know what I yurt is. This has me all excited to go to Mt. Scott next weekend. It's no Mt Elbert.. but I can't wait, nonetheless.

a little black cloud in a dress said...

ps. I hope you could decipher all that. ha!

Heidi Luv said...


I love your blog, your life stories and your photos! I'm curious as to what type of camera you use?

- Heidi

Kristina said...

So - dreamy. All of this.

And I also died at those trunks. A bit too pricey for their condition though, just my luck. Ha! :)

siniann said...

wow, so great pictures again! How did you take the one with the stars? I have been trying to take pictures of moon and stars, but never get it right. I hope you are feeling fine now, after the first part of the pregnancy behind :)

Anonymous said...

That's amazing you can say you did all did this. Even more amazing that you can say you did it all while pregnant! Ha! Beat that!

Ashley said...

Colin and I leave for Colorado 3 weeks from Saturday and now I am EXTRA jazzed.

Every Little Thing said...

Beautiful! I would love to do that someday. When I lived in New Mexico, I experienced a sliver of what you've posted and it was absolutely beautiful. I would never trade my time in New Mexico for anything. The Southwest is unlike anything in the world.

angelarenai said...

LOVVVEEE the starry night pics. You have to tell me how you did that next time I see you.

Steph said...

AMAZING Aura! Thank you for sharing with us, this is exactly my idea of vacation.

julie said...

Oh! I will definitely go to the US and go hiking to Colorado! I love this place! Thanks for sharing!
The Alps are also great here in Europe! :)

Alivia said...

Beautiful, just...beautiful. I've never felt compelled to climb a mountain, and you've inspired me. Thank you for sharing :)

BlackPearl said...

You have the best images!! I just love your blog!!

LRC said...

What an INCREDIBLE post!

Unknown said...

Colorado is so awesome in so many ways. I'm so glad you guys had such a magical time out there. I'm totally jealous and completely happy for you. I need to go back to CO, stat!

Abigail Jasmine said...!!

Fancy said...

Not many people would blog about pooping in the woods. And that's why I love you! I have never heard of a yurt, sounds fun!!

Lesley said...

i've camped in leadville two times before... but never like that! we just stayed in a normal camp ground (with toilets and running water) but it was freeeezing in those tents at night. i loved it and would love to do it again... maybe in a yurt.

Brush Fire Fairytails said...

you are so amazingly inspiring! Really makes me want to climb a mountain :) or do something else amazing!

Unknown said...

such a beautiful post, thanks for sharing it with us. I have to share this with one of my bffs who is an avid hiker and camper, it inspired me to check out Colorado.

Sarah said...

Aura- This is a beautiful post and it really resonates with me! My husband and I did a four day trek on the Inca Trail in Peru this summer, culminating with our arrival at Machu Picchu. Every morning we would step out of our tents with breathtaking views of the Andes surrounding us, so excited about where the day would take us. I love the mountain quote you used-- so true! After reading this, I'm dying to visit Colorado!!
Your blog is beautiful and inspiring. Thanks for brightening my day!

Julie-Inspired said...

So amazing, Aura. Thanks for sharing these beautiful photos. Life is more remarkable when we take time and just really enjoy it.

Julie xo

Leah M. said...

Aura, how did you two get to take Hunter? The hubs and I had checked into these yurts previously (recommended by a member of our church that once lived in Leadville), and we were told no pets. :( We don't like to travel that long without our dogs so we didnt go. Do they allow them now?

Thanks friend! Lookin' beautiful.

Curly said...

Your blog, every single entry, which I always read, makes me just dream of pure happiness, of pure bliss. Thanks

Heather A. said...

What an amazing adventure! I am just in awe. Wow.

Shelley Orr said...

Absolutely amazing!

Aura said...

Thank you, every one! We had a wonderful time and can't wait to go back. My mom scolded me for saying I was going to take a 2 month old next Summer, so it might be awhile, but we've been dreaming of the Yurt ever since that week :)

Leah- Were you trying to go over the Winter? In the snowy months they don't allow dogs because they use the surrounding snow as the drinking water. But if you go over the Summer they do allow dogs! the website says no to them, but they're a very sweet couple, and if you call and talk to them I'm sure they'll allow pups.
Just make sure you're cleaning up after them and not leaving any poop behind.

Lil Muse Lily said...

WOW!!!! what beautiful pictures. love the starry sky.
looks like a wonderful trip.
you look great!!!

Monica said...

Gorgeous photos! I need to do a trip like this soon!
I've explored so many places in the world, but never managed to get out West.

Bethany Susan said...

yurt is a funny name! what a rad time. i want to do something like that. not pregnant, though, you are a tough cookie!!!!! the images are breathtaking! the last three of the night sky, the one of you two kissing on the rock, and the reservoir with the cows are faves.. :)

desert vintage said...

I love all your pics! Always makes me feel im there. You two will be beautiful parents! xo