Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Happy New Yurts!

The Yurt. It is handicap accessible.
I've had many people ask about our experience camping in the Yurt at Muskegon State Park. We had a wonderful time and definitely recommend it. Below is some information on our stay and some things to consider if you are planning to visit the Yurt.

What I liked:
  1. It's nestled amongst the trails and trees of one of my favorite places, Muskegon State Park/Muskegon Luge and Sports Complex!
  2. There are miles of trail outside the door and Lake Michigan is, hmmmm, maybe 1/4 to 1/2 mile walk away. 
  3. It's simple. No electricity, no water, no bathroom, no kitchen. It's a glorified tent with bunk beds, a wood burning stove and a board game. 
Things to know if you go:
  1. Bring a lantern and flashlight or headlamps. While the woods were illuminated by the snowfall and light of the moon, it was dark inside the yurt. 
  2. Pack water, food, plates and utensils. There are two small burners atop the wood burning stove for a small frying pan or tea kettle. We kept things simple by bringing granola bars and bananas. We ordered Hobo's Pizza for dinner and went out for breakfast. The closest restaurant is 5 miles away, so if you plan to eat out, know you are in for a bit of a drive. 
  3. There are two sets of bunk beds. One bunk has a queen size base. There are several cots available for use as well. Bring sleeping bags and pillows.
  4. It takes awhile to get the wood stove cranking enough to heat up the yurt, but once you do it is a toasty retreat from the winter cold.
  5. While there isn't a bathroom, an outhouse is located 30 yards away. Or use a tree. 
  6. My son relieved himself on the picnic table at 2:30 AM so . . . bring a table cloth.
  7. You will not have a cell phone signal while in the park.
  8. You can reserve the Yurt a year in advance. It does fill up on weekends. If you think you want to go in 2015, make your reservations now

Our Yurtcation

2 PM  
The kids and I arrive at the Yurt with bedding and snacks. We are able to carry all of our supplies in one trip, trekking the 30 yards from car to Yurt. While the kids made the beds, I began building a fire in the wood stove. It didn't take long to get it going--as my son Bear said proudly, Mom! You sure can build a fire, for a girl! Proud and offended at his exclamation, I struggled with what to say to guide his forming views of gender roles but ultimately decided to let my actions do the talking.
The campground provides wood, tinder and a lighter. 

2:30 PM 
We depart to run some errands and attend Sage's indoor soccer game.

6:30 PM
Sage and I finally make it back to the Yurt. The fire is out but there are hot coals. It's dark and all I have is a light that I pulled off my bike. I'm not sure how how much battery life is left, but I set it up in the middle of the yurt and go to work rebuilding the fire.
Sage settles in her top bunk with a flashlight and book.

7:00 PM
The men arrive with Hobo's pizza and friends join us after their winter night hike. We find folding chairs stacked inside a little table. There's plenty of room for everyone. I put water on the stove for hot cocoa. The children take off for the sledding hill.

It is snowing but inside the yurt it sounds like it is raining.  I put Jiffy-Pop on the stove and it doesn't pop so we leave it there, thinking the stove is not hot enough yet.

The kids are sledding, the adults hang out around the lantern. Log bunk bed with queen base is pictured.
8:30 PM
Our friends depart and we jammie-it-up* before settling down for a rousing game of "Camping Out," a Michigan State Parks Board Game, provided by the campground. Chad has brought a lantern and it is a stellar replacement for the bike light.

The yurt smells like burnt popcorn. Chad has an "aha" moment, we were supposed to remove the packaging before placing the Jiffy-Pop on the stove. Good thing we have more! Our second attempt at making popcorn goes without a hitch and we all enjoy a buttery treat.

Playing "Camping Out"

9:30 PM
Mom and dad are tired which, by default, means so are the children.

Everyone goes outside and grabs a fistful of snow. We let it melt in our palms before swishing it around in our mouth and chewing on fresh mint I found growing a few yards from the Yurt. Just kidding, we brushed our teeth with chemical-laden toothpaste. After that we wandered outside to our individual trees for one last bathroom break.

10:00 PM
It is a tradition in our family to tell stories and legends. The kids asked for me to tell them their favorite stories of Scout and Blacky**. These are completely of my own invention which works out well for me as I can change them anyway I want to and it will always be correct, unlike my failed attempts to retell traditional camp stories.

We do a "Waltons Family"*** good night before lights out.

2:30 AM
A herd of elephants, otherwise known as my children, invade the Yurt. Everyone needs a drink of water. Bear, who has somehow lost his jammies and is completely naked, puts on his boots and stomps outside to relieve himself.

We put more wood in the stove. Our once sweltering abode is starting to get chilly.

4:30 AM
Two children need another cup of water and another bathroom break. It works out as it's time to feed the fire. I am surprised at how comfortable the kids are going outside to use the bathroom on their own.

8:00 AM
Everyone is up. There is almost 5" of fresh snow on the ground. We put on our snow gear and head outside for sledding. We hike the trails in search of exciting new sledding routes. The sun is rising over the sand dunes.

10:00 AM
I'm hungry and I didn't pack coffee. I tell everyone its time for breakfast. We see a Golden Eagle who is in the same frame of mind and is on the hunt for food.

We go to Mr. B's for pancakes and bottomless mugs of caffeine.

Back at the Yurt, the kids head out for more hiking and sledding while Chad and I clean up. Guests at the Yurt are asked to let the fire die down and sweep up. Everyone is sad to leave the Yurt but we are all happy and tired and thankful for our time together. We sign the Guest Log before locking the door behind us.

The End.

*The act of removing one's daytime clothing and replacing them with evening attire, otherwise known as pajamas.
**Scout is a boy of 6 or 7 years of age with no mom or dad. Blacky is his trusty dog, with a coat of fur darker than a moonless night and is as large as a bear. Scout rides on the back of Blacky just as a man rides a horse. Scout wears a cowhide hat, carries his prized red lasso across his chest and a knife in his back pocket. Scout and Blacky have many adventures that take place in the early 1800's on the prairie.
***Good night, John-Boy! Good night, Elizabeth. Good night, Mary Ellen. Good night, Jim Bob.

Hobo's Pizzeria and Mr. B's are Gluten Free friendly restaurants.