A few of you may have read about the cold night I spent in Queen Wilhelmena State Park last March. I have one rule when it comes to camping. I don’t camp in the winter. So how did I get from that firm stance to a yurtlet in Yellowstone National Park in February?
It started with Bill getting laid off. That wasn’t in our plan. Bill was going to work another year or two, partly for the money but mostly because he loved what he did and felt that he contributed to society by teaching math to teens. But tax revenues for public schools were down. The possibility of a layoff hung over us for several months. The day Bill got the word, he sent me an email, “Book that trip to cross country ski in Yellowstone.”
Cross country skiing in Yellowstone is one of those things that I always thought would be really cool. But it just never worked out. Bill’s time off never fell during the right time for a winter trip to Yellowstone. The park roads are closed during spring break to clear the snow and we like to share Christmases with our kids. We looked but it just didn’t happen.
Now, in the grand tradition of making lemonade from lemons, we began to plan our trip. We did some research and found a Road Scholar program that was reasonably priced, included some education on the area’s ecology and geology and promised to take us to areas that we might not be able to get to on our own. We signed up. Unfortunately no one else did. The program was cancelled.
Bill did some web searching and found a Yurt camp right in the park that is run by a small company, Yellowstone Expeditions. Heated dining yurt, heated sleeping yurtlets, heated outhouses. You see the problem here, don’t you? Bill kept telling me how gorgeous the stars would be while walking to the outhouse. I said, “No, I don’t do winter camping.”
A naturalist friend suggested the Yellowstone Institute. They have programs with great educational aspects, skiing, and snow shoeing and you get to stay in the lodges. Check out the videos on their web pages! I called to make a reservation. This time everyone had signed up. There were no openings!
We reviewed some other ideas. Vermont would be fun but not the experience we had been planning. A trip to Grand Teton National Park had a level of skiing that looked wimpy, even for us. We thought about just getting some lodging and going on our own but knew that we wouldn’t have the same experience as with local guides.
I went back and looked at the program with the Yurts. I looked at the pictures. Wow. How can you pass that up? After some back and forth emails involving comfort minded questions and a review of how our modest skills would fit with their program, we were signed up! Four nights in a heated yurtlet! Five days of skiing! Snow encrusted bison, trumpeter swans in thermal pools, stars in the pitch dark night, canyons, and sulfur springs! We’re going in February. So much for, “no winter camping”.
What about you? Has retirement freed you to do things that you dreamed of – or some you never dreamed of? Have you let go of some limitations to try something new?