So this past week Butch mentioned that he had reserved one of the yurts at Afton State Park, which is located about 15 miles from our house in eastern Minnesota. This caught my attention because I have been looking for some activities to do with the boys during the winter. I was unable to find any useful information about the yurts on the DNR website other than:
- They were available to use in the winter for $55/night
- The yurt sleeps 7 and is heated by a woodstove
- Firewood was supplied
- You can't cook inside the yurt
Then Sunday morning Butch texts me that it is too cold to take the kids, and that he was cancelling his reservation. So, I just had to go investigate further, to see if these yurts were deep winter habitable by normal people.
|I stayed in Gray Fox|
|Fire that puppy up|
|Temp inside when I started the fire|
|Temp outside when I started the fire|
|The power of positive thinking decreases in a linear fashion as you move away from the equator.|
|Took a hike while the yurt warmed....or tried to warm.|
|I had Cake lyrics stuck in my head|
|The day before I made a Cassoulet, and I heated (outside!) it up over a double boiler using a Vargo alcohol stove.|
|Nighttime falls on the hall of the dirtbag king|
|Before I went to bed I managed to get the yurt up to about 35 degrees F|
While I worked pretty steady to keep the fire stoked, I was never able to get the temp in the yurt above 35F. Maybe if I was going to be here multiple days in milder weather I could get the temp up into the comfort range, but it seemed a struggle when it was this cold and I was the only person there.
I should also point out that the woodstove is about half the size of anything that I have ever seen or used. It was cute, but failed to heat the space. I was sort of surprised to see that they insulated the flue pipe almost as soon as it exited the stove, which usually is a significant source of heat exchange with wood stoves. I imagine that this has something to do with safety, but I was too cold to really care.
|This morning the temp in the yurt was about 10 F. Note the frozen water jug. I had to sleep with my camera batteries, and my work laptop was not happy when I started working on irrigation BMPs|
|Which was slightly better than the temp outside.|
|looks like there was some high water at some point this winter.|
|St. Croix heading north|
That being said, if you are well prepared and want a bit of adventure, these yurts are a ton of fun when the mercury falls below zero. Here are a few tips:
- Down booties or some other warm footwear. The yurts have no subfloor insulation.
- Liner gloves and mittens
- Bring a foam pad to kneel on while you stoke the fire. The wood that DNR provides is so dry and the firebox is so small you will be spending a lot of time down in front of it.
- Pee bottle: its a 80 yard walk to the vault toilet
- Have winter rated sleeping bag
- Make sure everyone has a head lamp, since there is no power or lights in the yurts. Gas lanterns are not allowed.
- You have to cook outside so focus on meals that just require boiling water and don't require you to stand out there tending it. Bring thermoses or some way to store hot water.
- You are gonna need a cooler to keep things from freezing.
- Bring your classic skis. the yurts are ski in and ski out.