Friday, March 20, 2009

Yurt Heaven

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I can now say we’ve been yurt camping.

(This post is part of Photo Friday at www.deliciousbaby.com.)

I don’t know what we’d done in a past life to deserve such fine treatment from the weather gods, but I’m not asking any questions, because we had two days of blue skies followed by one of partly cloudy in March…on the Oregon Coast. I think we had a grand total of five minutes of rain the entire trip.

It was a St. Patrick’s Day miracle (which are more prevalent than Christmas miracles, due to all the drinking). But I digress…

We left home at a leisurely 9:30 am on Tuesday morning. I appreciate the fact that anyone who knows me well is gaping in shock at that sentence, because I don’t do anything leisurely, but you know what? It was a nice way to begin a mini-vacation. I’ll have to try it again sometime. *laughs uproariously*

We arrived at Sunset Bay by around two, because we stopped for lunch in Coquille, which boasts a real A&W drive-up, and the kids spent at least fifteen extra minutes deciding how to spend four quarters in the juke box. The final decision? All Elvis. I will never understand these children.

The state park was very pretty, and even though the campsites were close together, thanks to the lush vegetation in this part of the state, our space felt fairly private.

Here’s the inside of our yurt. I remembered to take this after only the first load of stuff was deposited inside, so it’s still possible to get an idea of what it looked like upon our arrival:

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You know how I had said the park was fully booked? It turns out it only appeared that way in the online reservation system because they had closed two full loops of campsites for the winter season. This was a huge plus for us, because we could send the kids in the direction of vacant C Loop to hoop and holler and generally run amuck without disturbing anyone. At least, that’s how we justified sitting by the fireside sipping warm beverages out of range of their particular brand of insanity. Don’t rain on our parade: I’m sure they were safe...enough.

Because see, we had a rule in place. On the drive there, Charlie had told the kids that we would have lots of fun, but had to stay safe.

“How safe?” one of them asked.

Charlie thought for a moment, and, Safety Nazi he tends to be, his answer surprised me: “90% safe.”

So the boys main goal immediately became making certain they got their 10% of reckless and unsafe acts in each day before they expired.

“Is this safe?” they’d ask for instance, jumping over a creek on their scooters.

“About 5% unsafe,” he’d answer. Then they’d deliberate whether to do it twice, or just once, and try to find another 5% unsafe activity.

Trying to leap over the campfire was deemed 80% unsafe and banned, even though Toby did argue a good case for his ability to clear the distance. Leaning waaaaay over the railing at the cliff-side observation center? 46% unsafe. Not gonna happen. Wading into the freezing surf to get to the tide pools? Precisely 10% unsafe and reportedly worth it.

Oh yes, they went in the water. The frigid Pacific in March.

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They’re crazy. Just for perspective‘s sake, the kids playing on the beach next to us were all wearing down jackets. Mine were swimming. They weren’t about to turn down sweatshirts and towels afterward though. Here’s Toby, bundled and content. Of course, that towel wouldn’t fully dry until we got back home, but that’s obviously not his concern:

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We survived the first night ok. I say survived, because anyone with small kids knows that the first night away on a vacation can have its difficulties as children get used to new routines, new bedtimes, and well, new beds. Toby woke up several times bellowing his head off, and twice someone or another had to go to the bathroom. The first time, I took him, and the second time, I delegated, which is to say I kicked Charlie until he got up. The next morning, I commented on what a pain it was to find the shoes and flashlights necessary to navigate the path to the restrooms in the middle of the night, to which he responded, “Huh? I just plunked him outside so he could go in the bushes.”

Oh.

I can honestly say that option didn’t occur to me.

Wednesday morning: more blue skies. We had a contingency plan in case of rain, but since it was clear, they were all at the mercy of the four-mile hike I wanted to take along the Oregon Coast Trail. I have pictures, but most of them are of the boys’ backs as they raced ahead of us, or of them trudging along behind, acting as though they don’t run this distance every day of their lives during recess alone. We walked to Shore Acres, the site of one of the largest mansions in Oregon before it crumbled into disrepair, and ate a picnic lunch in the gardens that are still kept up. (I’d like to take this opportunity to pat myself on the back: as far as food was concerned, I didn’t over-pack or under-pack. Every menu from breakfast to dinner was just right, which meant we never had to stop playing to drive to the Coos Bay grocery store for supplies. *tosses hair like Goldilocks*)

The boys regained all sorts of energy during lunch, squishing the wax from their little wheels of cheese (we always buy Babybel for hikes, because it doesn’t melt) into balls to pelt at each other. On the hike back, we took a different route (read between the lines: had a slight marital disagreement) and ended up on a closed trail that ended abruptly when it literally dropped off the cliff into the ocean.

Safety rating: 99.99% unsafe.

So we cut cross-country, Charlie’s favorite way to hike. The boys loved it. I kept reminding everyone of the well-groomed trail that had worked so well for us on the way there, but naturally, that fell on deaf ears, since everyone was having a blast climbing over uprooted trees and finding patches of muddy swamp. Ok, I admit, it was fun.

We made it back to Sunset Bay in time for more beach swimming (or beach-lying-about-and-reading, in my case), and beach combing. This is what I call my artsy shot:

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Charlie will no doubt cry foul, accusing me of taking a photo of his backside, but I like the sight of him holding Toby’s squishy little hand, so it makes the blog. If he doesn’t like it, he can get his own blog and find photos of me to…actually, bad idea. No blog wars.

Anyway, the older boys had Yurt School when we got back from the beach, since they both missed three days of class:

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Then we stayed up late to roast marshmallows, which of course is a reason to go camping in and of itself. The secret to s’more success: dark chocolate. An especially good option if you’re the only family member who likes dark chocolate. I made Charlie take one photo, so the kids would have something besides the four-mile hike to remember my presence on the trip by:

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The next morning, they were all a bit slow to get going:

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It was starting to sprinkle, but that was ok. We let them explore C Loop again while we packed up, and I later retrieved them from high up a dense hillside, debating what animal had left a set of tracks they found. It was between a cougar and a raccoon, which you’d think would be hard to confuse. (As a side note: raccoons did get into our stuff at night, deciding to do the most damage to a Slinky and a Nerf football. Playful creatures, no?) On the way home, we stopped to watch harbor seals and sea lions lounging on an outcropping of rock as though they were on a Mediterranean cruise instead of in a northern drizzle, then went the long way back to Medford, not quite ready to re-engage with the real world. If it hadn’t been for a Gonzaga game Charlie was panicked to miss, we might still be gone.

Moral of the story, kids? If, like us (and the seals), you can't go to the Mediterranean, go yurt camping. (In sunny weather, of course.) Bear in mind that our usual method of camping is hardcore backpacking, so even running water is a big thrill for us, but having an actual structure was so much nicer than a tent. And they’re cute. And have windows and lights and 90% safe bunkbeds (Toby only fell out once). Need I say more?

Apparently, there are deluxe yurts at Umpqua State Park, further north, with actual bathrooms and kitchens and advanced technology like fridges and showers, but I hear getting a reservation in summer is harder than booking lunch in Cinderella’s castle at Disneyworld (ie, impossible), but I plan to get online and try.

Once I get everything unpacked.
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