CAMPING, OR LUXURY ACCOMMODATIONS? Outside the yurt.
Safe to say, we weren't exactly roughing it. The yurt might have been in the middle of a the Western Maine woods, surrounded on all sides by two feet of snow, but we ate like queens, slept in tank tops, and were able to update our Facebook statuses between fire-roasted hot dogs. Still, the two days I spent at the Frost Mountain Yurts with six other women were decidedly more reminiscent of Little House on the Prairie than my daily life in Portland.
Not many people know what a yurt is. In fact, several of us who made the journey were unsure exactly what we were in for until we arrived in Brownfield on Thursday afternoon. What we found, once we trekked down the snowy path leading to our accommodations, was a circular structure with a raised wooden floor and latticed walls, covered on the top and sides by heavy-duty canvas. In shape and general function, the yurts are similar to the flexible, portable homes of Central Asian nomads. (The word "yurt" is derived from the Turkic word for "dwelling place.")
But that's about where the similarities end. The yurts at Frost Mountain, billed as "a backcountry lodging adventure," have many amenities of home. A wood stove sits against one wall, and three bunk beds line another side; although they lack running water or electricity, the yurts are equipped with a mini-kitchenette, complete with cookware, a fondue maker, a French-press coffee pot, and three gas burners. In the center of the ceiling, a clear, vinyl dome provides a view of the starry skies (and, when you're with a bunch of Lost fans, quickly becomes dubbed "the hatch"). And beyond the walls of home sweet home lie a porch, a fire pit, an "outhouse" (porta-potty), and trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Regardless of whether this all strikes you as hardcore outdoorsy, or merely fancy camping, the yurt vacation is bound to be a bonding experience. After all, when a group of people sleeps, eats, and plays games in a 16-by-16-foot space, everyone is bound to get to know each other better. And when seven 20-something women comprise that group, the likelihood of bonding increases exponentially. (As one of our co-workers wistfully said of his wife's girl-only retreats: "She never comes back the same.")
Indeed, though we all started with different levels of familiarity (and I probably knew everyone least), nothing brings people together like braving the cold, breaking trail up a 1200-foot mountain in two feet of snow, cooking family-style meals, drinking copious amounts of beer around a fire, and the "fucking terrifying" (and probably unrealistic) prospect of avalanches. Amid such camaraderie, fortified by delicious, home-cooked food and interesting conversation, no one really even cared that we had cell-phone service.
For more information about Frost Mountain Yurts, including rates and availability (yurts are going fast), visit frostmountainyurts.com .