Packs of coyotes howled just outside of the thin Yurt walls in the dark, moonless night. Wet aspen logs crackled in the wood-burning stove for hours and hours as we sat around, drinking beer and eating chili. And even though the temps only dropped further and further as the night went on, and the fire slowly died off, it was all worth it to experience desert yurt life, even if it was only for a weekend. But an epic weekend it was… even though I did crash my drone.
Since both Courtney and I’s season ski passes had blackout dates over the Presidents Weekend and since it was also Valentine’s day, we used it as an excuse to head down south to the desert. Normally, we’d just head down to our normal BLM spots to camp for the weekend, but temps looked pretty low and winter camping is always a bit rough with how it gets so dark so early. Plus, any excuse to try something new is an easy one to make. We settled on a yurt we found on AirBnB titled Awesome Yurt Retreat Southeastern Utah.
Yurt life is all about getting off the grid, while a lot of the conveniences that you just don’t get when camping. You still are out in the middle of nowhere, far away from civilization. You still have to chop would for a fire to keep you warm at night and in the mornings. You still only have the company of your friends to entertain you all night. But with a yurt, you get a room to stand up in, a real bed to sleep on, a place to cook and relax inside and out of the cold, and a wood burning stove that can sometimes last all night to keep you warm. It’s the type of place where after you spend a weekend living the simple life, you can’t help but dream about moving into something like that of your own.
Obviously, we didn’t drive all that way just to sit inside all weekend. On Saturday morning, we woke up, built a fire to stay warm while we ate breakfast, then hopped in the truck and drove down to Indian Creek to go hiking. I know, it’s sacrilegious to go to the creek and not climb, but neither of us are good enough crack climbers yet. So instead, we decided to try and hike to the base of the iconic North Six Shooter Peak. It’s one of two monolithic structures that stick out from the valley in the famous climbing destination. And after driving down one dirt road after the next, we finally got out of the truck and started to hike. Remote is probably the best way to describe that hike, with not a single soul around for miles, other than the many grazing cows back there. And after a few mile hike in, we reached the base of the scramble.
As we started our way up, the route finding and scrambling turned out to be more difficult than expected, especially since we had a dog with us. So we made the right decision and headed back down and decided to hike around the area instead. Before we headed off, I wanted to fly the drone around to capture this incredible landscape of orange towers jutting into the sky. What I didn’t know, was that this was going to be my last time flying this drone.
I launched it and flew it around for a few normal shots. One of South Six Shooter Peak, one of North Six Shooter Peak, etc. Then I was trying to do a reveal shot by flying from the South Peak, backwards, to the North Peak in Sport mode (+30mph). Well, when it’s in sport mode, the obstacle avoidance sensors turn off. Not a big deal when you’re in a wide open space, which I thought I was. Well, as it turns out, even though my drone was hundreds of feet up, the big rock structure behind me was even taller. And as the drone disappeared behind me I heard a crashing sound, and then my screen went black. Yup, I crashed my drone. Luckily, I was able to use the “Find my Drone” feature in the DJI app and scramble my way up to it’s last reported location. Needless to say, that drone had seen much better days and won’t be flying ever again, which is super sad. But it was a stupid mistake on my end and luckily I was able to recover it.
With the weekend low point behind us, we headed back to the yurt to enjoy a long evening around the fire, cook up some soup and chili, drink some beer and champagne, and just relax all night as we played cards. Being able to do these things, without being bundled up from top to bottom, is just something you can’t do when camping in the middle of February, which made us appreciate the yurt even more. Though, I will say, I think the Yurt may have been a little too big for just two people (or the wood stove was too small to heat the entire place). The diameter of the yurt was something like 30 feet across and like 15 feet tall. It really did resemble a circus tent.
All in all, an epic weekend, even though we had to drive through a foot of snow to reach the yurt from the main road since Monticello sits at a much higher elevation than Moab. But luckily, the new tires on the truck proved their worth and allowed us to have an epic yurt trip. I can’t wait for the next one!
My name is Zachary Kenney and I’m an adventure filmmaker & photographer. My passion is to tell stories that will hopefully motivate you to go live a more adventurous life. Whether that is to experience the view from the summit of a mountain, or wandering through a new town on a road trip. Currently based out of Park City, UT.