by Meryl and Bryan Freyberg
Picture two Minnesota teachers with summers off, one in grad school in Santa Fe, and both with yurt dreams. Given that, my husband Bryan and I spent our summer in simplicity, living in an 18-foot yurt at a state park for seven beautiful weeks.
After dreaming of yurt life for about six years, we finally got our chance and took it. In the winter of 2007 we visited Porcupine Mountains State Park in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and stayed in their yurts, cross country skiing around the park and in to the yurt. We fell in love with the area and the yurts and set our sights on not only staying in them in the park, but someday owning our own and putting it on Lake Superior’s shores in the area.
Last fall we went for it and put an offer on property on the big lake, but when the offer wasn’t accepted, we kept dreaming of yurt life. I wouldn’t have guessed at the time that grad school would somehow allow us to live in a yurt, but it did. I was accepted to Bread Loaf School of English, a masters in English program that allows you to choose from four different campuses. We chose Santa Fe, New Mexico for this summer and when we looked into renting housing, the price for our six-week visit was much more than we could afford. We decided to take the leap, buy a yurt, and live in it at a state park while I went to school.
By taking a chance, we fell into the perfect situation. We arrived at Hyde State Park, about 10 miles outside of Santa Fe and had our yurt shipped to us the next day. With the flexibility of the park rangers, who soon became our fast friends, we got settled at a perfect campsite, and set to work erecting our 18-foot Laurel Nest Yurt. After a few days, we became campground hosts, Bryan doing volunteer work alongside the rangers at the park to earn our keep and our extended stay (normally at New Mexico State Parks campers can only stay three weeks, so we had planned to move to a National Forest campground). We both fell in love not only with Hyde Park and Santa Fe, but most definitely with yurt living.
Our daily lives were full of simplicity, tranquility, and a few crickets for company. Our two standard poodles soaked up yurt life and didn’t complain about the long hikes, lack of bugs, and mountain air. Taking the yurt down was hard for us to do, hesitant as we both were to be done with our big adventure. Returning to our small home felt bittersweet; seven weeks without electricity, running water or flush toilets, and the only thing I missed was my mattress. Our 900 square foot home feels huge, and maybe just a little superfluous, but the dogs are glad to be back in their grass.
As my adventures in grad school continue next summer, we’ll set off for a Vermont campus, so we’ll be looking for campground host positions in the area. Hopefully we can wait that long to put up the yurt, or maybe our neighbors will get used to looking at it in our yard.
-Meryl and Bryan Freyberg, Carlton, MN