Humans like variety. Our food, our vehicles and our structures reflect that trait. That is why there is a yurt in Hope Valley. Look to your left as you go by Pickett's Junction, where highways 89 and 88 intersect and you'll see it about 100 yards south of the intersection.
A yurt is the basic shelter of the nomadic peoples of Mongolia and Siberia where they are fashioned, even today, from animal skins and a lattice framework bound together with leather thongs. These traditional yurts are, of necessity, portable yet warm enough to provide comfortable living space in those severe climates. They are cylindrical in shape of varying diameters with a conical roof and a small dome at the center. The one you'll see in Hope Valley differs from traditional yurts in that it is made from weather resistant materials and offers a very strong yet semi-traditional framework.
Why choose a yurt? Joyce Coker, longtime resident, who owns and operates Hope Valley Outdoors, chose a yurt for her business because they are "portable, unique and different."
The eye-catching design is immediately apparent and invites closer inspection so turn into the parking lot on the south side of the highway, climb the stairs and step inside.
Immediately one notices the amount of space and light. Tall walls with three large windows, a large lexan dome at the apex of the roof as well as a storm door provide all the light necessary. This particular yurt exceeds Alpine County code for snow load in this area and will support 250 pounds per square foot. It came through the big storm of early January with barely a shudder and more than 2 feet of snow on the roof. Much like a metal roof, snow tends to slide off quickly, so seasonal buildup does not appear to be a problem. On a recent stormy day with strong gusty winds, there wasn't so much as a ripple in the walls or roof and the tongue and groove flooring didn't transmit any vibration.
Sunny days warm the area with passive solar heating and plans are to have a small stove for evenings and cloudy day backup. A photo-voltaic panel is ready to be installed on the south side to provide lighting and charge auxiliary batteries. This low impact essentially green design is versatile and adaptable to a wide variety of needs. Google yurts and you'll find them at resorts, parks, in backyards, as second homes and as primary homes.
Joyce operates Hope Valley Outdoors as a full-service Nordic ski and snowshoe center providing rentals, groomed trails, lessons and guided tours.
You'll find Brandon Mayo, Miyshael "Misha" Gailson or Joyce at the yurt. Joyce has a U.S. Forest Service outfitters guide permit and will take you on a moonlight ski or into the numerous aspen groves to view Basque carvings. Brandon is both an experienced Nordic and Alpine skier who occasionally winter camps on higher peaks for fun. Misha, a former Nordic ski racer of the "classic" or kick and glide style, adapted to skate style racing, is training for a 42km event. Vince Robertson, an experienced skier, hiker and mountain biker rounds out the crew. Lessons are available at Hope Valley Outdoors and Joyce also teaches beginning and intermediate cross-country skiing at Lake Tahoe Community College.
A recent Friday at Hope Valley Outdoors found disabled youngsters from Douglas County schools enjoying a day of snow play on sleds, snow shoes and skis followed by a bonfire. Super Bowl Sunday will feature the Women's Winter Tour, one of a series of events that celebrates women, winter and chocolate and features a day long schedule of fun activities and fundraisers to help end domestic violence.
Whatever your level, you'll get good advice here and have a variety of trails to choose from. Step out the door and there are miles of choices. The first 3.5 miles of the Burnside Road are groomed as are two tracks around the meadow; one wide enough for skating. The upper slopes of Hawkins Peak beckon as do the spacious flats and rollers of the local meadows.
Yurts in the backcountry could serve as shelters for ski groups much like those that exist in other parts of the Sierra and in the Colorado Rockies. They could be used in the summer as nature learning centers by educational and environmental groups. This could be one way to bridge the extreme disconnect between nature and young people so evident today.
In a curious administrative overlap, the U.S. Forest Service provides the permit for the ski operation while Alpine County permitted the yurt. This is because the county maintains Burnside Lake Road (the yurt is right in the middle of the road and will be removed in the spring) while the grooming is done on forest service land.
Additional information can be found at hopevalleyoutdoors.com. Open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
n Jim Donald is a Markleeville resident.