Yurt Life: Unexpected Winter Glamping

Staying in a yurt is delightful. Jo and I got an almost ridiculous kick out of Rockstad’s River Inn and Yurt in Fort Ransom, North Dakota. (We may have actually squealed a little bit when we got the keys.)

It’s right on Main Street, but you don’t really need an address to find it. (Honestly, if you can’t find a 30-foot yurt with a wraparound deck in a town of 77 souls, then you should really consider traveling with a guide.) The property contains RV sites, a cottage and an inn, if yurt glamping isn’t your thing.

Inside the yurt in Fort Ransom North Dakota

About Fort Ransom

Fort Ransom is a tiny little town nestled along the banks of the Sheyenne River in the southeastern part of the state. It’s right next to Fort Ransom State Park, so it’s beautifully wooded and green and surprisingly hilly for North Dakota. Jo lived in Washington for a few years and the scenery reminded her of the Pacific Northwest — and not just because it poured ridiculous buckets of rain for the majority of our trip.

That was the first reason we were glad that we opted for a yurt instead of traditional camping. The second season is that the yurt was just plain fun.

This yurt can sleep a crowd.

Inside the yurt

This one was inspired by yurts the owner saw on a hunting trip to Mongolia, but it’s not exactly a traditional dwelling. It’s a bit more rustic than a standard hotel room, but I really don’t think you can say you’re roughing it in a place with handmade quilts, a bathtub and cable TV.

In summer you can open up the flaps over the windows (the outside is covered with a sort of tarp) and let the air move through the screens. But the rain and unseasonably cold temperatures during our trip meant that was not happening.

Instead, we dried out our clothes and boots (our plan to hike was muddy and short-lived), read a decade-old National Geographic on the night stand (still relevant, in case you were wondering) and made two cups of instant hot cocoa.

Hot cocoa and the book “Quarter Sections and Wide Horizons”

A local history night

Jo mentioned to the caretaker who lives next door I I had an interest in local history. She popped over with a few books she’d rescued from a sale at the local library. I assumed I’d look through them, jot down a few notes and then put them aside.

Wrong. “Quarter Sections and Wide Horizons” by Angela Boleyn was fascinating.

We actually read passages out loud to each other. It seemed strangely right to be cuddled up on an icy May night with the prairie wind whipping against the walls. We were grateful for the shelter, as we read stories about our foremothers who had survived worse with far less.

Reading stories about the region’s first female homesteaders was a lesson in grit and tenacity. There tales of ocean voyages, sod houses and fast moving prairie grass fires, dirges for the babies, farms and the husbands that didn’t make it and rejoicing for the ones that — against all odds — did.

Handmade quilts are extra cozy.

It’s so rare to hear about local history (or history in general) from a woman’s perspective. Two volumes of female narratives written by a female author seemed like a double win. It gave me a lot to think about as a cuddled up in a pile of quilts and drifted off to sleep.

We woke up the next morning, ready for better weather and fresh coffee on the yurt’s gracious deck.

Nope. We woke up to this.

Unexpected May snow in Fort Ransom

A development that might have made have made us cranky the day before was quickly put into perspective. Instead of complaining about the bizarre weather, just laughed and changed our plans to more indoor pursuits.

After all, we told ourselves, we can always come back. And even if we don’t, this will make a great story.

And it did. We’re still telling it today.

What about you?
Have you ever been surprised by unseasonable snowfall?
Have you ever stayed in a yurt? Would you? Why or why not?
Do you prefer camping, glamping or hotel rooms? Why?
What’s your favorite structure to stay in?
Which lesser known places do you recommend?
What’s your favorite State Park?
Which accounts of female history do you recommend?

Looking up at the yurt ceiling

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Alicia Underlee Nelson

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