Yurt camping: Just don’t lock yourself out

If you get locked out of a yurt at 3:45 a.m. on a clear night in late October, curse quietly for a few minutes and then look up. You might see a shooting star, and a collection of constellations so crisply outlined they make you forget (momentarily) that it’s nose-numbingly cold and there are hours between you and the dawn.


I booked one of the yurts at Pammel State Park in Winterset as the location for my book club last Friday night, in an attempt to host a ladies’ getaway*. It didn’t quite work out as planned (most braved the 45 minute drive after dark, got lost, and had no plans to sleep over), but there was a campfire and s’mores with some of my favorite women. We were discussing An American Marriage by Tayari Jones.


Love camping but are in a family or friend unit with non-campers? Consider the yurt. It’s basically a cabin-in-the-round, with a heating and cooling unit, bunk beds, a table, couch and little kitchenette. It’s just missing running water inside, and a bathroom. Which is why, if you’re going to trek up to the bathroom in the middle of the night, you should definitely bring a key with you. Or you will have to weigh spending the rest of the night in your unheated van against waking up the very kind camp host at an ungodly hour to rescue you.

My friend Darci stuck out the overnight adventure with me and we did a little bit of hiking exploration in the morning, but I can’t wait to go back and spend more time exploring. Madison County is absolutely picturesque this time of year. The guys in the neighboring yurt were doing a kayak adventure, and if you’re into exploring river trails this is a good launching spot. I’d love to bring a canoe down.


Have you been to Pammel? Stayed in the yurt? I was hoping we could also swing by Pepperharrow Farm while we were in the area, since I never checked that off my summer bucket list. But we ran out of time. I’ll have to wait until one of their floral design classes next summer!


*These are women I’ve been close with for 5-10 years and it’s kind of mind-boggling that we’ve never done an overnight. This season of life with weddings and babies is bonkers busy, but I’m really feeling overdue for a girls trip. Singing along to the Now & Then soundtrack after a yurt sleepover was good for my soul.

Also, semi-related, my article for “ia” magazine about art in Eastern Iowa is out! I blogged about my time there in May.

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