A Winter Retreat
Adventuring to the Big Water Winter Yurt in Millcreek Canyon.
It is only a few miles from our brick bungalow in the Sugar House neighborhood of Salt Lake City to the winter gate in Millcreek Canyon, but the trail into the forested Wasatch Mountains already feels far away. The gray December day has given way to showers and the parking area that’s usually well utilized is nearly empty. The temperature is several degrees above freezing, which means that snow turns to rain right above our heads. Fortunately, it has been snowing heavily for days so, despite the rain, the canyon is white and frozen.
We stay hunkered down in the car for a few minutes but when it becomes clear that the rain isn’t going to be stopping any time soon, we start putting on layers. I dress Parker, my 4-year-old, first. Thermal underwear, sweats, wool socks, snow pants and coat. Finally, I tuck him safely inside a sleeping bag, stuff him in his trailer and zip its rain cover closed.
My husband, Blair, and I load the polk (a sled that can be pulled behind skis) with sleeping bags, spare clothes, food and a stove. On top, we secure a tarp to keep our gear dry. The plan is for me to haul the polk and for Blair to pull the kid in the trailer (with skis). I’m on cross-country skis; he’s on a fat bike.
We’re both feeling a little uneasy about the weather and snow conditions — further along the trail we come into contact with the potential danger — but we are well prepared for the conditions and with a half-smile and a nod, we lock the truck and head out.
Ahead of us, the snow-covered road climbs 4.5 miles and more than 1,000 feet up Millcreek Canyon to the Big Water Yurt where we’ll be spending the night. The first mile or so is crowded with snowshoers, hikers, and kids on sleds, but beyond that, the flow of traffic slows to a trickle and finally to nothing.
Leaving the parking lot and the winter gate behind, we make good progress. To our relief, the snow is hard packed and the grade is mellow. In the trailer, Parker is snoring softly.
Once we reach the first steep climb, however, our momentum comes to a screeching halt. The snow is wet and sticky and thanks to the fact that it has been snowing for several days straight, the road hasn’t been groomed or packed down. Blair is having trouble pulling the trailer behind his bike, so I hook it onto the back of my polk and start carrying the entire HEAVY load. We move at a snail's pace.
In the trailer, the kiddo begins to stir. “Are we there yet mom?”
I let him know that we aren’t, and Blair gives him the option to keep going or to throw in the towel and head back to the car. Secretly, we’re both hoping that our child will give us an excuse to quit. He doesn’t, so we head on.