The question most often – if not always – asked of me when people learn that I’ve chosen yurt life for a semester is “Why?”

My initial response is “Why not?” What makes one consider a dorm room so much more appealing than a yurt? There are some easy reasons why our yurts are more beneficial – ecologically friendly, sustainable, not to mention that they are allowing us a closer relationship with nature, giving us the ability to test ourselves, and exemplifying a lifestyle that will be healthier for both us and the environment.

But those are the quick, tangible answers, and why I chose to live in a yurt goes far beyond that, into reasons that I’m often unable to put into words quite the way I want. The warmth of the sun on my face and arms as I exert myself, building and creating my own home. The quietness of the night on the walk back, the brightness of the stars and far off galaxies.

The excitement and unnamable quality of listening to a lover of Mongolia explain the history of my new home and the possibilities for the future. The way my professor states the traditions of a yurt while staring up through the center of the universe, the very middle of my shared dwelling. The harmony that comes from coexisting with other creatures, human or not. The camaraderie of sharing this experience with other humans who are just as thrilled in their own ways for each new endeavor.

The color of early morning mountains, or otherworldliness of fog-covered lakes and trees. The power of my legs and body as I test and push them, extending my limits up mountains, over water, or as far into the wilderness as I please. The still, steadiness of the forest around a foot trail.

The serenading of loons, and plop of pinecones thrown by little monsters onto the roof, easily audible through the tiny separation between me and the land around me. The learning, expanding, fulfilling way of life that leaves one completely satisfied and still yearning for more adventure.

If one truly wants to know why I’ve chosen a path that is ‘tougher’ or ‘inconvenient’ or ‘impractical’, they need only wait for or seek out the morning when they wake surrounded by trees to the beginnings of an Adirondack sunrise.

‘A fine way to live’

Books go here. Clothes go here. Dishes go here. No, here. Ok, that looks a bit better. Make bed. Close tent (bug shelter). Sleep…

Wake up. Grab stove. Light fire. Boil water. Yawn.

I’ve finally started to settle into the yurt, permission was granted to move in and now it’s time to live in one spot. An integral part of my morning routine for the past three years has been making my coffee in the morning, once that begins I know I’m in a good place. The first few weeks of the semester were a little hectic for us yurters, but now all has fallen into place. Dom has his morning coffee.

All is still and quiet on the shores of Osgood Pond while I scoop grinds into the bottom of my French press. My roommates aren’t awake yet and the little kitchen area we built near the lakefront, in a tranquil stand of pines, is all mine. I pour my kettle into the press as steam curls up in plumes and the grounds bloom atop the hot liquid. Breathe in deep again. The bitter smells of coffee mix with the evergreen essence in the air and I smile.

This is a fine way to live.


As I look down upon my feet I see pine needles, balsam needles, and sand glued on by pine resin. It has created an all natural sole; no shoes are needed to stalk in the woods. A connection between the Earth and I is made. I can feel the differences in the ground cover types like moss, pine needles, water, grass, and sand.

It is much easier to sneak up on something if the ground cover you are stepping on is moist. The sound of your foot on the ground is silenced. When stalking an animal you want to be silent and move slowly and be careful not to snap too many twigs. When you are walking, walk heel to toe to transfer weight. If you are stalking an animal, don’t be afraid to stop. Try to keep the animal unaware of your presence.

Stalking can be useful in the game of capture the flag. The ability to sneak behind enemy lines unnoticed is a difficult task to accomplish. The object, of course, to steal the enemy’s flag and not have yours stolen. There are many different strategies that can be taken. For example, leaving a few people to guard the flag and having others run for the flag. We played this game, campus versus yurts, and the yurt team was in the woods while the campus team would run out in the open directly to the flag.

Practicing her nighttime stalking, Valerie was able to snap a quick picture of this pair of deer.

Practicing her nighttime stalking, Valerie was able to snap a quick picture of this pair of deer.

Walking back from campus Wednesday night I was fortunate enough to stalk two young deer. I could hear them walking in the woods and decided to check out what animal it was. After about ten minutes of quietly sneaking around trees, I spotted these two. Unfortunately, they didn’t hang out long. I was able to snap a quick picture.