As the rain starts to fall across Oregon many campers are packing up their tents for the year. But that doesn't mean that the camping season is over. Instead of spending a wet night on the ground in a nylon tent, campers should consider staying in one of the Oregon State Parks' yurts.
What's a yurt? Think of it as a luxury tent. These wooden framed structures are dome shaped, measuring 16 feet in diameter. They feature sparkling clean wood floors, a locking door and a skylight. The standard versions sleep five people with a bunk bed and pullout futon. The mattresses are the real deal, at least by comparison to the alternative.
In addition to comfy sleep quarters, the yurts offer coffee tables and work desks, lighting, heat and some sites even have wireless internet.
Deluxe yurts sleep seven and come with a showers, TV, VCR, fridge and microwave.
All yurts feature a sheltered porch and fire pit.
It's not exactly roughing it. But after spending a recent weekend in an empty campsite in the Umatilla Forest, shivering in my bag and listening to the coyotes getting closer, the yurt was an easy sell.
My first yurt experience took place at Valley of the Rogue state park last weekend, a busy campground just south of Grants Pass on I-5, about 2 1/2 hours from Springfield.
The campground included showers, vending machines and a fleet of giant RVs. But wilderness was just across the manicured yard from the sites. Rowdy Chinook salmon were tearing up the river bottom in their yearly spawning ritual. And just below them, feeding on the stirred up nymphs and eggs were hungry steelhead.
The campground made a great jumping off point for exploring the Applegate Trail, a winery-studded drive through southern Oregon's rolling farmland. It’s also a good base camp for the Rogue River scenic byway to Crater Lake.
The majority of Oregon State Parks' yurts are located on the coast. There are 190 in all across the state. That may sound like a lot of yurts, but it's really not enough to keep up with the demand. These weird little huts book up faster than you could imagine.
Part of the draw for these facilities is the cost. During the off season (October 1 through April 30), the standard yurt books for around $27 per night and the deluxe yurts book for $45 ($65 for regular season). Compare that to the $100 you'll spend at nearly any motel.
Also, there is an indirect savings on gear. If you want to spend a winter evening on the Oregon coast, but don't own a small fortune in high tech, magazine-endorsed equipment, the yurt is a great option.
In addition to yurts, the state parks offer rustic cabins. Eastern Oregon parks feature teepees and covered wagons.
To reserve a yurt, call Reservations Northwest at 1-800-452-5687 or visit www.oregonstateparks.org.