Closed.   The sign in the window of the Ace Hardware store said it all.  They were closed for the night.  That was our last option, our last chance to purchase a portable heater so I would not endure another torturous night of freezing to death.

We’d tried the other stores and come up empty.  Now there was nothing left to do except suck it up to endure another frosty night.  Or not.

It had all seemed so romantic when Bryon had presented the card with the reservations.  For a long time now, it has been our tradition for birthdays and anniversaries to give each other “an experience.”  We both had too much stuff, more than enough stuff that was quickly filling up our log home in Nederland.

Besides, I had read an interesting book years before — The Ten Commandments to Financial Happiness.  I forgot a lot of what was in the book other than this simple tenet — shared experiences with your friends and loved ones will bring greater happiness than material goods.  Having followed that philosophy for the last several years, I can say I wholeheartedly agree.  The memories of our experiences have stayed with me and reminded me of how much fun we genuinely have together.

So when Bryon gave me the card with a reservation for a 2-night stay at a yurt at Snow Mountain Ranch, it seemed romantic and unique.  When we arrived, it didn’t seem so bad.  The sun was out, and it felt almost warm as its rays sparkled off the snow as we unpacked.  Knowing there were electric outlets, we had brought a portable space heater with us to keep things toasty, but the yurt was so huge, it didn’t really make a noticeable difference.

I knew we were in trouble, when we came back from dinner and I could see my breath.  Still, we gamely spread our down sleeping bags and comforter on the queen-size mattress and snuggled up together.  To help  keep warm, I took a long steamy shower in the bath house nearby, which, thankfully was heated.  But as soon as I traipsed through the snow and frosty air, any bodily warmth I had gleaned quickly dissipated.

The next morning, the dogs were curled up as tight as could be on their dog beds, trying with all their might to keep warm.  As I glanced at their water bowls, I saw they had frozen solid.  I’d had a restless night curled into the fetal position wrapping the down around me like a caterpillar in a cocoon.

As I put on my long underwear and ski clothes to go skiing, I spied what looked like a journal on a shelf.  Inside, other guests who had been duped into spending $89 to spend the night in a what amounted to an outdoor freezer, had written about their experience.

“We were so cold after the first night, we drove all the way to Silverthorne to the Home Depot, purchasing three space heaters, which made the second night at least bearable.”

And so there we were in Fraser, Colorado desperately trying to find a hardware store that we could buy at least two more heaters so that we could survive the second night.  In hindsight, this was absurd.  We were going to plunk down another $40 so we could have the pleasure of a second night in sub-freezing temperatures in a canvas tent.

After we came up empty, and went back to the yurt at 10 p.m., I’d reached my breaking point.

“Bryon, I can’t do it!”

“What do you mean?”

“I can’t spend another night in this yurt.  I’m wet and cold from a day of skiing, and I just can’t stand another night of shivering in here.  I just want to go home.”

“Right now?  We paid for a second night.”

“I don’t care.  I’d rather drive home and at least sleep in a warm bed.”

So we grabbed the luggage, the sleeping bags, and the portable heater we brought, trudged up the hill to the parking lot, opened the hatch to the Subaru and threw it all in.  Finally, we gathered Simon and Shawnee’s food and dog beds.  As the dogs gleefully galloped through the snow to the car, they vaulted into the back in the blink of an eye.  I think they may have been even more grateful than we were.  We got home around midnight, as I thankfully walked into our warm and cozy home — I’d never felt more grateful for heat.

As we drove through the Fraser Valley the other weekend, I couldn’t help but chuckle about our crazy experience.  I’m sure during the summer and fall, a night or two in a yurt is a cozy and lovely experience.  But during the winter — not so much.