By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter
For some of us,
getting back to nature means sleeping cradled in the earth’s embrace, on the
bare ground beneath a starry sky. Others find Mother Earth’s bosom a trifle
uncushioned for comfort and are perfectly happy staying in a nice hotel, with
the window cracked.
If you fit
somewhere in the middle of the creature-comfort spectrum, Cloudland Canyon
State Park has the perfect compromise for you: Yurts.
“This is deluxe
roughing it here,” said Ranger Bobby Wilson, Cloudland Canyon’s park manager,
as construction workers put finishing touches on the 10-unit Yurt Village the
park adds to its accommodation lineup as of Dec. 1. “This is more for folks who
don’t have the equipment to camp, but they want to get out in the woods.”
Canyon State Park, a popular destination for outdoor tourists with its towering
waterfalls, 1,000-foot canyon and extensive hiking trails, has for decades
offered overnight cabins as well as campground accommodations.
The park’s 17
cabins stay pretty solidly booked – reservations are accepted 13 months in
advance, and for peak times Wilson says calling that early is not a bad idea –
and the Georgia Park Service had long had plans to expand overnight use by
adding another recreational vehicle campsite, said Wilson.
“But in looking
at our occupancy rates, we realized we didn’t need another campsite,” said the
ranger. “So when the funding came up for the new campground, we made the
recommendation to put the yurts in instead. We’d seen how successful they were
in other parks and we thought they’d be a good fit here.”
What is a yurt?
“It’s basically a permanent tent, or a canvas cabin,” said Wilson.
Historically, the odd, round little homes were used for centuries by nomads in
the steppes of Central Asia. These wanderers carried the support beams and
fabric walls around on their yaks or camels and reassembled them from place to
Canyon, the yurts are less mobile. Situated privately far apart in a wooded
area near the canyon’s western rim, they are wood-framed structures with canvas
walls, each with its own open-air living area out front – lamppost, fire pit,
fixed picnic table – and railed wooden deck behind.
But the park’s
yurts are built on the same ancient plan as the Mongolian originals – wooden
supports bend from the top of the circular walls to meet in a compression ring
up top, creating the characteristic domed roof. The rounded shape offers
heating efficiency and is resistant to heavy snow, strong winds, even earthquakes.
proponents find the circular walls and dome roof nurturing. “Yurts provide a
reprieve from the rectilinear excesses of modern culture and remind us, through
their circular form, of the unity and interconnectedness of all things,” writes
Becky Kemery, author of Yurts: Living in
Thus yurts are
often used these days for meditation or spiritual purposes, or in the healing
arts. “People seem to sleep better in yurts, and often dream more,” writes Ms
is not the type of guy who talks much about rectilinear excesses, and he makes
no promises about dreams, but he did comment on the yurt aesthetic: “It fits in
the landscape well.”
And just as
practically, he expects the yurts to fit naturally into Cloudland Canyon’s
climate. They are 20 feet in diameter and equipped with electric radiators for
heat in the winter. For summer, each has four windows in the canvas walls that
can be zipped open as well as a central skylight with a ceiling fan.
anticipating it, especially up here with our climate, being relatively cool
with the ceiling fan and the ability to open the skylight and get a draft
going,” said Wilson. “We’re anticipating it being quite comfortable in the
yurt is one big, airy room with gleaming hardwood floors. The units sleep a
maximum of six with three double beds, one being a high bunk and the other two
futons that fold into sofas for day use. Furniture also includes minimalist
lamps, tables and chairs. One of the 10 yurts has been rigged to be completely
The yurts are not plumbed but are arranged
campground-style around a common bathhouse with toilets, showers and laundry
facilities. Also included in the Yurt Village is a central community space with
grill, picnic area and a playground for children.
Wilson says the
park plans to rent the yurts for $70 a night, making them midrange between
campsites ($16 for walk-in, $28 for RV) and cabins, which rent nightly in the
If you’re interested
in booking a yurt, the park is taking reservations now – call (706) 657-4050 or
visit gastateparks.org/CloudlandCanyon – though construction boss Jack Smith
(who chased the Sentinel firmly out of the way of the pavers) asks that
would-be visitors restrain their curiosity until opening date.
Canyon has recently added to its tourist draw by adding more equestrian and
mountain bike trails to its more than 45 – “By the time the Connector Trail is
finished, it’ll be closer to 65,” said Wilson – hikeable miles.
the park is the only one in Georgia with caves on the premises, and it offers
cave tours through a concessionaire, the Georgia Girl Guides, or G3, April
through October. The caves are closed in the cold months due to bat hibernation,
but G3 offers guided hikes in the winter including the second annual First Day
Hike on Jan. 1. For more information on that, readers may visit
invites the public to visit Cloudland Canyon Park, partake of its myriad
delights and, especially, admire its new yurts. “I just want to get folks out
here to experience them and get their feedback and hope they enjoy it,” he
said. “They’re a great addition to the park.”