BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN
John Robichaud and his son Ethan, 4, enjoy an afternoon under the sun at the beach at Spruce Woods Provincial Park on Sunday.
Spruce Woods PRovincial park — As smoke billowed from the campfire on Sunday, Drew Richardson swung an axe high above his head to split another log to stoke the fire.
Drew Richardson splits wood for the fire outside one of the yurts set among the oaks at the Kiche Manitou campground in Spruce Woods Provincial Park on Sunday. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
Kristen Smith digs down to keep the ball alive during a friendly beach volleyball game with her brother, Travis Sencal, during a family camping weekend at Kiche Manitou campground in Spruce Woods Provincial Park on Sunday.
(BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
Richardson and his wife Kelsey were just two of many campers who took full advantage of the May long weekend at Spruce Woods Provincial Park, setting up in a yurt during the holiday, that is for most, considered the kickoff to the camping season.
"We love it out here," said Drew, who works at CFB Shilo. "It’s just so nice to have this park so close to home."
The Richardsons rented one of the park’s 13 yurts — an octagonal structure complete with a deck, electricity, bunk beds, a heater and a kitchen table and chairs.
"The heater came in handy on Friday night," Drew said, a testament to the mercury dropping to about 7 C overnight.
Perched high above the Assiniboine River and surrounded by brush and oak trees, the yurts are the perfect option for many campers who want to blend the outback of camping with some of the amenities of a fine hotel.
"To heck with bringing your own tent. It was pounding down rain when we got out here on Friday, and so having to set up a tent in the rain, is more work than I’m interested in," Kelsey said with a smile. "I hate nature, it scares me. I appreciate it and we should fund it and it should exist, but it should exist over there ... This is as close to nature as I’m comfortable getting with this season — you have to ease me into it."
The Richardsons weren’t alone in their glowing praise for the yurts.
Ed and Marilyn Senecal rented one of the yurts for the weekend, and had nothing but good things to say about the units.
"It’s our kind of camping now," said Senecal while playing with her granddaughter at the beach.
"It’s a little more expensive than camping, but it’s cheaper than renting a cabin," she added, referring to the rental price that runs about $50 per night.
While the yurts and upper campground were busy with the sounds of crackling campfires, the lower campground was silent — a grim reminder of the flood that ravaged the area one year ago.
"It definitely looks a little different after the flooding," said John Robichaud, who has been a frequent visitor to the park.
"That’s Mother Nature for you."
As Robichaud built sandcastles with his son Ethan, 4, less than 50 metres away high fences, looking painfully out of place among the park’s natural beauty, blocked the entrances to the lower campground.
An engineering assessment of the lower campground has been completed and plans to rebuild will begin as early as this summer.
"It will be bigger and better," a parks employee said.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 22, 2012