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Our Beach

by Paul Yanko

Good Spirit Lake.

For as long as I can remember, going to "the beach" has been a highlight of summer. Saskatchewan has an abundance of great beaches. But it's only recently that I found the best one -- the one that best suits my current lifestyle. And this one does just that. Perfectly.

We got up early on a sunny Saturday morning, partly to check the weather and partly because it takes us a good chunk of time to pack everything that our two young children might need or want during a day at the beach.

As I write this Ashleigh is almost 4, and Teig is just about 1. Lifejackets, pails, a frisbee, sipper-cups and, of course, Ashleigh's battery-operated-toy-horse-with-a-real-mane-that-actually-whinnies. You know, all that essential beach stuff.

We were headed for Good Spirit Lake.

Good Spirit Lake is located in Good Spirit Provincial Park, about 200 kms (120 miles) northeast of Regina. It's a little over an hour's drive from our home in rural Saskatchewan. And that means the kids don't have time enroute to get over their initial excitement and move into the cranky are-we-almost-there-yet mode. That Good Spirit's beach is regarded by many as the best in the province is a most pleasant bonus!

Uh-oh. Giants.

"We've never been to Good Spirit before today, but we'd heard stories about how nice it is up here," says Don LaFreniere, of Regina. "Friends had told us it's one of the best beaches in the province because of the sand and the low water levels."

The sand -- and there's plenty of it -- is certainly what sets Good Spirit apart. Hundreds of years ago, according to park authorities, a river ran through this area. Drought caused the river to dry up and the sand from the riverbed was blown into dunes, some as high as 15 metres (50 ft.). When the drought ended and the water returned, a shallow lake (about eight or nine metres at its deepest point) with a very sandy bottom was formed.

And sandy bottoms, especially the variety attached to young children, are very common at Good Spirit.

"Other lakes get so deep so fast it can be a little scary for small kids," says Tracee Ivey, of Ituna. "Here, the water is clean and shallow, and there's lots of stuff for kids to do."

There, now it's shallow enough to play in.

Ashleigh quickly gets to work on an elaborate construction project at water's edge, using every utensil in her well-stocked kit. Teig is content to explore, and on occasion attempt to sip from the shallows, which to me seem pretty close in temperature to her evening bath water. She tries to drink that, too.

My wife Pam strategically locates her folding camp chair in about 10 cm (four inches) of water, where she can simultaneously cool her feet and keep an eye on the kids. Looking along the water's edge, I see a handful of other parents similarly equipped and positioned.

I set off on a 15-minute hike along the shore to the sand dunes on the south end of the lake. Along the way I chat with others now completing their hike and heading back to the main beach.

Good Spirit. Our Beach

"They're pretty cool," one young boy tells me when I ask what he thought of the dunes. "But I played on them for too long and I think I may have burned my feet -- I was just having too much fun!"

Shortly thereafter I find deer tracks near the water's edge.

The dunes are home to many different species of wildlife. In addition to the deer, rabbits, red foxes, ground squirrels and coyotes frequent the area. Among the avian residents are sharp-tailed grouse, grosbeaks and waxwings.

The dunes offer a commanding view of the lake and surrounding terrain. They extend for some four km (2.5 miles) along the lake's shoreline and cover about 250 acres.

Lots of kids, lots to do.

Only a handful of people dot this more remote, high-quality beach.

"It's kinda like having our own private beach over here," jokes Earl Argue, of Regina. His wife, Connie, plays in the water with their children Andrew, 5, and Nicole, 3. "No rocks, no weeds and the water's shallow,'' says Earl. "So the kids can't get into any trouble.

"They've even got a nice golf course, too. What more could you ask for?!"

For more information on the park, including camping opportunities and recreational facilities, check out the provincial parks website.

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