Jasper National Park | Jasper, Alberta, Canada

Posted by on May 24, 2000

Our awesome train ride across Canada halted temporarily at Jasper National Park, where we alighted the train for three days at Jasper Park Lodge.

We arrived at this renowned Canadian Pacific Hotel in the mid-afternoon. Spread out around and between two glacial lakes are many log cabins of various sizes, in the center of which is a huge lodge which houses the restaurants and shops and where all communal activity takes place.

Now, these are not ordinary log cabins. Ours, for example, had seven luxury double rooms, each with elegant private bath, (our bath was bigger than my kitchen at home) surrounding a massive sitting room. In the cathedral ceilinged sitting room there was a huge fireplace with cozy armchairs all around, and a giant dining table, which could seat 14. Everything was decorated in Ralph Lauren Adirondack style. Of course, there was a complete kitchen, stocked with breakfast food of several varieties, and a fire was laid in the fireplace.

A large deck, overlooking the golf course, with snow-capped mountains in the distance, completed the picture-book effect.

Back in our room we soon discovered more amenities, including four (4) down pillows on each bed. What a pillow fight that could make! We also had coffee and hot chocolate service, full-length mirrors, double closets, and 12 channels of television, with remote. This is roughing it in the Canadian Rockies. Oh, and if walking around the gorgeous grounds proved too much for me, all I had to do was call the desk, and a golf cart would be sent to get me, wherever I was.

The absolutely most unusual thing about Jasper Park Lodge is the herd of elk that shares the grounds with the guests. These big boys are everywhere, and happened to be rutting during our stay. It was absolutely necessary to give them a wide berth, as they were distinctly larger than we were, and somewhat ominous when amorous.

The main lodge holds three or more dining rooms, and many chic gift shops. We managed to check out each and every shop. (OK, I never went in the billiards room.) But I did go to the sushi bar alone for dinner one evening, after a surfeit of food on the preceding days.

We were warned that, this far north, and at this elevation, we might get snow, although it was still October. Sure enough that second day, there was powdered sugar dusted over all the mountains, which just seemed to add to the majestic beauty all around us.

Everywhere I looked on the horizon, there was a magnificent peak. Even with the low hanging clouds, with the mountains looking foreboding and bleak, there was something very compelling about them.

We went off on a picnic with our group on that gray day, but soon encountered snow flurries, so our sandwiches were consumed on the bus. We nevertheless saw Maligne Lake, with its stunning glacial color, Athabasca Falls and Sonupta Falls, with their icy cataracts thundering down, and the Athabasca Glacier, one of the giants of its genre. We were on our way down the Glacier Highway toward Lake Louise and Banff, before our little game was halted due to snow. Along the way we had seen scrub juniper and pine, stately lodge pole pine and equally tall Engelman spruce by the jillions. Endless pines, water and rock are the mainstay of the scenery in this stupendous park.

Jasper Park Lodge was started as a tent city, the thought of which sent chills down my spine. You can see how quickly I got used to the luxury of our room. Although these magnificent hotels were a joint venture by Canadian Pacific Railways and the Canadian government, they did not always have the funds to undertake the building of a major hotel in the chosen spot. Thus, I suppose, Jasper turned out to be a log cabin village, and we are all the better for it.

Edith Cavell is revered in these parts and is memorialized in the name of one of the most prominent mountains.

She is also revered in the name of the best restaurant at the Lodge. Our dinner at the Edith Cavell room was very elegant. This fabulous meal was included in our tour, and a good thing too, since the staff was delighted to see all thirty of us. Most people who come to Jasper at this time of year come for hiking and other outdoor activities, I presume, and not for elegant dining. Now, even though we were a group, we were broken up into small groups and not bunched up at banquet tables, (Deo gratias.) We were lucky enough to draw the very charming English couple as our tablemates, and proceeded to enjoy some very tasty Canadian wines from Sumac Ridge along with our meal. My first course was JPL smoked salmon tartare with Dungeness crab and seared sea scallop, followed by British Columbia salmon with a horseradish and beet crust. I know I’m not supposed to eat the same thing for both courses, but I do love salmon. I did vary from the all salmon meal in the end by ending with a chocolate mousse with chocolate ganache, which was served with a chocolate bear and cub silhouette. Jim’s Alberta beef tenderloin with rosemary cabernet sauce, and his maple crème brulee were pronounced pretty marvelous by him.

The dining room faces the glacial lake across an expanse of lawn pinioned with giant fir trees. From the picture windows, one can see the tree trunks looking rather like Greek columns marching toward the lake. The room is paneled with cozy dark wood, the tables widely spaced, each one lit by candlelight covered with peach pleated shades. The bright blue of the water goblets and the small flower arrangements, add to the color, and added to the very pleasing setting for a gourmet meal.

The lodge is set on a glacial lake, as I said, around which a golf course meanders. In addition there are walking paths in several directions. One of the things we enjoyed most was a three-mile walk around the lake and down to the Athabasca River in a gentle rain. Perhaps that balanced out our major repast of the preceding evening.

Although she loves mountains, you can see that Betsy Shequine is mainly an indoor sport.

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