Arriving in Jasper National Park, Alberta after a fantastic 22 hour ride on Via Rail’s “The Canadian” was a welcome breath of fresh air-literally! The sight of the Canadian Rocky Mountains was so breathtaking that words can barely describe their “awesomeness,” and the air was so fresh it almost felt like I was breathing in air from a foreign planet.
I would be staying at the renowned Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, nestled amongst the Canadian Rocky Mountains and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I was there for the abundance of wildlife, but the golf course is ranked as Canada’s number one.
We took a Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge shuttle straight to the Lodge and were ecstatic to see over twenty female elk grazing and lazing on the lawn. I was staying in a cabin alongside of Lake Beauvert (cabin #114) and the view was to die for. The color of the lake is such a mysterious blue green and looks unreal due to the glacial waters and high mineral composition.
I found a wolf paw print on the way to the lodge, down by the boat house, and wanted to walk the 2.2 mile path around the lake. Unfortunately, I was told a grizzly bear had been spotted earlier, and I was not that brave or perhaps not that stupid to test my luck! Later, on the way to town that evening, we did spot a sun bleached grizzly munching on grass right on the property of the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge!
The town of Jasper is quite charming and tiny, a self-proclaimed ”small town in a big park”. Our evening out consisted of eating and drinking at Evil Dave’s, a creatively inspired eatery, with imaginative entrees such as fish taco salad, great wines, and craft beers.
The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge originated as an eight bungalow wilderness retreat at the beginning of the 20th Century and has grown into a 446-room luxury resort set on 900 acres. It has the feel of an Adirondack Great House with surrounding cabins. The main lobby has 50 ft vaulted ceilings and paintings of the Canadian Rockies that surround the park.
High Tea is a tradition of the Fairmont, and not to be missed in Cavell’s Restaurant and Terrace, located on the ground floor of FJPL with views of Lake Beauvert. An arrangement of 12 loose teas is brought to the table for your individual pot. I picked Earl Grey, with oil of Bergamot (a perfect compliment to the massage I would have later at Reflections Spa at The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, where I chose the Bergamot massage oil).
Lovely tiered trays of sandwiches – cucumber, smoked salmon and Quebec goat cheese, all without their crust, and another of fancy desserts were brought to the table. Of course, there were also the required scones with clotted cream and Saskatoon Berry jam. This High Tea is not for the small eater!
Breakfast at Cavell’s is also an amazing way to start the day, either with the sumptuous buffet or ordering from the menu. The lemon ricotta pancakes with local linden berry syrup and a poached egg was perfect! The view over Lake Beauvert is dreamy, and I could have sat there all day gazing over the lake, but I had to get going as our tour guide extraordinaire– Trish Tremblay, from Sun Dog Tours , was waiting to take us on an adventure in beauty and wildlife which will be never be forgotten!
I call it the drive-up wildlife day. Trish, a former National Park employee, has a special knack for spotting wildlife.
On the way to Medicine Lake (named by Aboriginals for the incredible fluctuation of depth due to the melting of the glacier in spring), we spotted a young bull elk that allowed us to take photos of his impressive rack. All of the animals are protected in the park, and do not seem to be afraid of humans.
Later on the ride to Malign Lake, a moose was spotted and then a family of wild mountain goats without the daddy. On the way back, Trish spotted something in the bushes and pulled the van over. Out of the blue, came two adolescent Grizzly bears, a female and a male! I was close enough to get a great picture! Yahoo! Ten minutes later, a black bear was seen, but of course, Trish would not allow us to get out of the van!
We stopped at Maligne Canyon to see the powerful waterfalls and a short hike. After all that wildlife spotting and the beautiful boat tour to Spirit Island on Maligne Lake, we were quite hungry and decided to dine at The Moose’s Nook, located off the lobby of the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. My friends ate bison and I had the best Arctic Char ever. The British Columbian wines were a great accompaniment to the meal.
The next morning we were departing early on a different Via Rail train – the “Skeena” – for a two-day trip to Prince Rupert, North British Columbia, right next to Ketchikan, Alaska. We would stop for a quick overnight in Prince George as the “Skeena” does not having sleeping cars. Thankfully, the entertaining conductors – Gilbert and Patrick, made up for it!
For the ride to Jasper, see my previous installment “Onboard the Via Rail Train” here.