It’s five minutes before ten on a July evening and we are ambling “home” from dinner, back to our suite in the Crosby Cabin at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. Three female elk and a calf graze placidly on the well-manicured lawn of one of the log cabins that form the guest rooms of the lakeside retreat.
We stop, surprised, expecting the elk to run away. They lift their heads, regard us with some interest, then go back to their dinner. Clearly, they don’t mind sharing their resort with us, so my husband takes out his camera and moves around to get a better angle. The elk keep munching lawn.
Twenty minutes and two dozen pictures later, we continue on our way, surprised to realize how late it is. In this northern latitude – at 51 degrees north, Jasper is even with Red Bay, Labrador -- long summer days stretch far into the evening.
A Long History of Celebs
The Crosby Cabin, where our suite is located, is named for Bing Crosby, who stayed there. The lodge, part of the progression of Canadian Pacific Hotels that followed the railway tracks across Canada, has always attracted celebrities, including King George VI, but that’s almost expected at these legendary hotels, now under the Fairmont label.
The collection of cabins around the lake shore offers just the right combination of rustic where you want rustic and modern where you want the modcons. Our sitting room is the sun porch, a bright room with log walls on two sides and windows on the other two. A working stone fireplace is unnecessary in the July heat wave, but locals tell us that a cheery fire feels good on the more usual summer evenings in this naturally air-conditioned climate.
Our spacious bedroom – big enough for a table and two comfortable chairs, as well as the king-sized bed – is not rustic, nor is the large bathroom, where a marble counter has room for the generous supply of Miller Harris bath amenities – with full-sized bath soap, instead of the little bars that lose themselves as soon as they get wet and slippery. Terry robes and slippers await as we step from the bath.
Canoeing Across the Lake
We first saw the Jasper Park Lodge from across Lake Boisvert, where we thought our group’s driver was stopping so we could get pictures of the stone-and-log main lodge from across the water, bright in the afternoon sun.
But a charming surprise awaited, in the form of a voyageur canoe. We donned flotation vests, grabbed paddles (or those of us without cameras did) and paddled across the lake to arrive at the log boat-landing. It was a spectacular approach, the hotel growing more defined with each stroke, until we could make out the lawn chairs in bright Crayola colors grouped overlooking the lake.
This canoe arrival can be arranged for groups, and smaller canoes are available for rent on the lake.
Arts & Crafts Style
Inside the main lodge the spacious public parlor has groups of comfortable chairs and sofas, and live music in the afternoon. The décor is a pleasing combination of Arts & Crafts style and rustic, with just enough of a sporting camp theme to break the square lines of Mission furniture.
As in all Fairmont’s heritage properties, the chef bases the menu on as many local ingredients as he can, featuring Alberta beef, locally-grown vegetables, forest mushrooms and Saskatoon berries.
Jasper and Maligne Lake
The lodge is just a short bicycle ride (you can rent them at the hotel) from Jasper, a laid-back little town with lower prices and fewer people than nearby Banff. VIA Rail passenger train service still brings hotel guests to Jasper.
The lodge can arrange connections to boat trips on Maligne (pronounced Ma-LEEN) Lake for breathtaking Rocky Mountain scenery, or river rafting trips on the Athabaska River, which flows from a glacier a few miles west along the Icefields Parkway. Connecting Jasper to Lake Louise, the parkway winds and climbs through the Rockies, where a continuing panorama of glaciers, ice fields, vivid blue lakes and waterfalls unfolds mile after mile.
But guests don't need to go sightseeing. The lodge is a good place for just watching the animals and birds, and enjoying the surrounding mountains as the light and shadows play across their craggy stone faces. We could easily have spent our days sitting in the colorful chairs watching the loon fishing on the lake, the Canada geese walking in an officious gaggle along the shore, and elk doing the lawn maintenance.