THE JASPER PARK LODGE - A KITTEN LIFE REVIEW
“Jasper Park is one of the great national playgrounds and health resorts which the Canadian Government with great wisdom has laid out for the benefit of the citizens.
When Canada has filled up and carries a large population, she will bless the foresight of the administrators who took possession of broad tracts of the most picturesque land and put them forever out of the power of the speculative dealer.” - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Jasper National Park is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies.
The expanse of the park (10,878 km2) goes from the top of the Columbia icefield glacier to the bubbling pools of the Miette hot springs.
It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site (one of 15 in Canada) and the health and survival of nearly 70 species of mammals (including 100 grizzlies, 70 black bears, 60 wolves, 120 caribou, 550 elk and 180 moose) depend on this important and delicate ecological habitat. Which is why, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle so eloquently said, the Canadian government was extremely wise in setting down legislation to protect it from the greedy greedy paws of the oil and gas industry figureheads (among others).
Being from western Canada, my childhood was coloured by camping trips with my family where we would pack ourselves into the van or the trailer or the RV and drive hours and hours into the country to the chosen lake, river, mountain or oceanside beach, and build a fire to roast marshmallows or barbecue salmon on, and talk and explore and kayak and otherwise enjoy nature.
As a kid the expanse of the open sky, the height of the mountains, the depth of the water became part of the meaning I gave to nature and existence.
Now as an adult, coming back after years spent in Paris, Barcelona, Montreal, New York, Vancouver, where despite the glitz and glamour of big cities you are glaringly aware of the population crisis, the scarcity of resources and the cold-heartedness of our fellow man, being back in this sort of space has more weight to it; a heaviness rather than a lightness, of how beautiful and pure and vast the earth was made in its original form.
Today, these spaces are the exception rather than the rule, so during some recent time spent in Vancouver, me and 2 of my bffs from high school decided to spend a week eating shrooms and sushi and kittening around the vast property of the Fairmont Lodge in Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada.
And here is the Kitten Life’s review of what Jasper means to me.
After bestie made us piles of the fluffiest cinnamon-sprinkled, maple syrup-covered, raisin-studded french toast, we topped them with some locally grown, magical shroomy-shrooms and chased it with our coffees doused in Bailey’s and were off to the races. Ok not races, but a slow, deliberate, wide-eyed walk from the city to the lodge, with CN transport trains passing us as they carved their way through the mountains from the Pacific towards the flat-line of the prairies in all their graffiti covered glory.
The lodge is set up in typical Fairmont fashion; carpeted floors printed with what can only be described as slightly-more-stylish-than-public-transit upholstery and the shops look like the type my German ex-mother-in-law would max out her credit card in to be able to use her purchases as a talking point at the next dinner party she threw upon her return to the Vaterland.
But the outdoor pool! Oka’s sushi! The primary colour painted lake loungers!
As a young person who knows that the $250/night price tag on the cheapest of Fairmont rooms is better spent on a private airbnb suite for you and a lover plus a 5 star meal plus a growler or two of local micro-brew (or a bottle of champagne!), the main draw of the Lodge is the independently owned sushi restaurant and tripping balls in the outdoor pool surrounded by the Rockies (you can pay to just visit and use the pool/spa facilities even if you don't have a room).
And as you lie on your back, a couple foamies buoying you up, staring at the clouds, the snow-capped mountains, the Canadian flag flying blissfully free in the wind, and the trees and water shape-shift in that magical mushroom-y way, you forget the divide between time and space and nature and being.
And you sit there, half-in, half-out of the hot tub, feeling like a melting butter pad, thinking about how reminiscent the warm water is of the womb and the surroundings remind you of how you take every minute of every day for granted despite how present you try to be, and that it’s all slipping so very, very quickly away from you…
And then you go take another hour to steam and sauna and wash and buff your kitten body to perfection using the generously supplied products stocked in the swanky change rooms, and then smoke a fat doob to get your stomach rumbling and bring your hallucinating back to manageable-in-public levels, and hold one of your kittens close for a minute or five to mentally prepare yourselves to go eat the most divine sushi available in the province, created by Mr. Oka himself of OKA Sushi.
The Japanese Jasper sushi God prepares the food to order (with ingredients bussed up fresh that day from Vancouver or flown in from Japan) in the most deeply deliberate sense of the concept.
There are 12 chairs in the whole establishment and 2 seatings per night, plus any drop-ins who manage to time their visit perfectly (meaning that you’re going to be a super duper cranky pants if you don’t make the reso call well ahead of your visit).
For our party of 5, we receive a dish at a time in Oka’s chosen order of preparation and then wait patiently, watching the other restaurant guests eat and gawk at the taste of each bite as we tremble in anxious anticipation for our next course.
It’s the ultimate tease… the munchies of weed, the sensory experience of shrooms, and being able to watch Oka slice off pieces of sea creatures right before your eyes and then painstakingly prepare them to perfection for you to consume.
It’s his meditation - turning the making of sushi into an art form that enhances both the taste and the experience - that becomes yours as you surrender to being there, witnessing the edible love-fest (our top recommendation: the spicy chopped scallop roll!).
You chase it all down with bottle after bottle of Sake and wish you had a bigger stomach to be able to keep going.
And then you roll yourself out of the lodge and find a taxi to take you back to town, head leaned against the window, and you make a billion wishes on the billions and billions of stars filling the sky that you forgot existed.
The Rockies which surround this incredible national park are the closest we can get to eternity as we exist in this form, and our gratitude for being able to experience it now has no end.
For the price and the ambiance, Oka’s and the Jasper Fairmont pool is a 10/10 Kitten Life experience.