Historically named lodge has dramatic views and divine food.
HINTON, AB - Before railroaders, surveyors and settlers staked their
claim in the Athabasca Valley, a group of hardy travellers called the
Overlanders blazed trails through the Rockies to the gold fields of
The Yellowhead Corridor between Hinton and
Jasper would have been an inhospitable environment: when there weren’t
rivers to cross or mountains to climb, there was muskeg, bugs and bitter
weather to contend with.
Luckily, for today’s adventurers, there
is an easier road travelled. Although Patrick Braspenning, general
manager of the Overlander Mountain Lodge outside of Hinton, still wants
his guests to veer “off the broken path.”
“We love to connect our
guests to the Miette Hot Springs, but also to places they might not
otherwise see,” he said. By using specialty operators in Jasper,
Braspenning is able to offer a product that isn’t in the guidebooks.
Yoga retreats, mountain views and bike trails
an era where the journey to Jasper from Roche Perdrix, the first
prominent peak before the Jasper National Park boundary, can be made in
45 minutes rather than three days, The Overlander Mountain Lodge is a
terrific destination for those who want to experience the best of the
Rockies’ eastern slopes and the park’s bounty of natural amenities.
the first day in June, when daylight at the 53rd parallel north lasts
nearly 17 hours, my girlfriend and I slipped away from the crowds to
investigate the namesake of the first tourists of this special land.
With offerings of yoga retreats, nearby mountain bike trails and an
award-winning dining room, Overlander Mountain Lodge was beckoning us to
climb the hill that we had so often drove by on our way to and from
Jasper. Plus we were starving.
Wining and dining with a view
business card features a full-colour panorama photograph of Roche
Miette, the broad Athabasca River Valley spanning beyond. “This is our
view,” the card boasts. Upon being seated next to the window in the
Stone Peak Restaurant, we could see where marketing might have got the
idea. The clouds were dark and dramatic, contrasting the snow-capped
peaks in a way that would have been distracting, had the two-inch thick
wine list not been set down on our table by our gracious server, Trevor.
over dinner choices and swirling two fruity B.C. whites, we giggled at
our good fortune and toasted the founders of the Overlander Lodge. For
if Alex Kennedy Miller and W.A. Walker had not blazed a trail and took a
chance on a fledgling Alberta tourism industry 1962, we wouldn’t have
been savouring seared diver scallops with a wild mushroom white wine
cream sauce, let alone the crab cakes that a friend from Hinton tells me
he dreams about.
we weren’t licking our lips in anticipation for the next course, we were
looking forward to the next day’s activities, which in our case
included a trip to the nearby Hinton Bike Park and surrounding trail
systems. Hinton’s Bike Park is only five years old and has been created
entirely by volunteer hours, yet it is a two-wheeler’s mecca to which
bikers of all stripes flock.
As I was packing my ultra
cross-country ride with which I like to traverse Jasper’s loping trail
network and my girlfriend had never been to a skills park, we discussed
the following day’s plan, namely: stay off the stunts. For now, our
palates would be the only things experiencing teeter-totters as the
California Zin went up and down from fruit to pepper and back again. We
ordered lamb rack and seafood risotto to compliment the vino and were
impressed by the succulent flavours, if not a bit overwhelmed by the
size of the portions.
The sun was still peeking above the horizon
as the other diners made their exit and soon we had the view all to
ourselves. While waiting for dessert we contemplated how many other
parties of two would have enjoyed a similarly private view of Roche
Miette. If it were the hard-scrabble Overlanders, we figured, chances
are that things weren’t quite as romantic, although it’s amazing what
mountain air can do.
The Overlander Mountain Pie was too much to
resist, pecans and chocolate bending my will like my own personal
golden-sugar rush. Dessert on this evening was perhaps our most perfect
course simply because we were both so satisfied with our selections. Not
to say I didn’t ask to try the banana bread pudding, but it was somehow
successfully argued that if I was to get some, everyone else would also
have to receive a sample (no one else was around, remember).
an exquisite aperitif in our full bellies, Trevor gave us a brief but
enlightening tour of the wine cellar, where I pretended to almost drop a
$700 bottle of Bordeaux (not funny). Later, coaxing the last bit of
light out of the sky for a stroll to a viewpoint of Roche Perdrix, we
listened to the traffic passing below. Reflecting that the Yellowhead
Corridor sees millions of people passing through it every year, we were
glad that on this occasion, we weren’t among them.