Yamnuska creates an iconic image in the Rocky Mountains west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Today, the mission is a desperate search for any sign of spring. If a sign of spring exists, the sun drenched flanks of Yamnuska (Mount Laurie) is most likely where it will be found.
Along the Trans-Canada Highway, between Calgary and Banff National Park, there are many small roadside ponds. These ponds are always pretty but today they are an amazing spectacle.
Many are hosting large flocks of trumpeter swans. There are hundreds of them, sometimes as many as 50 in one pond. These huge white birds (adult males can have an extended body length of 6 ft and a wing span of 10 ft) are feeding and resting prior to the next stage of their annual migration from the southern United States to summer in Alaska and the Yukon. This is surely a sign of spring but not a local one.
On the drive west from Calgary, the view from the top of Scott Lake Hill is always impressive with the awesome views to the Rocky Mountains. The heavily overcast sky breaks open about 60 KM west and spirits are lifted by the mountains bathed golden past the foothills as the drive proceeds into sunshine.
Yamnuska ('The Yam') is a 7,349 ft. mountain in the Bow Valley Corridor at the very beginning of the Kananaskis/Ghost front range. Correctly, it is named Mount Laurie, but everyone here knows it as Yamnuska which is a variation of the Stoney name (Îyâmnathka).
The mountain is on the edge of the Stoney Nation Indian reservation. This iconic mountain is also one of the cornerstones of Yamnuska Mountain Adventures - check it out.
The trail is damp, sometimes muddy. The hike is off-trail across beautiful grassland meadows towards the clearly visible objective. Eventually, dry trail on open, sun-exposed ground leads to hiking from meadow into mixed forest. There is little to no sign of budding on deciduous trees which is unusual this late in the season. Not a sign of spring.
Gaining altitude, there is progressively deeper snow. Higher up, there is icy trail. Crampons are in the kit but there will no signs of spring by gaining altitude. The remainder of the solo hiking journey to the summit will be arduous, risk adverse and will be left for another day.
Suddenly, there is an overwhelming urge for onion rings at Kananaskis Delta Lodge. On descent from the mountain there is more mud now with melt from above increasing water flow below as the hike encounters a flock of butterflies. This is another sign of spring but not the one normally sought.
Near the bottom of the trail, just as hope is about to be abandoned when, voilà, there it is. This is the quintessential sign of spring. A crocus blossom.
Heading south on Kananaskis Trail (Hwy 40) into Kananaskis Country is a magical journey through a tight valley beneath snow-capped mountains. There is a variety of weather within visible range, mostly clear sky and sunshine intermixed with isolated rain and snow showers at higher elevations.
As always, the onion rings are excellent.