John and I spent the first week of our western vacation in Jackson, Wyoming with my parents, sister, brother-in-law, and niece. One day early in the week, we all (with the exception of my mom, who chose to catch up on her reading instead of spending most of the day in the car to see sights she’d seen multiple times before) made a day trip to Yellowstone National Park. After touring several of the highlights on the southern loop of the park, including Old Faithful, Norris Geyser Basin, and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, John and I stayed behind in order to hike the South Rim Trail and Uncle Tom’s Trail in the Grand Canyon area. We wanted closer views of the Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon, one of the iconic images from Yellowstone.
As we approached the parking lot near Uncle Tom’s trailhead, dark clouds began gathering ominously above. Rain could be seen in the distance, but John and I had been looking forward to our hike all day long, so we decided to brave the potential storm. We first struck out on the South Rim Trail with Artist Point as our destination.
We hiked more quickly than we ever have in the past despite several long, steep inclines. I had to ask John to slow down at one point as a cramp began to make itself known in my side. Clouds or no clouds, however, neither of us could resist pausing (very briefly) to take in the views of the Lower Falls and the canyon from the South Rim Trail.
At one point, I tried desperately to take a self-shot of John and me with the Lower Falls in the background, but the image below was as good as I could manage. After five attempts, we both felt the need to press on. (Pierces are worriers, and those storm clouds were still hovering above.)
When we reached Artist Point, our worries abated long enough for us to fight through the crowds of people at the scenic overlook and simply stand in awe by the beauty before us. God’s creation is truly magnificent.
After waiting our turn for a prime spot, I begged a fellow tourist to snap a photo of John and me with the Falls.
The rain continued to hold off, but we did not want to press our luck any longer by continuing further beyond Artist Point. We headed back down the South Rim Trail the way we had come. We did not feel the same sense of urgency on the return hike, so John and I were more fully able to appreciate not just the majestic views from the rim of the canyon, but also the wooded portions of the trail when the path veered away from the canyon.
John had enough steam left in him to lift this tree trunk out of the way so that I would not have to tax myself by stepping over it. Chivalrous, isn’t he?
Being a modern woman, I, of course, returned the favor.
A clearing appeared to our left, and I spotted a deer making its quiet way across the meadow.
Shortly thereafter, we reached the trailhead for Uncle Tom’s Trail, a steep hike further down into the canyon that was supposed to give an up-close-and-personal view of the falls.
We started down it, stopped, debated about the weather and our stamina, and then finally committed to the trail for real. I say trail, but the majority of the short hike takes place on a metal staircase, not an earthen path.
I fully admit to being nervous as we walked down those metal steps. Being able to see the canyon through the gaps in the metal grating made me tense, and I gripped the railing tighter the further down we went. Yet as the falls came into view, I knew the slightly nauseous feeling I was enduring was going to be worth it.
And then we were at the bottom. We could feel the spray of water on our skin and our ears were thudding with the sound of the falls.
Suddenly I was all smiles, exhilarated by the natural power I could sense all around me.
We then met an extremely kind Polish woman from Chicago. She took not just one picture of us, but several, until she was satisfied with her photography. I never got her name, but she was lovely, and I was grateful to have crossed paths ever-so-briefly with her.
Finally, it was time to go. The metal stairs loomed above our heads, and we geared up for the ascent.
As we began to climb, a few drops of rain finally fell upon us. John suggested I let go of the railing, casually informing me that he had seen lightning in the clouds above. I was too nervous about the stairs in general to comply, but I suppose had lightning actually struck, it would not have made a difference if my hand was on the rail or not. Our feet had nowhere other than metal to go.
Luckily, our athletic stamina was the only true factor in our climb. We were not struck by lightning, but we were winded and tired at the top. When we paused for one last picture in front of the canyon, neither of us could manage a smile.
We slowly hiked back to the parking lot, where we walked another 50 yards or so to get a view of the Upper Falls of the Grand Canyon. Not nearly as impressive as Lower Falls, the Upper Falls still provided us with one final scenic view from the Grand Canyon area of Yellowstone.
Looking back on this hike, I would rank it as one of the fastest, craziest ones John and I have done. Thanks to the weather, the steep, metal stairs, and the canyon itself, the hike was alternately fun, scary, and insanely beautiful.
I would totally do it all over again.