While growing up in Montana, I was not that interested in nature. I would have rather stayed inside with a book than headed out on the trail—the outdoors were definitely not my thing. As I grew older and lived in other places, though, I began to realize how lucky I had been to have Glacier National Park right in my backyard, and I had a renewed interest in Yellowstone National Park.
Fortunately, I was happy to learn that my Aunt Shirley was working down in Yellowstone over the summer. She also has an adventurous spirit (and lived as an expat in Iran for a number of years during the revolution), so I packed up the car and drove across the state to meet her there and to take a tour.
I hadn’t been to Yellowstone since I was a moody teenager, but I had forgotten how packed it can be. As the first national park established in the United States (and maybe even the world), over three million visitors come here each year—and the busiest time is during the summer.
Aunt Shirley knew of all the best places to go, and she took me to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone—one of the most photographed and beautiful spots in the park. I had already seen Old Faithful and the mud pots when I was younger, so I was most interested in the hikes and getting to move about in nature. She brought me to one of the most popular trails in the park, Uncle Tom’s Trail, which features 328 vertical steps down and up the side of the Yellowstone Grand Canyon.
Though I was running at the time, the steps still proved challenging. I was unused the the steepness of them and the sheer number. I was definitely winded on the way back up and I felt bad for those who had underestimated how much effort the hike actually was. There were people in their sixties who had made the trip down easily enough, but who now looked like they were going to die on the way back up.
Overall, the scenery was what really impressed me while I was there. It definitely had gone over my head when I was younger, but being a little older and a little wiser, I was able to see why Yellowstone is the iconic image we think of when we consider national parks. It was also a special experience to have with my aunt and to meet a fellow adventurer in the family—it’s a moment I will always remember.
Have you ever hiked in Yellowstone? What were your experiences?