Conquering Uncle Tom’s Trail

I love to travel.  And there are so many places in the world I want to see.  But sometimes – in fact – very often – the most extraordinary viewpoints and settings can only be found with a small – or large – amount of effort.  Of course, this is part of why they are so beautiful, and stay so beautiful.  This wouldn’t be a problem for me, except for the fact that I am not what anyone would dub “physically fit.”  I have spent many years treating my self-esteem as a punching bag, while I wallowed in shame and self-pity.  And then this past winter, with the help of my colleagues Jen, bootcamp instructor and fitness guru extraordinare, and Meg, (yes, the same one who graced us with her presence on this road trip and brings buckets of positivity, optimism and “can-do” spirit to the table) I started to change my tune.  And so by the month of June I was no longer planning this trip crossing off all the things I wouldn’t be able to do, but instead finding the things I now could do.  Trying to find short hikes and walks that would allow me to push myself, and see things I may previous have written off as inaccessible.

So the hike (or trail) that I wanted to do on this trip that I knew was called Uncle Tom’s Trail.  It’s not the longest or the hardest by any means – but it is trail followed by 328 steps down a very steep cliff side to a beautiful overview right next to the Lower Yellowstone Falls.  And I really wanted to photograph here  – and refused to let this trail stop me.

The way down was the easier part for me of course – though at points near the bottom my knees would start to wobble a bit and a had to stop and let my muscles rest for a few moments in between flights to keep them from trembling uncontrollably.  It’s weird to go down first, and know that every step down means a harder step back up.  It’s setting yourself up for a lot of work.  The walk down didn’t take too long.  10-15 minutes.  And when I got to the bottom, I was overwhelmed by the great view (that was TOTALLY worth it), my shaking legs, and the fear of now having to go back UP the stairs.  What goes down, must go up, right?

The way up was much more strenuous, for me.  Ray on the other hand decided to RUN back to the top (yes – he was bored waiting for me).  But Meg – she was a super star.  She found the perfect balance of pushing and encouraging me as I took one flight at a time (or two, when she led me to believe I was possible of this), and making me feel like it was okay to rest, breathe and take short breaks (in fact, the breathing was encouraged).  And while I had a few touch-and-go moments in which throwing up felt like a possibility, I am proud to say that I successfully navigated my way to the top, vomit free.  Only took me 20-25 minutes.

But that’s the thing.  I MADE it.  It wasn’t impossible.  And it just made me realize all the things in my life I have already missed out on because I thought I wasn’t capable.  And that just won’t do.  It’s time things changed – and this was the perfect start.

So a huge thank you to Meg for slowly going up the stairs with me (though I’m sure she could have run with Ray – she’s also in the “super fit” category), and never-for-a-second making me think I was anything less than capable of pushing myself to be successful here.  And to Yellowstone, for providing views that were ample motivation to just keep moving.  Worth ever painstaking step.

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