My name is Nick Peeff and I used to work as a local computer technician in Dearborn Michigan supporting corporate office buildings for the last 8 years. While working at these sites, the employee vacation pictures on the walls put me in the mood to travel to America's National parks and I have become particularly fond of the hypnotic beauty of waterfalls.

In the past six years, I have visited waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Sequoia Kings Canyon, Shenandoah, Georgia, Michigan's UP, Ontario, Kentucky, Western New York, West Virginia, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Wisconsin and Tennessee.

You can find directions to waterfalls by searching the Internet for different states or by purchasing books like Greg Plumb's "The Waterfalls of Tennessee." These books are very useful because they show you pictures of how aesthetic most of the waterfalls are and the author will rate them by trail difficulty.

I was very excited when I found some very unique looking waterfalls and landscapes on the Internet from the country of Iceland three years ago, but after doing further research on how much a trip there would cost, my cheapskate instincts took over! They have to be crazy if they think I'm going to pay about $150 per day for a basic rental car and maybe $5 for a gallon of gas! So, I decided to visit Yellowstone Park instead.

The most popular waterfall at Yellowstone is the 308-foot tall lower falls, but I also made plans to visit the more beautiful 250-foot tall Union falls in a remote part of the park's back country. The only catch is the hike to Union falls is about sixteen miles round trip, which requires you to cross a river that goes up to your lower thighs about one mile after you start the trail. Even though park trail guides rated this as a strenuous hike, I knew I was obsessed with visiting this waterfall, so I enthusiastically took the challenge!

I planned on taking this long hike on my second day at the park. To get there, I left the Grant Village hotel at about 8:00 A.M. and drove past the park's south entrance until I reached Ashton-Flagg Road. I drove west for about two miles until it turned into a gravel road that was so bumpy; I was surprised the muffler on my rental car didn’t brake off! The directions indicated that I should drive another eight miles until I reached the Grassy Lake Reservoir, but I spent about a half-hour trying to figure out where the trail started because the park rangers didn't have a sign displayed that indicated “Union Falls!” However, as I was driving I did see a few signs that read, “WARNING, THIS AN ACTIVE GRIZZLY AREA.” But, I wasn’t going to be denied because I wasn’t here to play with a mother bear’s cubs; I wanted to see that waterfall! I finally saw a few cars parked near a damn, so I drove down a steep hill until I eventually found the trailhead sign for Union Falls.

Not only was it a major hassle trying to find the trail, but now I also have to hike 7.6 miles to see the falls! So, I loaded all the essential supplies in my backpack like water, camera equipment, aqua shoes, bug spray, and food and began the journey. I was curious to see how wide the river was that I had to cross on my way to the falls and I once I approached it, I was surprised that it had a very swift current! So I changed into my aqua shoes and went into the cold river with a large branch that I used as a walking stick. I had to be very careful that the force of the water didn’t knock me down because the river was about one hundred feet wide. I eventually came to shore only to see another sign that read, “Union Falls 6.5 miles!”

Since it is a very long trail, there were several hills and other small streams to cross by walking over logs or rock hopping. With about two miles to go, I was surprised to see a group of people riding horses and I thought to myself, “why didn’t I get one?” But I think the horses came from a different trail much further down the bumpy road I came from. Besides, I was hoping I could lose a few pounds on this hike to make up for those “All you can eat buffets” at the hotels I stayed in!

When I finally arrived at the falls after long mile hike, it was so beautiful that I felt like I met God! It was two raging rivers joining together as a union of falling water over a unique rock formation creating this magnificent natural masterpiece! I decided to have lunch as I enjoyed the view of this awesome sight and took some pictures. After about forty minutes, I had to leave the falls because it was about 4:00 P.M. and I still had to hike another 7.6 miles to get back to my car! After hiking back for about three miles, I came to the most difficult part of the trail because I had to walk up a six hundred foot hill that must have been a half-mile long. This may not seem hard for some people, but it is after you have already hiked eleven miles! Once I passed the hill, the trail got much easier and I couldn't believe how excited I was when I finally saw the river I crossed a mile after the trail started! It was mid July and about eighty-five degrees so going into the cold water for the second time was now a relaxing pleasure!

I finally got back to the car after that eight-hour hike and immediately started drinking the water I had stocked in my cooler. I brought a little bit less than a gallon of water with me for the hike and I finished that with about two miles left in the hike. I then cleaned off my shoes, got into the car, turned on the air conditioning, and drove to the steep hill that the trail guide advised me not go down unless I had a four wheel drive vehicle. I decided to backup to gain momentum and I hit the pedal to the metal as the rental car struggled up the gravel hill barely making it back on the road.

As I drove back to the hotel I had that joyous "mission accomplished" feeling. And "thank goodness my wife is still alive!" (I didn't go on this trip alone.) However, in the next few days, I was soon to feel the after effects of the sixteen-mile journey.

Once I arrived at the Grant Village lodge, I got out of the rental car and noticed it was so filthy from those gravel roads that it looked like something Charlie Brown's friend "Pig Pen" would drive! Luckily, I was able to rinse off the car at a nearby gas station the next day. When I got back inside the hotel room, I changed into some clean clothes only to notice hundreds of mosquito bites on my shoulders because I didn't apply bug spray on my shirt.

The next Yellowstone hotel I stayed at was the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. Just before I put on my socks to get ready to for another day of hiking, I noticed my big toes were very swollen! So I went to the Old Faithful medical clinic and had to wait about ninety minutes before I could see a doctor. Ironically, the famous geyser erupts every ninety minutes! When the doctor saw my feet, she told me the swelling was very common for people who go on long hikes and she experienced the same problem in the past. The constant jamming of my big toes into the front part of my hiking shoes while walking down hill on the sixteen-mile hike caused the injury. The doctor told me I would probably lose my big toe nails and she drained the fluid from them to reduce the swelling. She advised me to get some hiking sandals, gave me some bandages, and sent me to the front desk to pay the medical bill. My head swelled up as much as my big toes once I discovered that my twenty-minute treatment cost me $318! Luckily, Blue Cross later reimbursed me for it.

Since I still had four days left on my visit, I certainly didn't want to miss the numerous other attractions in the park, so I limped my way through the geysers, Mammoth hot springs, Tower Fall, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, other waterfalls, and watched Bison and Elk. I felt rather embarrassed when I was walking back from one waterfall trail and a couple of senior citizens passed me by!

When I turned in the rental car, I was lucky they didn't charge me extra money because I drove that Dodge Stratus like it was a Range Rover on those bumpy gravel roads! Once I returned to Michigan after this experience of a lifetime, I eventually did lose my big toenails, so I purchased some sandals to show people how cool my feet look now!

In closing, I hope you enjoy my pictures because in simple terms, waterfalls just look cool!

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