Grand Canyon – Facing The Canyon

For each man sees himself in the Grand Canyon – each one makes his own Canyon before he comes, each one brings and carries away his own Canyon. – Carl Sandburg

In many ways, I came to the Canyon this time defeated and resigned. Resigned to acknowledge my physical limits and an opportunity missed.

In 2007, I came to the Canyon with my senior class. We were young and adventurous. In the sweltering heat of June ’07 we decided to try to hike down from the south rim to the river and back in a single day.By 9:30am the heat was hitting 110+, the sun beat down at every turn, water ran low, faces flushed red, and when we turned the corner we saw a dozen more switchbacks with no water station in sight. A solemn team vote ended in us turning back without seeing the Colorado river. Heat exhaustion and dehydration were setting in. Defeated but thankful, we had escaped that day with no major injuries.

10 years later. I had another chance to face the Canyon.

This time with K, we knew what to expect and what we needed to do. This was 10 years later…I am supposed to be wiser. We planned to hike down the Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point. 6 mi each way (12 mi roundtrip) with elevation change of 3080ft. A manageable hike with water stations and bathrooms every 1.5 mi.

What I didn’t know in 2007, I came prepared to this time. Hiking sticks, nuun electrolyte tablets, beef jerky, clifs shot bloks…we were ready.



8:34am: Indian Gardens (4.5mi)

We had made good time and the weather was cooler than we expected when we landed at Indian Gardens. A park attendant the day before had informed us that we were allowed to hike between 10am-2pm because it was later in the year (summer hiking is unbearable at peak heat hours). I wavered…we had planned to go to Plateau Point. stick to the plan. Now that I was here at the fork, I could feel the Colorado river call me.

We went back and forth 3-4 times. This was not wise. It would be an extra 3.4 miles and an extra 1260 ft elevation change on top of the original 12 mi and 3080ft elevation. People have died hiking the Grand Canyon and hundreds are rescued each year pushing too hard and being unwise. K has never been to the Grand Canyon before so Plateau Point and the view of the Colorado river was going to be thrilling. a 12 mi roundtrip hike was doable and we still had to make camp later that night on the top of the rim. That was the safe play.

There are those who enjoy the hike and those who go for the view.

At 10:06am. We hit the river. All the thoughts of turning back 10 years ago vanished.

If only that was the end. Now what awaited us was a 7.7 mi trek back up to the rim with 4340 ft in elevation change to tackle. It was now ~105-110 degrees at the base of the Canyon and we were approaching the dreaded noon heat.

15.4 mi. 4340 ft elevation change. 12 hrs.

I came to the Canyon resigned to my own limitations. I walked away in wonder of the Grand Canyon and it’s ability to give and take away. I walked away with a deep sense of appreciation for the experience we’ve been blessed with and for my amazing wife who literally walked alongside me all the way as I confronted my canyon.


As mentioned previously in this post, many have tried the rim to river and back in a single day and it is absolutely wise not to attempt it. This post is not intended to put park rangers at risk by encouraging others to try this trek. It requires all the following conditions to attempt (many which are out of our control): a solid plan, sufficient supplies, a strong understanding of your own physical limitations and ability to assess your own condition, cooler weather that allows hiking between 10am-2pm, shade and cloud cover for large portions of the hike.

3 Sisters Waterfalls Hike


Descanso, California

Distance: 4 miles

3 sisters falls is a great workout! For a hilarious read, check out the yelp reviews (here) and you’ll find the largest variance in experiences. Some range from “this was so easy” to “this was so intense a few guys had to get helicoptered out!”

This hike has it all, it’s part hike, part sliding, and part rock climbing. It starts out with one path but halfway through there are many routes to the falls and it becomes a mini choose-your-own adventure! Do you cross the stream or do you continue along the same side? Do you jump over to the huge rocks or do you find a safer route? Should you brush against those 3 leafed branches that look an awful lot like poison oak?

At the end is a pretty neat but kind of smaller-than-in-real-life-than-pictures waterfalls. It’s a good time to go right now just as the rains have come through a few weeks back and the springs are gushing with water. A few months later and I hear the springs dry down to a trickle.

There are portions of this hike that are so steep you really need shoes with some type of grip. That or you could resort to sliding on your butt because for those portions, you don’t really hike down, you control slide down. There’s nothing scarier than having someone behind you with that slipping sound!

When you get to the falls, the water is frigid, even if it’s pretty hot. You could attempt to slide down the waterfalls but the bottom pools are so shallow you’re really risking some broken bones. so yeah. not as fun for water as the devils punch bowl hike but still a fun workout!

There were points where I legitimately felt someone could get dangerously hurt. It’s amazing there aren’t more accidents up there but if you’re safe, know your physical boundaries, and don’t try to impress everyone insight…it’s a decent adventure.

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It’s called 3 sisters falls for a reason and after you get to the first falls you need to do some mild rock climbing and slight more dangerous maneuvering to get to the 2nd and the 3rd. Above is the 2nd sister.

Here’s where my fear of heights really started tingling and almost got me caught in a bad position. Some guys took my phone over to the waters edge and snapped the following shot. Don’t know how people can get so close to the edge and not be afraid…crazy. The view from atop the 3rd sister.


Potato Chip Rock hike a.k.a mount woodson trail

Distance: 3.9 miles each way (7.8 mi total)
Elevation: ~2000 ft

Potato Chip Rock Hike
M.Lau: resident parkour expert. when it came to potato chip itself, was pleading with his girlfriend, “please don’t jump. PLEASE.”
 Potato Chip Rock Hike 
Don’t let the following photos fool you. Despite my best attempts to persuade them otherwise, these following photos were taken. How much weight that rock can sustain is anyone’s guess…and it is razor thin.
video taken by K.Nguyen
The lower part of the boulder must have cracked years ago and left this thin precipice. Over the edge is a pretty steep drop of more then 30 feet onto solid boulders. 

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yoga + nerves of steel = amazing

Potato Chip Rock Hike
a scout is always prepared…and this one is deathly scared of heights.


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Potato Chip Rock Hike
V.Nguyen, K.Nguyen, J.Wu, J.Zacharia, D.Lee, C.Yih, M.Lau, L.Hui

*please do not ruin a fun hike day by putting anybody in danger on that rock.

Iron Mountain


Iron Mountain
Hiking…it is possibly the most boring physical activity in the world. There are two semi-redeeming qualities about hiking: the view at the end and the workout. Without one or the other and it’s a waste of time. You know that feeling you get of accomplishment when you finish a hike and you can’t wait to do it again sometime? yup…never feel that way.
On the other hand, some of my friends do seem to enjoy it immensely. Apologies to K.Nguyen, M.Lau, and A.Jang for whining the whole time. You guys are too good.
Iron Mountain

Ramona Falls Hike (aka “Devil’s Punch bowl”)

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Every time I go hiking I start the day with “mmm. I should do this more often.” It never quite ends with the same sentiment, whether at the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, or here in local San Diego.

A group of us decided to go to on a hike to Ramona Falls, a pretty secluded area in Cleveland National Forest on the back side of Poway, SD. We headed out after church and grabbed a few sandwiches so we got to the trail head around 2pm.

It was supposed to be a simple hike down and back up ~2 miles each way. The hike down was much steeper than expected and the hike back was consequently much more difficult than we anticipated.

At the “Devil’s Punchbowl” we were startled to find hordes of rowdy high schoolers and frat guys sitting around the lake. It was surprising considering we barely saw anybody on the way down. Fortunately, it was a very relaxed atmosphere and everyone was looking to have a fun time. By this time in the summer the waterfall had slowed to a trickle and the punchbowl definitely had more stagnant than running water.

No matter though as the water was refreshingly cold and made the hike very worth it. There was a rope swing on the far right hand side. The peak of the swing led to ~15 ft drop once you let go. Incredibly fun. On the far left were a few high ledges that people were jumping and back flipping off of. Unfortunately, the pond was rather shallow at certain points. Just didn’t have the guts to do the bigger jump. Plus we were a bit on a time crunch to get back for Patty’s bday dinner.

All in all a great hike for a day trip. I woke up today not too tired and not very sore, but a word of warning, if you are out of shape plan to head out earlier in the day so you give yourself more time to come up. That hike back is a great workout. For any interested parties, it is definitely recommended to go in late spring, early summer when the waterfall is in full force.

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Left to right: Patty Lee, Adam Wong, Chiyori Angevine, Andrew Kwong