ABCD Trip Part 1: The Grand Canyon / by Amanda Liew

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I’ve always been a cheater when it comes to communication. I am essentially incapable of letting my photos or my words speak for themselves so I resort to doing both. That alone probably explains why I choose to blog instead of just letting this website stand as a portfolio - photos and words on their own cannot encapsulate it all, so why not combine the two? So as I begin blogging about my ABCD Trip*, I will do my very best to capture even a sliver of what this trip meant to me in terms of as many senses as I can describe! 

*Coincidentally our trip’s participants were Amanda, Benedetto, Corey, and Dana

As some of you may already know, this trip came at a time of significant transition: I’ve just finished up over 2 years in finance and am looking to shift to the social enterprise industry. As I was planning this trip with the others, I was ridiculously excited about the itinerary, but didn’t anticipate how the “flow” of the energy levels & emotions would impact me. My trip split into 3 parts: Vegas, the National Parks, and San Diego. Each one vastly different than the others. I finished up my job on a Wednesday, and less than 24 hours later was on a plane to Vegas which was perfect for a hyperactive catharsis of sorts. Over the course of two days we were running nonstop, barely sleeping, and literally dancing the night away. Then, suddenly, we were in nature nature nature for 5 straight days: the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Moab, and Zion. We were actively hiking each day, viewing grandiose creations of God, physically exhausted but mentally at peace. Finally, I was in San Diego, experiencing for the first time in a long time what it meant to have solitude lead to peace in my heart, mind, and spirit. I look back on the flow of this trip and am just so amazed by how KNOWN I am by God. We planned this trip based off of logistics, yet I can see so clearly how God's hand worked to ease me perfectly into where I needed to be in New York at this moment. Each aspect of the trip - the hyperactivity, the physical exertion, the self-confidence in accomplishment, the awe & wonder, the peace - was all what I needed to encounter. I just didn’t know it at the time. 

Enough with the misty-eyed reflections, though! Let’s talk about how epic The Grand Canyon was. After much deliberation, we opted to do the Bright Angel Trail, one of the more popular trails that descends into the canyon. There were signs all over warning us "what goes down, must come up" and that the ascension would take 2-3x as long. We slowly meandered our way to the 1.5 Mile Resthouse, taking photos every other second (mainly glamour shots of Benedetto heh...) and found a great lookout spot to eat our lunch at. The vision of the canyon are truly incredible - there's so much depth, so many layers, such an extensive amount of colors. I had originally bought my Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 wide-angle lens for my trip to Jordan and was so happy to have it with me for this trip as well! It makes a huge difference in the landscape shots.

Without a doubt, the true winner of our hike back up was Dana. Girl was storming up the canyon at a crazy pace, but making it look like she was just going for a chill walk. I, on the other hand, was merely grateful that I was passing some, but not all, of the 70 year olds on the trail. As some background, Dana & I were still getting to know each other on the trip since we hadn't hung out too many times before. It was as we were watching her fly up the steps that Corey began to spin his deception about how when I had the time, I should ask Dana to tell me more about her "condition." He convincingly started weaving a tale that Dana couldn't actually feel pain and that was why she was so good at these sorts of things. I was doubtful for sure, but coincidentally, 20 minutes before, she had told me a story of how she accidentally bruised herself doing a pretty mundane task which seemed to fit right into this issue. I started peppering him with questions (Wasn't that condition really severe? Wouldn't she be stuck at home?) , all of which he had answers to: she's really careful and has to monitor herself really closely, it used to be difficult but now she has it maintained, she eats really carefully, etc. etc. Finally he couldn't take it anymore and gave the ruse up to which I nearly pushed him off the canyon ledge. Not usually the one to fall for pranks, I had to give him credit where credit was due & we all had a solid laugh at the fake condition. Moral of the story? Dana's just a total hike killer & never believe any story that comes out of Corey's mouth.

Fortunately for us, we missed a sudden thunderstorm by about 3 minutes and managed to seek shelter in time. We were originally considering just heading back to the hotel, but instead opted to wait the rain out with some hot cocoa and try to catch the sunset from Maricopa Point. While the clouds weren't being cooperative, I have to admit that the shots came out beautifully. The amount of color & light in the horizon compensated for the lack of actual "sun." The way the light filled up & bounced off the inside canyon also made for a vastly different scene than what we saw only a few hours ago. 

One thing that we didn't fully grasp before our visit was truly how vast the Grand Canyon is. The next morning, on our way to Antelope Canyon, we got a view of it from a greater distance & just couldn't believe how it kept going and going and going. Driving around the canyon definitely added a significant amount of time to our trip, but it was well worth the views during sunrise. 

Overall, the South Rim was just a magnificent visit. A couple of tips & tricks below in case you are curious about the more minute travel details. Next up: Upper & Lower Antelope Canyon!

Learn From Our Successes and Failures!


  • We stayed at Canyon Plaza Resort for two nights and enjoyed our stay quite a bit! We were worried we would be too spoiled since we were just coming from the ARIA in Vegas, but the room itself was very clean & spacious. We had a slight issue with our key card on the second day, but overall I would recommend it. It is within walking distance of quite a few restaurants and a quick 10-15 minute drive to the National Park.


  • We had a great learning lesson to always trust Yelp. We forgot that the world doesn’t operate like NYC where restaurants are open until 2am, so by the time we decided to get dinner at 8:30, our options were extremely limited. I voted for Pizza Hut (the safest option), but we ultimately settled on Sophie’s Mexican Kitchen. Honestly, I’m not even kidding you when I say avoid it at all costs. Our meal was essentially the equivalent of “college kids try to do taco night.” The second night we were ecstatic for Pizza Hut, and despite the long wait, it hit the spot just right after a long day of hiking. 
  • For lunch, RP’s Stage Stop is a fantastic option - decently priced breakfast & lunch sandwiches. We all ordered delicious bacon-egg-and-cheese’s & lunch sandwiches to eat on the trail! All their coffee options are delicious as well. 
  • Once you enter the park itself, there are quite a few Lodges with food options. While we didn’t check out any dinner menus, we made the good choice of grabbing hot chocolates & pastries as we waited for sunset.


  • The parking lots & shuttle system within the Grand Canyon is pretty useful! Unfortunately due to the downpour, the shuttle system became extremely overcrowded.
  • If you are driving from the Grand Canyon to Antelope Canyon, you will need to drive through the park. I recommend leaving a large amount of time for the drive because there are some truly incredible sights along the way. Unfortunately we were on a tight time schedule and couldn’t stop as much as we wanted to!


  • In general for this entire trip, I think it would have been worth it for me to invest in a flexible gorilla tripod. There were plenty of situations that I could have taken advantage of a longer shutter speed to compensate for the large depth of fields I wanted to capture with my wide angle lens. The South Rim viewing points usually have a guard rail of some sort that would have been ideal to wrap the flexible legs around.

Want more details? Just contact me! We essentially stole most of the trip's planning from our good friend Claire & Greg and are happy to share details.