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Spots on the Rock

The climb

Ain't no mountain high, ain't no valley low enough

  • 4 min to read

For the third time now, I thought I'd try my chances at finally finding the isolated Alutom Falls in Nimitz Hill.

Spoiler alert: I failed. AGAIN.

Guam's veteran hikers would laugh at my misfortune because this particular hike is relatively easy, not too long and, as far as I've heard, not hard to find.

I'm beginning to think there's some supernatural power at work keeping me from the falls. It really shouldn't take more than once or twice to find any place on this tiny island, so you can imagine my dismay.

And I was so sure I had it this time, too!

Thank you, modern technology

I set out to hike on a weekday afternoon last week, inspired by my friend Catherine "Cat" Bungabong, who had accomplished hiking to Alutom Falls the weekend prior.

I saw her photos on Facebook and – although I decided I would take a break from that particular hike after the last failure – was reignited with hope and determined to try again.

We messaged back and forth for a while as I prepared to head out. I made sure to scrutinize every nook and cranny in the videos and pictures she took.

Once I arrived, I had a good feeling! Maybe today would be the day I finally conquer this Godforsaken waterfall.

Thanks to modern technology, I was more confident than ever because I would be Snapchatting Cat throughout the hike to make sure I was heading in the right direction.

For our older readers, Snapchat is a multimedia-messaging mobile application. It's kind of like texting, but purely with photos and video.

The plan was foolproof – or so I thought.

I made my way through the trail, Snapchatting the whole way. My phone was at 20 percent, and Snapchat drains a battery like no other app, so I was determined to get through the 40-or-so-minute hike quickly.

After making my rounds through the area where I had previously been stumped, I began to question my every step, again.

According to Cat, I was looking for a manmade, concrete platform by the Mount Alutom radio towers. Since I scoured the area by the towers in my prior attempts, I know I'd never seen what she described.

That feeling of failure and giving up started to set in, dragging on my drive to proceed, but not today!

Cat could only help me so much because the entire valley and landscape around Mount Alutom all looked the same. Despite her guidance, I needed to be innovative, too.

I hooked around the radio towers, wondering if, for some reason, the trail was on the other side. And it was.

After two tries now, I discovered that I'd been hiking on the completely wrong side of the mountain the whole time. Cue the face-palm.

Islandwide views and earthy hues

My silver lining this time around was that I had yet to forge my own path downhill through walls of sword grass like I did the last time. Luckily, it had only been around 15 minutes into the hike with little ground covered.

I wasn't a sweaty mess, yet.

With excitement and relief, I finally found the concrete platform Cat pointed out. Beyond it was a view of the island's central valley, and beyond that, views of the whole island!

I couldn't believe the vantage point I had. From a lowly hill in Nimitz, I could see north to Two Lovers' Point, east to Mangilao and Talofofo, west to the port and Cabras, and south toward Merizo's southern mountain range.

I initially thought you could only have views like this atop Mount Jumullong Manglo, but I was wrong. Speechless and mesmerized, I contemplated just sitting here at this breezy point to meditate instead of hiking, but I knew that's not what I was there for.

Down the rocky hill trail I went, passing volcanic boulders and other geological wonders.

Amazing turquoise and rust-colored clay lined the path down the mountainside. A few trees dotted the landscape, with patches of palm tree groves seen across the valley.

The path was well-worn, so there was no getting lost. My eyes were drawn to a couple of tropical tree groves further into the valley. Surely, the Alutom Falls flowed there.

It wasn't until I had reached the near bottom of the valley that my confidence met suspicion. The trail soon faded into more and more vegetation. There were no flags or markers.

However, the faint sound of rushing water was coming from close by, and the greenery surrounding me matched that of typical riverside foliage.

I quit Snapchatting Cat more than half an hour ago after finding the path, but here I was, facing being lost for the third time.

While she tried her best to help me, even she had no clue where I was. I stumbled through more sword grass until I found something I hadn't even been looking for – Upper Sigua Falls.

Keep going, keep the faith

I couldn't stop laughing! For those who don't know, Upper Sigua Falls flows further along the same river as the better-known Sigua Falls, which is technically the lower of the two falls.

This waterfall is much less popular, but still a sight to see, and one of the top waterfalls in the island's central valley.

Standing atop the waterfall, the rushing water below me cascaded down a series of ledges to reach a small pool hundreds of feet below. Beyond, the backdrop of acres of waving palm trees below blue skies. It was a true slice of paradise.

While this waterfall had been on my list, I hadn't planned to hike here until I got in better shape. From what I understood, it was a tad farther and more difficult than my usual ventures take me, but there I was!

I skipped out on descending to the bottom of the falls due to the fading sunlight and the fact that it would add hundreds of feet more to my mileage.

Turning back, I knew I wouldn't make it to Alutom Falls that day, but it wasn't a complete loss.

Making my way back up the 400-foot mountainside, I began humming "The Climb" by Miley Cyrus to get me through the exhausting uphill battle.

After trying my luck at conquering this hike three times now, I did hear a voice inside me saying, "You'll never reach it."

Every move I made did feel lost with no direction. My faith was shaken.

But it's not about how fast I get there, and it's not about what's waiting on the other side.

There's always going to be another mountain. I'm always going to want to make it move. There's always going to be an uphill battle. Sometimes I'm going to have to lose.

I've just got to keep trying. I've got to keep my head held high.

These are the moments I'm going to remember the most. I've just got to keep going. I've got to keep the faith.

It's all about the climb!


The Scoop coordinator, Spots on The Rock columnist and Life documenter. Email: Follow Tihu on Twitter and Instagram at @tihualujan.

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