The wind subsided rather quickly for the desert and all the happy campers got to go out and play. We headed over to Stovepipe Wells trying to scope out good places to set up to shoot the full moon rising over the Valley floor. While talking to the Ranger he mentioned a place we’d never seen on a map–Grotto Canyon. “Why,” he said, “You can’t miss it–just go back down the road, look for a dirt road(duh!) and take it up to the parking area. After that first little climb, you will find several rock grottos all the way up.”
Back in the Jeep, just past Mesquite Dunes and on the right, there it was! We eagerly pulled off the highway and slammed the Jeep into low 4-wheel drive and began the nice dirt road up the hill. We reached the parking area and took off into the canyon. Well, excuse me, but that little climb Mr. Smokey Bear mentioned was a 12′ straight up rock wall face with no hand holds, no place to put your feet and no way to butt-scrunch up the sides with your feet on the opposite wall. The gauntlet had been laid down–we would do this!
After about 30 minutes of scraping our arms, fingers, hands, knees just to slide back down the wall I thought it might be a good idea to lift some of the big rocks–well, maybe small boulders–up to the end of the canyon wall and stack them so we could climb up high enough to pull ourselves up to that first ledge.
The few big rocks turned out to be about a dozen and we ended up with a pile of rocks maybe 4′ high. Up I went–no go!! 6′ of straight up isn’t any more doable than 12′. The worst part was feeling like a grandma instead of the young mountain goat of my youth. At one point I got stuck all crouched on a little ledge and literally had to roll off the side of the canyon onto a waiting Mr. T. We never did get up to the grottos–but next time we’ll bring a ladder.
The worst part was that all the rock digging and carrying ticked off the tendons in my right hand and I’ve been in a brace and popping Advil ever since. I can’t write, lift, or barely take a photo. I thought the desert was my friend. Fortunately, it hasn’t interfered with lifting a cold one over at the Corkscrew.