From the parking lot we wander past Baymag Plant II, wondering just where is the canyon. It's right around that point we reach the dry riverbed of Grotto Creek and immediately afterwards the Grotto Canyon loomed. The creek is mostly dry with a path that comes and goes. More often than not, we were picking our way through all types of rock in the creekbed from gravel size up to whale sized boulders.
Each turn brought another pleasant surprise. The more popular start of the trail is the 2.3 km up to the hoodoos. Following the canyon, we had a spectacular view of the walls, which soar high above the floor. It took us past Indian pictographs (rock paintings) which are barely discernable.
We continued over ice that was still nearly 5 feet thick but melting enough for the creek to flow beneath. Further up we encounter a fork and to the right is a falls, which provides most of the water in the creek. We swung left and the reward was a series of developing hoodoos high above the valley floor. One had what appeared to be a cave more than 2/3 of the way up. A little too steep for my shinneying skills. Besides, we had another 6-7 km to go before we reached the 1800 m higher elevation we were aiming for.
Pleasant sights along the way included a variety of cairn to assure us, as the only visitors that day, that we were on the right path.
As we finally realized time was getting away from us and we hadn't found the alleged meadow at the head of the creek, even exceeding the estimated 8 km upward descent, we turned around and enjoyed a different view retracing our steps. When you concentrate on those steps just ahead of you, pausing only to look forward and enjoy the oncoming scenery, you don't notice how quickly you are ascending. Only when we began our descent did we fully appreciate how high we had climbed.
As we started home, we got the added privilege of seeing Big Horn Sheep and their babies grazing nearby.
A beautiful day. Nearer heaven.
"You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains...."