Legs wobbly from the fourteen miles of the previous day, it takes a new mile on this new day to get the rust out of my joints. There's little warmup. We're heading straight up the ancient Vishnu Schist. Almost two billion years old, these rocks are the strangest I've ever known. They vibrate with a kind of heavy energy. Gnarled in black and magenta, the rocks sucked us into them and the release from their pull takes much effort. One is silent in the compressed heat of the inner gorge. It's as if the energy that forged this metamorphic rock were still present, still glowing. The base of an ancient mountain range, these rocks were gashed by the upstart Colorado River in recent times (from a geological perspective). It's almost like they resent the intrusion. They seem grumpy this morning. Or is it just my legs?
The Clear Creek Trail climbs back up to the Tonto Plateau on the north side of the river. The trail is efficient. Soon we're above the gorge. We'd heard that the view of the river was spectacular but the schist's jagged profile is unrelenting. We see nothing but a black wall of rock. The trail is crunchy, all I hear are my footsteps and my breathe. Then I hear myself yelp.
The rocks give way to a panorama of the Colorado river at sunrise. Looking into the sun I see a glistening snake wind its way through the rocks, still cutting its way down into the ancient crust. Normally it is difficult to see exactly how the river carved the canyon. So many other elements have had their hand in the masterpiece. On this morning, at this angle, the river's work is obvious. On it goes. Water must be the most relentless and patient force in nature.
We are tugged by the inner gorge as we try to escape it. We look back as we make our final ascent to the rolling table of the Tonto. Views of the river are surprisingly rare in Grand Canyon. One must relish every glimpse. We leave the river to its work. The urge to keep moving in the canyon onward to new adventures proves greater than the pull of the schist.
Ultimately, the escape is temporary. The heat and exposure of the Tonto soon have us craving for the afternoon shade of the inner gorge. After a few adventurous hours, we descend again, knowing that the rocks have won once more. We cannot escape their allure. They bring us down home again.