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took a much-needed break in order to munch on trail mix and fill our water bottles from the cool spring. We still had a few hours of daylight left, and even though we would not reach the River on this day, were eager to put on as many trail miles as possible before nightfall.

Resuming our trek, leaving our lush oasis behind, we plodded onward across the rocky expanse of the barren Esplanande. The glaring sun became hotter and hotter with each successive step, and after another couple hours of hiking the sun was now low on the horizon, casting long shadows into the deep ravines. My companions stopped for another brief break, to grab a bite, a sip of water, and to adjust their packs. I told them that I would wait for them — just down the trail a bit.  I continued hiking for another 10 minutes or so, then found a nice spot to take off my pack and wait for my friends. I waited, and waited, and waited…  (continue…)

For the moment, though, we were enjoying our surroundings. Clambering down off of the North Rim the winding trail took us from switchback to switchback as it threaded its way through numerous slot canyons. The Arizona weather was hot, arid, and sunny, and my companions and I all seemed to be in good spirits as we hiked along mostly in silence, single file, each lost in their own thoughts.

Not quite halfway in elevation between the Rim and the River lies a broad expanse, a plateau, called the Esplanande Platform. Here the barren landscape occasionally becomes punctuated with lush vegetation, and verdant oases can appear, with pools of water offering much needed refreshment for the weary traveler.  

We were all a bit weary after a couple hours of hiking, so we took took off our very heavy backpacks  and