Once again, it happened in a parking lot. Tom and I joke that we only get lost in parking lots. We’ve trekked our llamas through countless wildernesses for very extended periods of time and never get lost. In parking lots, we get lost. Many people know this about us; it’s old news. But on this day, it was our llama.
The day began as a great Friday llama hike with friends around Squires Lake and up to little Alger Alp, a trip of about six miles. I had our two trail-worthy llamas, Spyder and Ida. While loading up Ida to go home, she was startled by a dog jumping out of a nearby car and, in response, she stepped backward and slipped right out of her halter. She had worn this halter for three years on the trail with out incident. Now she was walking back up the trail into a landscape of woods that could take her to Canada. My hope was she’d stop at the first bridge for the excellent grass, but no luck. There are a few trail intersections around the lake, the trail leading over to the Alp a few miles beyond, plus more trails leading off of that—so which way should I go?
Karma ruled. Whenever I paused to consider a choice, someone would walk up and give me a clue. There was the parking lot man with a cell phone to call Tom so prior commitments could be canceled. The woman whose dog chased Ida away from the lake toward a mountainside we’d never been on. The car driver on a private dirt road who advised me to look further east down that road where she’d seen a deer or maybe a llama thirty minutes prior. Another cell phone was loaned to ask Tom to come help hunt and where he could find me on the mountain. The man who told me where the private ATV trails were and suggested I use them to get back behind the ridge where Ida later moved. The many families gathered at the private Palmer Lake just east of Squires Lake, who offered support, hot coffee and a grassy place to tie up Spyder for the night in hopes of drawing Ida down and into sight.
I found Ida right where the driver said, but she’d moved up a steeply wooded slope with heavy underbrush and no trail. Spyder and I scrambled up within ten feet, but a shaking bowl of grain was of no interest to a llama standing in her own salad bar. I tied Spyder up and moved away, hoping to attract Ida. No luck. Tying Spyder down by the road and moving far away had not worked. Two hours later, Ida moved further up the slope and disappeared over the ridge. At 9pm, Tom suggested that maybe a night alone in the woods would be a good thing for Ida. We secured Spyder at Palmer Lake and went home for showers.
In the morning, while Tom made lost llama flyers, I ran up to Canada (a ten minute drive) to ship a package to Calgary. I got tangled at Canadian Customs when I didn’t know the value. The agents were amused, eventually it all worked out and the package was shipped. There is a reason I am telling you this annoying part. I gave myself a treat and swung through Tim Horton’s for a coffee and two chicken salad sandwiches. That saved me two less tasks to do at home before heading off to spend the day hunting for Ida.
We arrived back at the Squires Lake parking lot and walked up to Palmer Lake to check in with the group and see if Ida had returned. No sign of her had been seen through the night, but both a llama and bear print had been found on an ATV trail that morning. That meant the boys had been off on their machines hunting for a llama and possibly sending her further off the trail. We scanned the slope where Ida had been—no luck. We slowly worked our way up the slippery, rugged backside slope on several very poor ATV trails to get to the ridge where Ida had crossed so we could look back down the slope to where she had last been seen. We walked back and forth on the dirt road then the trail around Squire Lake, way back down to the trailhead, and up again. It was time to expand our search into the new adjoining mountain terrain, big country for a llama to roam in.
We started walking west toward this new slope, then remembered our Tim Horton sandwiches and went back to Palmer Lake. After lunch, we headed west once more and scanned the slopes along the way. Tom spotted Ida up a slope right where I’d last seen her twenty-four hours earlier. Ida’s coloring blended into the landscape; it was her movement that caught Tom’s eye.
Tom moved slowly up that vertical slope with Spyder. Hums were exchanged. Tom waited. Ida did not move away when Tom gradually wrapped his arm around her neck. We guess she was glad to finally come in. Who knows what she saw or heard that night out alone in the woods; she certainly knew we’d left her behind. We went back once more to Palmer Lake so everyone could meet the lost llama. Spyder’s pasture poop was left so the folks could nurture their new tomato plants. Promises were made to meet for a llama walk with everyone’s grandchildren. The folks assured us they would squeeze a lot of mileage out of our story.
Ida now wears a Sopris halter.
God bless Tim Horton’s.
Gull durn parking lots.