I’m on the left, leading JP, and on the right is my eldest daughter leading Sunrise—with a doll in a pannier pocket in both shots. It is sometimes difficult to describe the impact growing up on the trail with llamas had on me, but maybe the fact that I’m trying to give my girls what I had says it all. Or enough, anyway.
[In September of 2011], eighty-three llama packing enthusiasts gathered in beautiful Silverton, Colorado to talk shop. Because all of the participants were so willing to share ideas and knowledge, we were able to make real progress toward re-defining the sport of llama packing.
I don’t know how many times I have had a llama start to tug on his lead or stop, and I have started thinking “why is this llama getting stubborn?” Then I check things over, and find the saddle turning on him or something in his load gouging him. Then I realize (again) that it wasn’t the llama, but the dummy leading him/her who was wrong.
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.
Our three-mile race course, set up below the town of Fairplay and along the scenic Platte River Valley, features many of the situations one may encounter while out on the trail with a llama.
In 1994, my wife Carolyn and I rented two llamas and completed a seven-day pack trip into the Wind River Range of Wyoming. Within two months of completing the trip, we purchased our first two llamas—untrained two year olds—then started a huge learning process for all of us... Encounters on the trail are unavoidable.
Llama packers in the United States will remember the challenges posed by a planned exclusion of llamas for Canyon Lands National Park in Utah. Similar exclusionary policies have been put in place in California. Another such policy is being attempted in Alaskan wilderness areas.
Anaheim chile peppers should be purchased in the fall of the year and roasted so they peel easily when defrosted. I usually buy a bushel or more, have them roasted, and then package them in gallon-size ziplock freezer bags so I have enough chile peppers to make a big batch with each package.
My grandmother was an incredible woman. She was also a magician in the kitchen, and friends and family still request her meals by name (i.e. “Will you be bringing your grandma’s ham loaves/your grandma’s strawberry shortcake/your grandma’s trail bars?”)
The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is over, tax returns aren’t due for a couple of months, and there will be more long, cold evenings before spring takes over. This is the perfect time to take care of details that will help make this year’s trips the best ever.
Twelve years ago, when we moved out of the city and came up here to live on the edge of the woods, it was definitely an attempt to get away—and to find a place where we could grow good garlic. But it also felt crazy. I was commuting over an hour to my job at a newspaper, living in a dilapidated house and not quite sure what we were doing out here.