So last week we took the llamas on the last practice hike before going on an overnight backpacking trip. This time we loaded the packs up with camping gear. I chose a hike described as a moderate grade and 4.5 miles each way. It was 80 dregrees out so I thought this would be perfect to replicate the worst we might encounter on a multi-day hiking trip. Above is Tom leading Walker and Vanessa (our Chesapeake). Walker did great as far as stamina goes but had behavioral issues. He kept stopping to eat and look back. He did not like to stay on the trail and would step off both up and down hill.
Oreo, on the other hand, had major issues. He walked very slow and about 1 mile up the trail was breathing a little hard and laid down for the first time. I repacked his pack and took some of his weight. This continued so at 1.5 miles I took about 1/2 his weight off, and we ate lunch and rested for over 1 hour. Then a total of 2 miles in and 3 hours, we gave up and turned back. He initially did fine on the downhill, but progressively had worsening problems with his breathing again and despite frequent breaks was breathing quite hard back down at the trailhead. We were stopping every 50 yards or so then, and I was not sure he was going to make it.
The next day Walker was fine, but Oreo stood very little. I was worried about him, but the following day he was back to his normal self. Walker seemed worried about him too. Here’s a photo of him the next day humming and ever vigilant, apparently wondering where Oreo is and why he isn’t joining him in the grazing. It was funny to see because they do not act like they like each other at all.
To Oreo’s credit, I would not consider that trail (Goat Creek trail up to Goat Peak) “moderate grade”. We gestimated with the GPS that there was a 2000 foot elevation gain in that first 2 miles. And every critter but Walker was quite sore and tired the next day (including Tom and I).
But in all, the practice llama hike was a bust. We cannot reliably take these llamas with us on a long overnight hike. But it may not have been a bust because we learned this now rather than farther from civilization. And no damage was done. So the question now is do we try again with younger pack llamas or confine ourselves to shorter, easier hikes the rest of our lives.