Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Llama Trekking with Rosebud Llamas Utah

             Llamas have been the helpful companions of humans for over 5000 years.  They are intelligent, curious and naturally gentle.  Llamas will carry all the food, kitchen gear, tents, sleeping bags and clothes for a two-night, three-day trip into the wilderness.
  Sounds good to us so Tim and I sign on for a llama trek into the San Rafael Swell of Eastern Utah with Shirley Weathers and Bill Walsh, owners of Rosebud Llamas Utah.  We meet Shirley and Bill at the trailhead and are introduced to the seven llamas who’ll carry our gear:  one female - Baez, and six males - Charlie, Chippo, Fasco, Fernando, Zorro and Yarrow.  After receiving a brief tutorial on the handling of llamas I take Fernando’s reins and Tim leads Charlie as we start on the trail.  Shirley and Bill’s German Shepherd, Danke, accompanies us as well.

Contented Llamas in Camp.
          The trail is a three-mile journey through geologic time - we hike past enormous rock walls, arches and pinnacles.  Formations in the Swell span the Permian through the Cretaceous periods.  
  We stop under giant cottonwoods for lunch and Shirley ties the llamas to the trees where they noisily munch all the vegetation they can find, including bark.  We establish camp in a valley by the San Rafael River.  While Tim and I set up our tent Shirley and Bill unload the packs, erect our kitchen tent, dig a fire pit and stake the llamas to a picket line.  It’s a peaceful scene - llamas grazing and dinner cooking under a bright blue sky in the shadows of brilliant red rocks.  We enjoy a delicious dinner of tortellini with meat sauce and then Tim and Bill collect wood and start a campfire in our small fire ring.  We’re all alone in the wilderness.  
  By nightfall the sky is illuminated with millions of stars; the milky way stretches across the galaxy.   A splendid night in the desert.
  The first day of October and it’s a chilly morning.  We don down vests to sip our coffee and tea as sunlight creeps over the rocks and into the valley.
  After breakfast Tim, Bill and I load our day packs for a hike along Spring Canyon to view a natural arch.  We slog through marshes and high weeds - it’s slow going and not what we were expecting in the desert but now we understand how Spring Canyon earned its name.  Tim, Bill and I eat lunch along the trail and then return to our campsite.  As we near camp Danke prances toward us; Shirley is tending the llamas.
          Tim and I drop our packs, remove our hiking boots and relax on camp chairs in the shade.  The llamas are relaxing too, lying in the tall grass and humming contentedly.  Our llamas are the camp’s seven yoga masters - each rumbling their low, resonant mantras.  Soothing and serene.
  Shirley cooks chicken curry for dinner, another satisfying meal.  This evening we sit around a blazing campfire and regale each other with travel tales --- and a few scary camp stories as well.  As if in response to our spooky stories we’re treated to the sounds of wildlife tonight -  great-horned and western screech owls hooting, coyotes yipping.
Our Wilderness Campsite in the San Rafael Swell.
  Our final morning in the Swell.  Shirley boils water for coffee and tea, then we gather round the kitchen table, enjoying our morning drinks while exchanging additional travel yarns.
  After breakfast it’s time to break camp and hike out of the canyon.  Tim and I pack our bags while Shirley and Bill load the panniers and strap them onto the llamas’ backs.  Tim and I lead Charlie and Fernando; we soon fall into an easy rhythm on the trail and I feel I’m forming a bond with Fernando.

Packing the llamas for the hike back to the trailhead.

          We return to the trailhead, say our goodbyes to Shirley and Bill and thank them for a pleasant first introduction to llama trekking.  Finally, the time has come to say goodbye to Charlie, Fernando and the rest of the llamas:  “Thanks guys - for shouldering the load on this terrific trek.” 

Note:  Fed up with rampant oil and gas development occurring near their town (and all over Eastern Utah) Shirley and Bill recently moved to Oregon.  Therefore these Llama treks are no longer available.

To hear the call of the Western Screech Owl, listen here:  http://www.owling.com/screech2a.wav
If you would like to read about wilderness areas in the San Rafael Swell:  http://www.utah.com/playgrounds/san_rafael_wsa.htm

1 comment:

  1. Llamas - llovelly! There's something so wonderful about llamas humming mantras. Thanks for the great image - and a terrific vacation suggestion.