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[pct-l] llamas (llamalady responds at length to many posts)


Stock, by definition, has something to do with the animals hooves [feet].
llamas don't qualify. It's a technical distinction I heard from Melani
Garside, another LLama Lady. I have no idea if she's correct?


-----Original Message-----
From: Marion Davison [mailto:mardav@charter.net]
Sent: Sunday, June 02, 2002 7:17 PM
To: PCT List
Subject: [pct-l] llamas (llamalady responds at length to many posts)

This is llama lady speaking.  I just returned from a weekend trip to
find all these llama postings, so I must respond to all.
My credentials:  a backpacker since 1970, with one 300 mile backpack
trip on the JMT/PCT in 1996.  That trip prompted my decision to get
llamas in 1997.  Since then we have hiked over 1800 miles with llamas,
including all of section H three times, most of C,D, G, and I.  We will
finish G, I, J, and K this year.  We have done a 300 mile trip with
llamas every summer since 1997, all of them including big pieces of
section G, H, or I, and connecting trails.
    Llamas do a good job of warning you when predators are around.  They
scream, snort, stomp and charge about when predators are near.  They
face down hostile dogs.  I would not tether a llama and leave him
unattended, as they have no actual defenses.  They are 100% bluff (no
hoofs, no upper teeth).  But they are a darn fine alarm system.  We stay
with them, and they let us know if any trouble lurks, and we come out
and scare it off, if we even see it.  Much of the time the presence of
three big assertive llamas is enough to keep predators away from our
camp.  That is why they are used to guard sheep.  But a determined
mountain lion or bear could kill a llama just as he could a horse or a
person.  Thankfully such incidents are very rare.  We own and use three
bear cans, as we are not scofflaws.
    Llamas spit to express social dominance or annoyance.  Much of their
spitting is directed at each other.  Our alpha male llama spits on the
other two several times a day.  But he has never spit on a human being.
Another llama of ours used to spit on us but hasn't for several years.
Our third llama spits every time we saddle him or tighten his saddle
cinch.  But you can hear him hocking it up, and you can duck.  Only once
has he gotten me right in the face.  It wasn't nearly  as bad as it
sounds.  It consists of saliva and tiny bits of chewed grass.  He
doesn't spit when we shear him or give him shots.
    Llamas aren't very effective kickers.  They kick to one side if you
touch a leg or their belly.  They don't aim very well, and they don't do
that two footed kick to the rear that equine species do.  You can push
them hard on the rump and they won't kick.  They don't have hooves, so
their kick may give you a bruise but won't break your bones.  We shear
them in a chute with two foot walls so they kick the wall instead of
kicking us.
    It is my understanding that the entire PCT is open to equine stock,
and to llamas.  Pack stock were included in the original  charter of the
PCT, so it is illogical that they would be banned from any lengthy part
of the trail.  There may be spots where stock are required to detour, or
cross a ford instead of a bridge (Woods Creek Crossing in Sequoia is an
example).  Some passes in  the Sierras have stock detours for safety
reasons.  Some crowded trail sections in National Parks may also have
stock detours to avoid conflicts between stock and day hikers.   It is
also my understanding that pack goats are banned from some small areas
of the eastern High Sierra to keep them out of contact with the wild
bighorn population so they don't pass on a disease or parasite that
might decimate the tiny wild herd.
If I am wrong about these points of law I hope someone official will
give us the straight info.
   How far you can travel in a day with a pack llama depends on several
factors.  Studs travel further than geldings or females as they are more
muscular.  A well-conditioned and well-trained animal will make better
time, extending the hiking day.  Also, how much weight you have loaded
on them, how much fur they are wearing, temperature, and trail
conditions are all factors.
We hike with three stud llamas.  They are big fellas, weighing in at 360
to 400 pounds.  On the first few days of a 16 day trail section, they
carry 80 to 90 pounds each.  We typically hike from 8 am to 5 pm, with a
long break somewhere pleasant in the middle of the day.  We hike the
Sierras in August, when the snow is gone, the bugs are dead, the weather
is fine, and the water crossings are easy.  The PCT is well groomed, so
we rarely encounter obstacles.  But llamas can be held up by obstacles
that would be no problem for a hiker.  They can't climb a vertical
snowbank or jump big trees.  If you can't get around a large fallen tree
because of the terrain, you have to cut it.  On Memorial Weekend we
spent two hours at an obstacle on the upper Momyer Creek trail, where we
cut through and moved a 20 inch thick log using a 12 inch pruning saw.
It was the only way to proceed.  Any hiker could have climbed right over
it in seconds.  We carry a folding shovel to soften old crusty steep
snow that is across trails so they will step on it and proceed down
So how far can they go in a day?  Here are the averages:
1998  Section H and connectors,  10 miles per day
1999  Section I/H  (Sonora Pass to Cottonwood Pass),  11.3 miles per day

2000 Section H and connectors,    9.6 miles per day
2001  Section I/H and connectors,  10.1 miles per day
2002 Section D,   11.5 miles per day
The longest hiking day we have ever done with llamas was 17 miles.  We
have done this on four occasions.  We have done many 14 to 16 mile
days.  We tend to travel farther per day on the last week of long trips,
as their speed improves when their loads lighten (rather like
backpackers).  On the first day of a trip with a heavy load they hike a
40 minute mile.  After a couple days of hiking they are hiking a 30
minute mile all day, and by the end of the first week they are hiking a
25 minute mile all day.
    If you are daydreaming of through hiking the PCT with llamas, I
don't believe it is feasible.  Our llamas typically lose 40 pounds on
their easy month long trek in August.  It isn't possible to pack enough
feed to keep their weight on.  The longest llama trek I have heard of
was 750 miles in 2 months.  Llamas can't walk fast enough to put in a
typical thru-hiker day of 20 to 30 miles.
Like dogs, llamas lack the will to be hot, tired, hungry and thirsty in
order to accomplish a goal.
A fed up llama will lay down on the trail and refuse to move.  Llamas
are subject to heat stress if you hike in heat with their fur left on.
We shear our llamas in May to avoid that problem.  Llamas need one good
drink a day to survive, and will drink three gallons at one time if they
are thirsty.   Llamas can't cross a snow-filled dangerous pass, since
they can't use an ice axe or crampons.
We think the best use for llamas is to section hike during the best
season for that section.

I have a question for Tom Reynolds.  If llamas aren't stock, then what
are they?

Marion Davison

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