Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Dangers of Hiking: Getting (almost) trampled by a llama

Now I had known for some time that the lodge on top Mount LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was supplied by a llama pack train. I had actually seen the little critters being loaded back into the horse trailer their owner had one evening as I drove through the parking lot for the Grotto Falls Trail. But one day, as I was hiking down that trail, I came around a bend and almost got run over by the llama train. The unnerving part was the way each one stared at me as it went by on the way up to the lodge. I've never seen any other pack animal stare quite like that, and I've encountered quite a few horses and mules. Their handler/owner brought up the rear. Apparently the little beasties knew the way quite well from having been up and down several times a week for I don't know how many years. Llamas are used for pack animals here because their hooves are easier on the treadway than those of horses or mules, even though llamas can't carry as much. But they are interesting to come across while hiking along, minding your own business. Just don't try to argue who has the right-of-way. You may end up with llama spit on your face. Yuck!!