Eight-year-old Sierra and her family take a long llama trail ride through the Rocky Mountains every summer. The llamas make good transportation because they graze for food and do not need much water. Challenges on the trail include high winds and crossing rivers.
What’s it like to ride a llama on a high mountain trail? I can tell you. My family has done it summer after summer.
Would you like to live “wild” in the mountains? On our summer trips, my family has no house, no table, no toilets, and sometimes no trees for shade and no trail to follow. But there is plenty of sunshine and rain and wind and billions of stars and other incredible sights to see.
Ever since I was three and my brother, Bryce, was one, our parents have taken us on long summer trips. We hike with llamas in the Rocky Mountains. We have been following the Continental Divide Trail from Canada to Mexico. By the end of this summer, we’ll have hiked along the entire trail from one end to the other!
Most of the time Bryce and I ride on the llamas, but if we want to walk for a while, that’s OK too. Other llamas carry our tent, sleeping bags, food, clothing, and even toys. Every night we camp in a different spot. And every week or two we hike down into a town. There we take baths, buy more stuff, and eat fresh food.
AN SKY-HIGH TRAIL
The trail we’re following runs along the Continental Divide. What’s that? It’s like a dividing line along “the rooftop of America.” (That’s what my mom calls it.) All the water that runs down the east side of the Continental Divide goes into the Gulf of Mexico. All the water on the west goes into the Pacific Ocean. Parts of the trail are as high as 13,000 feet (6000 m). Up there, we feel like our heads are scraping the sky!
A lot of times we’re in the wilderness with no signs of a trail in sight. For endless miles, there are no roads or trail markers. That’s when Dad has to check his guidebook and map and compass. They tell us which direction to follow.
LLAMAS – WHAT A WAY TO GO!
Each llama has a different personality. The ones my brother and I ride are friendly and calm. We can trust that they won’t freak out–even when our parents lead them over narrow trails on steep cliffs or across skinny bridges.
Llamas with more spunk carry our heavy loads of gear. We can pack as much as 100 pounds (45 kg) of stuff on each of their backs. And they are able to go between 8 and 15 miles (13-24 km) a day. They’ll follow wherever we lead them and go as fast or slow as we do. But they have to be led–we can’t just ride them like horses.
Llamas have two soft pads on each foot. Because of these pads, llamas don’t tear up the trails as much as horses and mules do.
We don’t have to bring any food for our llamas. They just nibble grass, bark, and pine needles as they go. And like their cousins the camels, llamas don’t need much water. About a gallon (3.8 L) a day will do for each one.