Monday, September 14, 2009

Hiking the Rocky Mountains

Tom, Jasper, Thunderboy, Hunter and Marcel
in the snow!

More Snow!

Judy and Jasper on Friday

Tom and Judy

Me and my bad self!

Looking toward Mt. Evans

Thunderboy and Jasper nibbling.


This is very close to the area where the sheep
hang out.
One proud rescue llama!

Does he ever get enough of taking pics
of himself?

Royal Mountain
(Yes, named after Charlie Royal, the homesteader of our ranch)

Thank goodness for my hard working boys!

Yes, I realize I am over twelve hours late with this highly anticipated post-Ha! It has taken me some time to recover (and get the house back in order after a couple of days of a teenager being in charge!) from all of our crazy adventures this weekend. It began on Friday with a great hike on our favorite trail. We were dropping off an elk hunting camp, which was a scheduled pack. The next morning, Saturday, I got an e-mail from the wife of the sheep hunter we had dropped off on the previous Monday. He had filled his tag, with a HUGE Bighorn sheep and needed us to pick it up for him. Now, the trail that the sheep are up is much harder, steeper and rockier than all of the other trails we do, but there was a job to be done, even if it was our second long hike in two days.
If you've ever heard the saying "If you don't like the weather in Colorado wait a day...", that is because the weather can change very quickly in our magnificent state. We had the two extremes on our hikes, literally hours apart. Our hike on Friday was the best hike we have had in quite some time, the weather was spectacular and the llamas did a great job. We arrived at the top in good time, well before our hunters, so we had time to sit and enjoy the view. Directly ahead of us (the direction of most of these pics) is the backside of Mt. Rosalie and beyond it is Mt. Evans. The views are breathtaking, it seems as if you could see for miles. The llamas love the high altitude tundra and were content just to munch while Tom and I took pics and enjoyed the sounds of the forest. The elk were in a valley below us and were bugling, it was like a symphony back and forth across the picturesque canyon!
As you can see in these pictures, the weather on Saturday was not quite as fantastic. Yes that is snow falling that you see. Great big fat flakes that soak through your clothes in no time flat. At lower elevations it was raining, so I wasn't sure which was the least of the two evils. We arrived up at the sheep hunting camp in great time, it's a little easier getting the llamas up the mountain when their packs are empty. Anyway, we arrive at camp, which at first glance did not look at all packed up, and the fellas are celebrating their successful hunt with Wild Turkey and cigars. They were so happy to see us, it made the trip up worth the work. It took us an hour or so to get the camp torn down, listen to the exciting hunting story, and pack up the llamas.
Llamas are great pack animals, but the trip down the hill loaded can be as hard on the animals as a trip up. They carry their weight in their chests and backs, so it evenly distributes the weight on all four legs, but going downhill, fully loaded puts a lot of pressure on the front legs. We have modified our llama packs so that all of them now have what is called a crupper, a strap that holds the pack back that fits under the tail. It is very important for the packs to ride securely to get both panniers the same weight, which is very difficult to do in the snow, on the side of the hill, tripping over the happiest hunters I have seen in a long time. To draw his tag through the DOW took him seventeen years, to them it was the trip of a lifetime.
The thing that we love most about llama trekking is the fact that we are so gentle on the trail, we practically leave no trace. Llamas have padded feet instead of hooves, so they tread very lightly on good old Mother Earth. They are also browsers, meaning that they just eat a little bit of this or that, not pulling anything by the roots or taking too much of one plant or shrub. As a matter of fact, "nibbling" is their favorite thing to do. When we take breaks along the trail, you can watch a llama sample at least three or four varieties of vegetation.
As you can imagine, I was very happy to head back down the trail. Like I mentioned, it is a very rocky trail, and when wet, downright scary, so we knew we had to take it slow. This was just dandy with the llamas! It's funny, we were wondering if the packing was getting to be a little too much for us, and in two days we had the most fantastic experiences that it made us realize that this is what we are meant to be doing. The great hike on Friday was just the reward our tired souls had needed, and the hunter's appreciation was beyond flattering. To realize that we were a big part of a story that they would tell their grandkids put a grin on our soaking wet faces!
PS: the pictures are not in order as you could probably tell by now, the first three are of our very wet hike on Saturday. All of the others are from the fabulous hike on Friday, I thought it better to leave you with such beautiful images!

1 comment:

Kelly said...

What a weekend! It's never dull with the Jeutes!