First multi-day pack trip!
I just got back from my first multi-day goat packing trip, and I'm so proud of my boys! We were out for three nights and the boys carried about 50 lbs. each. We went with a woman and her two llamas as well as the editor of Pack Animal Magazine. She organized the all-women's trip and tried to get representatives of several different types of pack animals together. Only the llamas and goats ended up representing, but it was a wonderful trip and I have to say--the llamas may have carried more weight but I really like my packgoats. Finn and Sputnik really did themselves proud. They never complained or objected to their loads or tried to disappear when it came time to saddle. They stayed up with me in the lead the whole time and crossed creeks, marshes, boulders, and a big scree slope. I'll post photos and stories about the trip later.
Sweet, solid work and solid training to represent all of us!!!
I never had much lluck with llamas. Mine was kinda llazy and had to be dragged on a llead lline. I had to shear her when it got hot and after that experience, she didn't llike me at all. Wouldn't even llet me touch her shoulder, which normally was the only part she'd llet you touch without getting all lloopy. Sold her off at a lloss. But it was a llesson llearned.
I don't drink beer, but if I did, I'd prefer Dos Equis.  Stay thirsty my friends!
That's great!! I can't wait to go on my first over night trip with Mufasa
Happiness is a working goat
Last fall, Alexa Metrick of Pack Animal Magazine contacted me and several other women to propose an "all-animal pack trip" for summer 2018. The original idea was to have packgoats, llamas, alpacas, a yak, and possibly a burro on the trip. In the end, only the packgoats and llamas represented, which turned out for the best because of the limited parking available at the trailhead.  

Our crew was scheduled to meet at 10:30 Tuesday morning, July 31st at the North Fork Lake Creek Trailhead (there's a mouthful!) on the edge of the Mount Massive Wilderness Area, situated between Twin Lakes and Aspen, Colorado. I arrived exactly on schedule and Alexa showed up a short time later. Our llama buddy, Gayle, however, was delayed several hours so Alexa and I ate lunch and spent time exploring the trailhead area.   

Gayle showed up around 2:00 and it took her almost two hours to unload the llamas and gear and get packed up, so we were fortunate that Alexa's plan for our first campsite was only about two miles in. Alexa had no pack animals, so Gayle and I divided her gear among the two llamas and my two packgoats. Finn carried Alexa's clothes and Sputnik got the tent.

I brought Finn and Sputnik to carry the gear, but Petunia came along to provide fresh milk on the trail so we could dine in luxury. She carried a small pack containing her milking things, which included a couple of empty bottles, milk strainer and filters, disinfectant wipes, disinfectant spray, clean cloths, and an inflatable cushion for me to sit on while milking.

Sputnik was so boss on this trip! His panniers weren't huge, but they were heavy because they contained the food, first aid and survival kits, and other assorted dense and oddly-shaped items. I slipped a couple of lightweight plastic trash cans inside his panniers to protect his ribs from the hard-sided things in his pack.  

Flower child.

This is Gayle with her llama, "Spot". This was Spot's first experience on the trail. She'd been saddled at home and given very light weights to carry, but she'd never actually been packed and she took a bit of persuading to stand for being loaded. She also needed a good bit of encouragement to keep moving along the trail the first couple of days.  

My crew had never really packed either for that matter. Finn and Sputnik have always had it easy. Our packs have never weighed more than about 30 lbs. tops, and I've nearly always traded the pack between them since we've rarely needed two full loads of gear. This time they had to carry full loads of about 50 lbs. each and they didn't get a break. I have to say, they really stepped up to the task. They never acted like it bothered them or slowed them down. 

Finn's pack weighed about the same as Sputnik's but it was much bulkier since he carried the sleeping bag, clothes, and other fluffy items. I brought winter gear since we planned to be near timberline for most of the trip, and I was glad to have it at night! 

Left to right: Alexa, Spot, Tuvok, Gayle, Me, Petunia, Sputnik, and Finn.
There was quite a lot of thick brush on the lower part of the trail and I was thankful we weren't tackling it at the height of tick season. The goats didn't mind their panniers scraping between bushes. 

The first day was the hottest, and my goats had spent most of it sitting in the sun while we waited for Gayle so they were quite thirsty despite the easy work load. 

You know you've found the perfect campsite when beams glow down on it from heaven. 

"Well, hello Spot!" 

I worked out a pretty good system for milking on the trail. I'd tie Petunia to a bush so she could eat, plop my inflatable cushion on the ground next to her, set my milk strainer in an empty bottle, then milk straight into it. 

I chilled the milk overnight by placing it in a creek. I don't drink coffee but I love my milk in the morning. It's filling and it gives me energy to last for several hours, which is good for someone who isn't much of a breakfast eater.  
We broke camp after the sun was well up and the early morning frost had melted. Gayle and Alexa went to saddle the llamas so I figured I should start getting my goats ready. One person saddling three goats should take about the same amount of time as two people saddling two llamas, right? 

A few minutes later my crew was ready to rumble. 

But "Hurry up and wait" became the name of the game as I discovered that the llamas took much longer to pack than I anticipated. Luckily my guys are patient and know how to avoid tiring themselves before the hike even begins.  

We got going and our view widened as we climbed out of the valley floor. 

This boulder was child's play for my nimble goats who skipped right up it like it wasn't there, but it presented something of a problem for the llamas, who had to find a way around. 

We crested a shoulder of the mountain and saw the valley spread out behind us while another valley widened out in front. 

We stopped in this second valley to eat some lunch and take a break after our morning climb and before the biggest climb. Gayle discovered that Spot likes apples, which apparently is somewhat unusual for llamas.  
The big climb was not terribly long but it was very steep. I loved the views of the grassy green valley floor below us.  

As Finn and Sputnik approach the top, you can see Gayle and her llamas not far behind us but very far below. This was just the top part of the climb. Most of it is out of the frame.  

As we crested the ridge we discovered a small lake in the saddle. 

When we crossed the saddle we could see another valley spread out below us with Frying Pan Lakes in the distance. It looked like it would be an easy downhill trek to the ponds where we planned to make camp.  

"You da man, Sputnik!"

Our path became more difficult as we descended the far side of the saddle. Trails fanned out in several different directions and cairns were sometimes misleading. My goats and I got up on the scree so we could look at the lay of the land from above.   

Once past the scree slope, it looked like an easy and pleasant walk through the green and gently sloping valley below, which was a relief because bad weather was moving in and rain was starting to sprinkle down.  

But as we got going, we realized that this was a trackless valley filled with marshes, jumbled rock, and thick brush. We weaved back and forth, searching in vain for an established trail, but we never found one. It was beautiful and looked how I imagined the wilderness to look between Bree and Rivendell when I read The Lord of the Rings. But as the day wore on, the lovely walk became more and more of a slog and then a death march as we trudged doggedly on toward the lakes, wet and tired. I wanted to press ahead. My goats spent more time waiting for the llamas than actually walking and it was wearing them out. Spot was dragging on her lead the whole time which was tiring Gayle out and slowing everyone down. I tried not to think about having to hike back UP this valley tomorrow. We ended up stopping before we reached the lakes. We were tantalizingly close and Alexa and I were game to keep going, but Gayle was worn out from dragging Spot and we weren't exactly sure just how much further the lakes were since we couldn't see them past the trees. It turned out later that we were almost on top of them, but we stopped in a boulder-strewn dell among the evergreens and made camp just as more rain set in.     

I was on cooking duty that night and I made shrimp linguine alfredo. It was a surprisingly easy camp dish, especially since I had milk on the hoof, and it came out delicious. I love it when a simple meal looks super fancy so I can take credit for being a five-star chef with the ease of preparing a box of mac 'n' cheese.  

It was nice to have a piping hot meal after such a cold, tiring day. 
I turned the goats loose after breakfast and Sputnik soon settled himself on a sunny little perch on a mossy rock. 

This morning I waited until the llama saddling was well underway before I began packing up my goats. 

But it didn't matter. Soon my goats and I settled back down while Alexa and Gayle wrestled with Tuvoc and Spot. Tuvoc kept kicking while Spot turned saddling into a full-fledged rodeo. When she wasn't bucking, charging, and spinning, she was laying down in protest.  

Even hyper-active Petunia took the opportunity to nap a little longer. 

Things went much better once we got underway. Spot realized we were headed back the way we came and she stopped dragging on the rope. 

Gayle was even able to tie Spot to Tuvoc without wearing the 18-year-old llama out. 

The trip out ended up being much easier than the trip down, despite the uphill climb. We stopped wasting time searching for a trail and instead we stuck to the creek bank. We crossed and re-crossed the creek many times to stay on firm footing. I imagine this valley is pretty tedious during a wet year. In fact, I wonder if the trail was obliterated last summer when we had so much rain.   

It was a beautiful hike now that the sun was out and we weren't in a hurry. 
I'm waiting for the punchline where the goats had to pack-out the llazy llamas!

So what was it about saddling a llama that takes so llong? Was it the equipment, the llamas, or the peoplle? It'd take me a bit llonger if I was putting reall weight on my goats' packs because I'd want to get it just perfect. Or if I had to fit the saddlle to the goat for the first time. Or I hadn't ballanced the packs in advance. (Edit: Just saw the last post. Rodeo llamas. Bacchus can be a pain but it still only takes an extra 30 seconds)

Tuvok is going out there with a full coat? Odd that you've got frost this time of year. I'm at 6,000 feet and nights are getting all the way down to 63f. I'd probably have been unprepared for that kind of cold.

I'm finding that this time of year I need a lot of goats to do overnighters. The odds are that I'll have to bring my own water if I havent scouted an area and found a reliable source in the desert. My goats would end up carrying 70% water, and that means probably 3 goats per person since they have to bring their own drinking water + the human and dog... Thats the nice thing about alpine hiking-- Lots of lakes. The down side is the marshy stuff. Ruins your feet.

I'd have loved to see a yak involved. Someday I'm getting another yak. Tibetty was looking like a great packer and would be great for cold weather packing-- I just need to buy another pasture first. I've found that yaks with horns are a bit tough for other animals to live with. Lotta welts were showing up on the goats. If I ever get another llama its going to be to decoy the mountain lions lloll!

I'll be curious to see the article once its published.
I don't drink beer, but if I did, I'd prefer Dos Equis.  Stay thirsty my friends!

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