On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions. From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
This series was created by Alain Chamot (1971-2020) as a place to share our adventures and observations, no matter where we are.
A thread just for me! And for anyone else who enjoys the llamas. My favorite is the fellow who’s chillin’ after dinner, looking absolutely regal as he surveys his domain. ~WaterGirl
When I submitted the OTR photos for the Green River, WaterGirl let me know she wanted “moar llamas!” So these photos are for the person who keeps OTR on track and anyone else who wants to see these camelids. To me it is like showing pictures of your kids – adorable to the parents but maybe a bore to everyone else. Let me know in the comments if you want to see more photos of these guys OTR or something else. We do take trips to interesting places without them.
Our three llamas were purchased in the fall of 2014. We did a couple of low elevation day hikes with them, but early season snows made longer mountain trips impossible. Wanting to get to know them better, we headed south to the Mohave Desert over Thanksgiving week.
With the llamas along we were limited to dispersed (roadside) camping. Since there are almost no facilities in this huge national preserve, that meant hauling lots of water, food, and a chemical toilet. We would drive to different areas, set up our tent, and then day hike. The two exceptions were overnight hikes to Cima Dome and the Kelso sand dunes. We were limited to overnights as the llamas had to carry water for all of us.
Cima Dome is an unusual geological feature – a ten mile across symmetrical dome rising about 1500 feet in elevation, covering 70 square miles. It holds more Joshua trees than Joshua Tree National Park – the largest and densest such forest in the world. We hiked about 5 miles toward the top, left the trail, and found a wind sheltered spot among boulders and Joshua trees.
In camp, with “ saddle hair” showing.
An impressive Joshua tree. Each one seemed different and weird looking.
It was 4-5 miles to get to where we camped in the Kelso Dunes. This photo is a little deceiving, as there are a series of dunes beyond what you see from the trailhead. The going was slow (took about 4 hours) because of the loose sand. The llamas needed encouragement at times as they didn’t like their legs sinking into the sand. They are camelids but not camels.
We had hay at the llama trailer to feed them when we dispersed camped in the preserve. For the overnights, they hauled concentrated feed pellets, which they like very much. In addition to the pellets, the llamas also wanted to eat some of the dry, scrawny brush. Note that two have their heads down while one is looking up. They take turns doing that as a way for the herd to maintain “situational awareness.”
The yellow bands around their necks are reflective so it is easier to spot them in the dark doing a quick headcount from our tent. The stakes for their ropes didn’t hold very well in the loose sand.
Chilling after dinner. You can see some of what was left after he browsed. Note the hoof prints next to the undisturbed sand. We move them around to minimize their impact on vegetation.
After camp was set up and the llamas attended to, the sun was low on the horizon. Here is a photo of the sun and shadows on the dunes.
Caught the sun fringing the top of a dune. Off road vehicles are prohibited in the dunes. We didn’t hear another hiker all evening. The sun sets early by the end of November and the temperature drops quickly in the desert. So we were in our sleeping bags by about 6 pm.