Take a llama to lunch

It was love at first sight. The moment I gazed into Raja’s chocolate brown eyes, I was hooked. I’m not cheating on my husband. Raja in a llama and I took him to lunch.

Trekking tours Take a LLama to Lunch photo Steve Collins

Billie and Raja getting ready to hit the trail, photo/Steve Collins

During a recent stay at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort and Spa about an hour northwest of Santa Fe, the resort arranged for us to go llama trekking with Wild Earth Llama Adventures from Taos, NM. Stuart Wilde, owner and operator of the company, began in 1992, is a patient and knowledgeable man. The llamas, (all male) love him and vice versa. Owning 34 rescue llamas is a labor of love.

Trekking toursStuart Wilde, getting ready to comb Zeus, photo/Steve Collins

Wilde says he got into the business by accident. In his early 20s, he became a single father to an eighteen month old boy. Wilde, a wilderness buff, discovered that camping with a toddler necessitated a lot of equipment. He got two llamas to help him transport his gear. He said somehow the word got out that he had llamas and people started calling him when they had anilals that needed rescuing. A llama trekking business was the logical outgrowth. In a section on his website called, “Why llamas” Wilde has this to say: “Llamas are great hiking companions. They are alert, curious, and just as excited to be in the mountains as we are. They walk at a comfortable pace for hiking humans; and their keen senses of smell, hearing, and sight will often point out a distant herd of deer or elk for us. They have captured our hearts with their unique, “llama-like” behavior and amusing personalities. Their presence makes our time in the wilderness even more memorable.” He couldn’t have said it better.

Trekking tours

Starting up the trail, photo/Steve Collins

Trekking with Wilde and his boys (female llamas are not pack animals, their job is to bear the young) on the Take a Llama to Lunch expedition is an amazing experience. Because I’m allergic to animals I was reluctant participant in this adventure. When told I’d have a llama to lead, I demurred. “I’m allergic to animals,” I told Wilde. Well, it turns out, llamas, with no lanolin and no dander, are perfect companions for folks with allergies; I can confirm this. Nary a sneeze or sniffle on the trail. So, I teamed up with Raja and off we went.

Trekking tours

Almost to Posi Ouinge, photo/Steve Collins

Our destination was Posi Ouinge, an ancestral Pueblo on the mesa above the spa. Ojo Caliente  partners with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), stewards of the land, as part of the resort’s commitment to the environment. The trek started with an rocky, uphill climb, but then leveled out. As we trekked, Wilde was totally tuned into both his boys and their humans. If a llama lost footing or a human seemed to need a hand, he was right there. As we went, he talked about the flora and fauna. He knows a lot about both

At Posi, we tethered our llamas (they are not allowed on the site’s sacred ground) and Wilde led us on a tour of the remains of the pueblo, inhabited from the late 1200s to the early 1500s. Possibly the largest pueblo in the area, it is believed its three stories contained almost 3,000 rooms. Wilde said the inhabitants are believed to be the ancestors of the current-day Okeh Owingeh Pueblo north of Española, NM. As we walked, Wilde identified the scat on the ground, fresh bear (surprising to me in winter), coyote and deer and told us about the plants on the way. Besides being certified in wilderness medicine, he knows the history of this area and northern New Mexico well.


Trekking tours

Wendi Gelfound, Ojo Marketing Director and Stuart Wilde setting up lunch, photo/Steve Collins

When we returned from our pueblo tour, it was time for lunch. We sheltered between trees on this somewhat windy winter day and enjoyed hot soup made over a camp stove and made ourselves sandwiches from the supplies he brought. Our consummate host even brought camping chairs for our comfort.

Wilde has a strong committment to the environment. Everything we brought in, we took back out. “Take only Pictures, Leave only Footprints,” is a motto up on his website. On our way back down the trail, our guide mentioned that llamas like to hum and sure enough, Raja started vocalizing. I hummed back and soon we had a duet going. As we neared the parking lot where the llamas’ trailer was, the coffee and cream colored Raja picked up his pace. I was puzzled. Did he enjoy riding home? Did he miss his pasture? Turns out, he knew there were treats at the end of the trail. It was a wonderful experience. The only downside was saying good-bye to the llamas. Raja has probably forgotten me by now, but I will always remember this wonderful creature.

If you are interested in trekking tours while visiting the Santa Fe area, The Santa Fe Traveler can arrange one for you.

Author’s note: We were guests of Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort and Spa and Wild Earth Llama Adventures. We are grateful for this wonderful experience. Their generosity has not influenced this post in any way.

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6 Responses to “Take a llama to lunch”

  1. TravelDesigned
    January 23, 2019 at 10:12 pm #

    awwww we must do this!

    • Billie Frank
      January 24, 2019 at 7:54 am #

      Come on out and we’ll set it up for you.

  2. Wendy Forbes
    January 24, 2019 at 7:16 am #

    You captured the experience perfectly Billie. I’m hooked!

    • Billie Frank
      January 24, 2019 at 7:53 am #

      Thanks, Wendy! It was a wonderful experience. I’ll treasure the memory until we trek with the boys again.

  3. Clare Donaldson
    January 24, 2019 at 1:10 pm #

    What a fascinating post, thank you. If I didn’t live in Scotland, I’d be looking to book a trek tomorrow. It would be lovely if more people adopted Wilde’s, “Take only Pictures, leave only Footprints” philosophy (though I suspect I might want to take a llama away with me!).

    • Billie Frank
      January 24, 2019 at 2:43 pm #

      Plan a trip! Findhorn’s on my bucket list.

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