Tenoch crossing creek
Tenoch's second trip
       Tenoch was one of four, along with Chief, Zorro and Tesoro that comprised our first “crop” of packers. The first year of breeding produced two females destined to be mommies. Up to this point pack training consisted of only day hikes, either on the desert or in the foothills, and of course walks around the subdivision. Jasper and Snowball, my mountain companions for 14 years were approaching retirement and it was time to get the raucous 4 year olds on the trail and into the mountains.
This time with one whole trip under his belt, as short as it turned out to be, Tenoch was the designated lead llama and charged with teaching Chief the ropes. Our destination was to be the same high basin as Tenoch’s first trip, except we were going to take the long way around, and spend a couple of nights on the trail before reaching the infamous camp. The first day on the trail was about 5 or 6 miles with 2 significant river crossings but horse trail all the way. The boys were perfect so their reward was a camp with a small and protected very lush meadow with a beautiful spring nearby. OK, so maybe that reward was for me also!
The second day our goal was to work our way up the mountain, mostly off trail but not terribly challenging. It was about 3,000 feet to the ridge so we were going to play it by ear whether to cross or not. There was a little bench just shy of the top with a nice camp, even though there was no source of water. One of the big advantages of llama packing is you are able to carry enough water for several days so you are not tied to finding water every day. The two boys were full grown and in good condition so they were carrying full loads which included plenty of water.
We were about halfway up the mountain when the western sky turned black, with the distant roar of constant thunder and flashes of lighting. I figured we had better hole up in a patch of small trees and probably spend the night there. I tied the boys to trees with a long lead so they could graze while I headed to a rock outcropping a few hundred yards away to look for mule deer moving ahead of the storm. The storm was moving slower than anticipated, taking about 1/2 hour to reach us. Waiting until the last minute before rushing back to set up a tent and get the boys settled, I found a horrific sight. Chief had somehow wrapped the lead twice around his upper leg and the 6” tree he was tied to and tipped over, in effect creating a tourniquet on his leg and bending his neck over his back. He was gasping and foaming green out his mouth. I cut him loose, got him to stand and was trying to get him walking when the storm opened up with extremely heavy hail, and all he wanted was to Cush under a tree. I let him be and set up my tent hoping it wouldn’t last long. Several hours of heavy rain later, I was able to get him up and walking. His leg was obviously sore and tender to the touch and he walked with a limp but we did walk and hopefully were pumping blood everywhere it needed to be.
Come morning, I put Chief on a picket while I broke camp (rolled up a sleeping bag and tent) and he was standing and grazing. This time it was Tenoch’s turn to carry 4 panniers (I dumped most of the water) and we headed slowly down the mountain with Tenoch kind of looking like an ostrich with its wings out, pausing to graze at particularly lush spots. Thinking it was enough of a day for Chief we camped in the same spot as the first night. The next day we tackled the muddy horse trail and although Chief had some trouble in the slick steep downhill sections he followed the ever patient Tenoch. Tenoch never tried to pull him along even when the footing was bad; it was as if he understood the situation. It was a relief to make the last river crossing and hit the wide and fairly level trail that led to the truck.
Tenoch emerged the hero, although he probably thought he was a hero on his first trip, when he led us away from the hordes of sheep. Chief made a full recovery and also went on to a distinguished career hauling freight and worming his way to the hearts of all of our trekkers between 5 and 80...But that's another story!!