the llama trip part 2

I’ve been hesitant to post about our second day of hiking with the llamas.  A couple of years ago I made this post and got some comments and e-mails from people upset with the harshness of my post– they come here to be inspired and uplifted.  Well, in real life hard things happen, so if you don’t want to know about the heartbreaking tragedy that happened that second day of hiking, then skip this post.
embarking on a day hike

We woke up the second morning to beautiful weather.  Barry had planned a day hike up to the next lake, but I wasn’t sure I could make it with a baby on my back.  He talked me into it though, so we packed up the llamas with light loads of lunch and jackets in case it rained and headed up the trail.  It was steep.

on the trail

It’s hard to tell from these photos where the trail is, but if you look carefully you can see it  going diagonally toward the big rock face.  We needed to go up and around that rock face.

coming up

Barry decided to let Jonah lead Turk while he led Tecate and Two Socks.  Brenna and I were slow, so we didn’t see exactly what happened, but we heard falling rock and squealing, saw Logan frantically running toward us yelling that Turk was lost, he fell off the trail and they couldn’t see him.  Barry came down toward us as well, then went in search of Turk.  I huddled the kids I had with me around and we prayed that Barry would find that sweet llama, that he wouldn’t be in pain, and that everything would be all right.  After what seemed like forever Barry came back, ashen faced.  He had found Turk.  He had fallen 200 feet straight down a cliff and didn’t survive.

I can’t tell you the flood of emotions of that moment, of that day.  I was so thankful Jonah was all right.  When Turk slipped on the rock Jonah had to make the decision to let got of his rope and let him fall.  It was so surreal and shocking for all of us, but I think for him most of all.  One moment Turk was trucking up the trail, the next he was gone.  Completely gone.  I felt so horrible that we killed a llama.  What would the owners say?  How would they feel?  We made so many mistakes.  A child should not have been leading a llama over a cliff.  We shouldn’t have even taken all the llamas for a day hike, should we have?  And what was that feeling of not wanting to go on that hike in the first place?  Was that inspiration that I ignored?  Should I have been more insistent that we not go?

our basin

We went back to camp, prayed, and talked about the day.  We decided that the owners needed to know what happened, so we would cut our trip short and headed back.  Luckily we had packed pretty light.  Tecate and Two Socks could carry most of what Turk had between them, and what we couldn’t fit in their packs Barry and I would carry in ours. The kids would have to  help some too.

the speedy ones hiking down

It was a hard hike out.  My pack was a lot heavier, the kids a lot whinier, my heart a lot heavier.  And Hunter kept pulling my hair!


It was still beautiful, though.  I tried as much as I could to ignore the pain in my shoulders to find it and record it.

so  s l o w

I had to just keep moving one step at a time.  I tried to stay back with Brenna, but my patience was a little thin, so I just kept her in sight and she took tiny, tiny steps downhill.  She sure did look cute in her pink turtle neck and big straw hat, though.


down several switchbacks from me

We went down and down, switchback after switchback.

pro leader

Jonah cheerfully helped Barry lead the llamas down.  He’s the best little hiker.


And then we were finished.  I held back the tears until the last big stream crossing, but then my tired shaking limbs couldn’t hold them back any longer.  I cried the rest of the way down.

the end

Now that I have a bit of distance from the whole ordeal I can say it was a good experience.  The first day of hiking was idyllic.  And then we learned a lot.  We don’t have to do things the hardest way.  I’ll wait until I have teenagers to attempt so steep a climb again– boys who I don’t have to carry on my back, who maybe can even carry a little of my load.

We’re sorry Turk.  Thank you for your service.  You were such a good boy.  You didn’t eat when we were slow on the trail.  You were the easiest llama for the kids to lead.  You got us up into some of the prettiest mountains we’ve ever seen.  Thank you.

8 thoughts on “the llama trip part 2

  1. Oh, that is so sad! I cannot even imagine that happening. And what a relief that your boy knew to let go! Sometimes accidents just happen, and nobody can prevent them.
    Turk seemed like a great llama, and he probably had a great time with you guys. Thanks for sharing the hard parts too. They happen, unfortunately.

  2. How heart breaking. So sorry you guys didn’t have a happy ending. Glad that you can pull happy memories from such an amazing experience.

  3. Oh, my goodness. I can’t imagine. It sounds like you all handled it remarkably well. You’ve got a great team there But, still. I’m so sorry you had to deal with it at all.

    What did the owners say? Surely they understood it was an accident?

  4. We paid for the llama, of course. The owners said they were so sorry it happened and that they hope we come back and do it again. They said that in the 30 years they have been doing this that a llama has died on a trip only one other time. They completely understood it was an accident and were very, very kind.

  5. Wow! I am drooling over the pristine natural beauty in those pictures! Next time we come to Colorado we have to go hiking with you guys!
    I was just talking with someone yesterday about how life isn’t fair and bad things happen to even the best of us…while I would never wish bad things on people it’s amazing how those experiences change our lives for the better, especially when looked at from a Gosple perspective. Your kids will always remember that hiking trip and how they felt when you talked about what happened. Think of how it has strengthened their testimonies.

  6. what a brave and confident decision Jonah made there. Poor Turk but as you say there are lessons in everything. No wonder you felt so weary coming down – a heavy heart is a great burden for the body.

  7. I am SO SORRY!! I kept wondering what the heartbreak was that you mentioned on the first post… I am so sorry.
    Love, MOM

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