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Re: [John Muir Trail] Pack animals and bear canisters?

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  • birthnlove
    Thank you all for your responses. Especially Marion s private reply!! Yes, now that you have all reminded me it was the bear resistant panniers and not the
    Message 1 of 10 , Jul 12, 2011
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      Thank you all for your responses. Especially Marion's private reply!! Yes, now that you have all reminded me it was the bear resistant panniers and not the canisters.

      I think I have worked through my pre-trip anxiety attack and not going to consider a llama with this trip...although I DO really love what I hear about llamas.

      Thank you for easing this crazy mama's mind...

      Leaving in 38 hours...but who's counting?
      --- In johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com, John Ladd <johnladd@...> wrote:
      > On Tue, Jul 12, 2011 at 9:51 AM, birthnlove <Heylove@...> wrote:
      > > **
      > >
      > >
      > > I remember during my research a while back that one of the benefits of
      > > having a pack animal on the trail was that bear canisters were not needed. I
      > > don't have the time to look for the info now, so I'm asking if you guys know
      > > if this is true?
      > >
      > > There are bear-proof paniers which some stock animals can carry and if you
      > had them bearcans would be unnecessary. (This is an assumption, not hard
      > info.)
      > I kind of doubt you will be able to make arrangements for llamas on the
      > route you describe - especially the permits. Might be worth a try - let us
      > know how it works out. I have seen people with llamas on the PCT just North
      > of Yosemite NP - don't recall them in Yosemite.
      > Note that stock animals generally can't handle snow on passes, so your route
      > would have to stay low. And it takes quite a bit of skill to get them over
      > streams.
      > John
    • Christina
      It seems the original poster doesn t need this info any more, but here is some info on llamas for future reference. We hiked with llamas for five years while
      Message 2 of 10 , Jul 13, 2011
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        It seems the original poster doesn't need this info any more, but here is some info on llamas for future reference.

        We hiked with llamas for five years while our kids were in backpacks on our backs and we couldn't carry both the kids and the gear. 

        1. Bear canisters - as others said, you must carry the canisters, but the animals make it much easier for you. We just used the backpacking type that fit inside the llama panniers.

        2. As of this writing, I only know of one guy in California who rents llamas WITHOUT requiring that you use his guide services. That is Greg Harford at Potato Ranch Llama Packers . He only rents to experienced backpackers and works with you for 2-hr or so before your first rental to teach you basic llama handling. The llamas are very well trained and easy to handle (not skittish like horses or mules). The kids could guide them, walk around their legs, feed them, etc with no problem. You rent the llamas (come with saddles and panniers for your gear) and a trailer ($15/day) that attaches to your truck or van. Right now, the horse people have all the commercial pack permits tied up and the llama folks can't legally transport llamas to trailheads. You sign a release form for injury.

        3. You have to take TWO llamas with you because they are pack animals and need a buddy. The llamas carry 75 lbs each. If you are lightweight and only need one llama, Greg will rent you a packing llama (with saddle and panniers) and a less expensive buddy llama with just a bridle. 

        4. Llamas on the trail - Llamas have split toes, not hooves, so their impact on the trail is like that of two grown men per llama. Unlike horses and mules, their feet don't pulverize the trail and they are very nimble on rock and around obstacles - so they don't slip and slide like mules and cut up the trail with stumbling. Their poop is like deer or rabbit poop - small pellets - Greg sends you with a small rake to scatter the poop off the trail. Mostly they poop at night and you scatter the poop in the morning. Llamas browse rather than graze - so they'll nibble all day from grasses, bushes, and trees. At night you stake them in a clearing and they'll eat from a variety of vegetation. Their eating style causes less damage than the purely grass-eating style of horses. However, most horses forage at night free of tether, so their impact is over a wider area. Llamas are staked at night, so they impact a smaller area. In early season, this can be more noticeable than I am comfortable with, but mid-and late season, it isn't a problem. For feed, you only bring about a cup a day per llama of rabbit food (Greg provides this). This is like candy for the llamas and helps bond them to you. It also helps to bring them back if they get spooked away by a dog. They are camelids, so they'll drink rarely at creek crossings and a few dog-bowls of water at night (dog-bowls & food provided by Greg). Usually - but not always - if a section of trail says it is dangerous for stock animals, you shouldn't take llamas there. Unlike horses, llamas can walk across miles of granite slopes without slipping, but a steep hillside of boulders can be very hard to negotiate (i.e. the 4Q lakes trail in desolation wilderness)

        5. The differences between hiking with & without llamas are: 1) You have to choose camps with the llamas in mind - you need to find a relatively clear of trees meadow or clearing with vegetation and about  400 sqft per llama (their tether rope is about 10' long, so they'll move in abut a circle with a 20' diameter). You have to follow the foraging rules that apply to horses - that is, usually the maps will show that pack animals are not allowed within 1/4 mile of certain lakes. 2) You need to be careful around dogs (not a problem on the JMT) because some dogs will attack them. We were instructed to move off the trail a good 50 yards when riders with dogs or a pack train approached. They sometimes are spooked by bears, but if you do the JMT, Greg will pick llamas that are calm around bears. The llama scent usually keeps bears out of camp.

        6. Regarding Snow and Water and boulders, llamas can generally do what  a good sized man can do. So if you can do it comfortably, they can do it. They comfortably ford streams with water up to their bellies, but it is not safe to try to float them across if their feet don't have purchase. They can gracefully leap up a higher shelf than a person could step up to, but if you have to climb a bit, they won't make it up. They will post-hole just like a person and they don't like it at all. They walk easily across packed snow and don't mind sinking a little, but they will slide on ice and they don't do well postholing.

        7. Permits - you don't need a special permit to bring llamas. You just include them on your permit. Individuals are allowed fewer animals per hiker than the commercial outfitters. It is nearly impossible to get a llama on your permit out of Happy Isles because of the Yosemite National Park mule traffic load.

        Many folks have successfully hiked the JMT with rented llamas - it is a great option if have all the hiking knowledge, you want to guide yourself, but you need help with your pack due to injury, kids-on-the-back-syndrome, etc. Here are photos of a partial-JMT hike with kids and llamas-  http://www.llamapackers.com/2007_jmt/index.htm  

        Happy hiking - Christina 
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