Thursday, March 3, 2011

Smoky Mountain Llama train

Two things converged today to remind me about the llamas that serve as pack animals on the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Thing #1--Husband Walter and I are preparing for an early spring trip to the Smokies.

Thing #2—Ginny at Let Your Light Shine posted photos and text here about alpacas she visits occasionally near where she lives. The cuddly looking critters, especially the babies, elicited comments from her readers about the alpaca species’ relationship to llamas.
Ginny’s photo of alpaca babies

And that led me on a search to find out if llamas are still in use in the summer to haul supplies up to the lodge near the top of Mt. Le Conte in the Smokies.
A Wikipedia photo of domesticated llama

I found this entertaining (to me) video about the llama train. It was posted last summer by the Great Smoky Mountain Association, so I take that to mean the llamas will be strutting their stuff again in summer 2011.

We have never stayed at the lodge, but for a number of years a whole group of Skupien relatives would meet and camp in the Smokies for about a week. The hike up Mt. Le Conte was one of the things we loved. According to Wikipedia, it is the third highest peak in the national park and the tallest mountain in Tennessee, rising 5,301 ft (1,616 m) from its base, near Gatlinburg, TN (1,292 ft/394 m).

The route we chose to hike Mt. Le Conte was always the Alum Cave Bluff trail. The views on the way up and at the top were great. We would occasionally see one of the mountain’s black bears. At the lodge there were potties and a hand pump for refilling water bottles. Available for purchase in the lodge’s recreational room were candy bars along with tee shirts that proclaimed “I hiked Mt. Le Conte!” And the rocking chairs on the porch were a great place to recover before heading back down the mountain.

I’m not sure if that kind of welcome mat is still out for non-guests. We haven’t made that hike in a number of years. We will be making a second trip to the Smokies in July, once again meeting up with family. Maybe this year we will tackle Mt. Le Conte. Or maybe not. 

I recall the last time Walter and I hiked Le Conte, getting out of chairs and then standing up straight were strangely difficult for a couple of days!

Notice—Before any reuse or distribution of the Mt. Le Conte text or llama photo attributed to Wikipedia, please check the license terms at here.


  1. Thanks for the mention, Linda. I REALLY enjoyed watching your llama video! I don't think I have ever seen a video of llamas, only pictures. They do look much more like camels than alpacas do! Even their faces. It cracked me up that they were given pancakes for lunch after the hike! And the guide who actually threw rocks at the bear!! I don't know if that was a wise thing to do. I can't wait till you go and will look forward to the pictures. You must be very fit to do something like this.

  2. Ginny -- I'll just say no comment about how fit I am now. The most recent Le Conte hike was quite a while back. But the good thing is that I do have between now and July to work on the ole legs -- and knees! So maybe a Le Conte hike is in my future. . . or maybe just an amble up an easy trail from our campsite.

  3. I loved the llama video! I was so entertained that I watched it twice! Wow, I'll bet that llama wrangler is in fantastic shape--and who knew that llamas liked pancakes?!

  4. You sound a lot more physically active than me. Hiking up my gentle Shropshire Hills is about as far as I can get.

    Thank you for visiting my blog.

  5. love both the beasts and would love to sit in the rocking chairs on the porch. i have seen the llamya but not the alpaca and now i want to

  6. Great video and I think that will have to do it for me. These old legs aren't so good at hiking anymore. the view from the top must be amazing. Sitting in the rocking chairs at the top is the perfect reward. Your summer reunion sounds fabulous.