The walls are closing in around me, there is a constant breathing on the back of my neck. I am awed by the outstanding beauty of the natural world. My gaze constantly switches from the spectacular slick-rock formations to the giant walls above and all around me. I have reached a meditative state of stride and mind when out of nowhere comes the nastiest, nasal, slobbering sneeze that drenches the collar of my cowboy shirt and splatters on the back of my neck. It is green and mucusy and is a mixture of an evening grain feed and the chewed up remains of cud and plant matter collected in one of the llama’s two stomachs.
I just returned from my annual pilgrimage to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. For the decade and then some I have been exploring the monument with my close friend BJ Orozco, who is the owner of Llamas 2 Boot, a llama packing outfitter out of Boulder, UT. We used to just roam and wander the canyons on our own seeking out slots, benches, slick-rock bowls, rock art and adventure hoping not to run out of water or get our arms stuck under large boulders and have to cut them free with pen knives. Now with the help of llamas and BJ’s business we can do all the same adventuring with the assistance of cases of beer, organic free-range steaks, whiskey, camp chairs, you name it.
The llamas carry our gear making walking and gawking much more enjoyable. They smile, they smirk, they complain and they spit. Every so often they just sit down and attempt to give up. These llamas are new to the game, it is their first season on the job. They are the perfect desert pack animal requiring little water and the perfect appetite, they eat anything from tree bark to flowers.
We walk along with the llamas for long days then set up a base camp. For multiple days on end we explore the dramatic canyons of the Escalante with names like Little Death Hollow, Wolverine Canyon, 1st and Main and countless others. We stub our toes on cactus, submerge in brown muddy water in the attempts to complete canyon trails, dine under trees that rain with caterpillars, all the while soaking up the sunshine in the desert.
The Grand Staircase is a place of vastness, levels, hollows and mazes. We wander cross-country following the paths of old ranching trails and the lines of cultures since vanished, every so often coming across an arrowhead, an Anasazi ruin or a piece of pottery. This is a place that time forgot, a place of geologic features so stunning, they cause one to redefine the very notion of beauty.
For the entire Llama photo gallery, check out:
The Line of the Week is a weekly photo piece by Ryan Salm featuring some of Tahoe’s finest athletes doing whatever we deem rad. I will be using the term “Line” loosely to describe anything I feel like at this point.
All images are the property and copyright of Ryan Salm Photography.
For addition info on Llamas 2 Boot – http://llama2boot.com/Home.html