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Another afternoon, we took Tumbleweed out for a hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, which passed near our ranch. Tumbleweed was a steady, reliable hiker. On the trail, there were a number of stream crossings, something new to him. He took them with flying leaps, so I stayed well to one side and kept my eye on him as we hiked for a couple of miles.

On the way back, Kelly took Tumbleweed’s lead rope. At the second stream crossing, Kelly had given Tumbleweed plenty of rope, and he was well ahead of the llama but not watching. I was behind them both, and I saw Tumbleweed leap across the creek, high and wide. I saw him knock Kelly sprawling. Kelly held onto the rope as the llama sailed over him. Then they were both further down the trail, the rope twisting around the llama’s legs. He was struggling, and stepped off the path onto the steep hillside. There was confused motion as the man and the llama rolled eight or ten yards down the hillside, intertwined, until they finally came to a stop.

I ran closer. “Are you all right?”

“Yes.” Both Kelly and Tumbleweed were breathing heavily. They untangled themselves and climbed back up the steep slope. Kelly was hardly even dirty. Tumbleweed had a wild look in his eye. “Let’s start walking,” I suggested. “I think he will feel better than if we just stand around. ”

As we continued down the trail, Kelly said, “When he knocked me down, I half expected a foot to land on me. But I guess he was watching out to that extent. It’s funny, though–I trusted him not to jump into me like that.”

“He seemed pretty distracted about the creeks,” I said. “I would have let go of the rope myself.”

“I didn’t want to. Then we would have had to catch him, and we’re not that close to home. I never really felt in any danger. It’s hard to describe, but I felt like Tumbleweed and I were flowing in an unfamiliar dimension. There was a kind of unity between us, as though we were suspended in time and space together.”

The llama was soon back to his steady rhythm of hiking. He took each of the remaining stream crossings with increasing confidence and smaller leaps.

We planned to use Tumbleweed, Levi, and Whiskers on the hikes. We also bought three more llamas. Poco was another small male, exceptionally friendly. He’d already had a season of hiking on a packstring in Colorado. And we’d bought Romeo, a large male, because he came with Juliet, a bred female we’d managed to find. She wasn’t small herself, but at that time it was a real coup to find any females for sale. Besides, as we became more accustomed to working with the llamas, we cared more about temperament than about size.

Romeo was less sure of himself on the trail than the others, so we began walking around the land with him. One day we took him down our new trail to Boulder Hollow. Just before the picnic area, there was a place where you had to step between some boulders and down some rock steps. The llamas didn’t mind it going homeward, when it was uphill, but none of them were comfortable with the downhill direction until they had done it several times. Mindful that our guests would usually be unfamiliar with the ways of llamas, and remembering Kelly’s tumble with Tumbleweed, we were giving all the llamas plenty of opportunities to get used to the trail.

Kelly walked down the trail with Romeo. Levi and I led the way, and we negotiated the steps easily. Kelly came next, giving Romeo lots of rope and watching him. Romeo balked. Kelly tugged on the rope and coaxed with soft words. Romeo sat down. I took Levi back up and down again so Romeo could learn from him. Romeo’s fear was too great, so after a while we made a broad detour around the rock steps and came out on the trail below them. Romeo went up the steps toward home, taking quick small steps and looking around nervously. But when we turned around to take him down the steps, once again he balked. We coaxed for a while, but he refused to budge.

We went on back home, thinking that we’d try another time. But there was always lots to do, and Romeo ended up being prepared just for our other, easier, trail.

The Boulder Hollow trail dropped some three hundred feet in its half-mile length, which made it too strenuous for people with very small children as well as for people who weren’t in good condition. We also cleared brush and created a picnic area in a favorite spot out near the end of Llama Lane. This hike was also about half a mile from one end to the other, but far easier. Romeo was happy enough with it.

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