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Llama packing

When you're packing a heavy load into the Oregon wilderness, with its steep and rugged terrain, a backpack just doesn't cut it.

Traditionally, photographers, work crews and backpackers with lots of equipment have hired a team of mules or horses to do the heavy hauling, but now, a few outdoor fun seekers have discovered llamas.

Llamas are intelligent, curious and friendly, and able to carry 70-100 pounds on the edge of the rockiest and steepest cliff. Few animals are as surefooted. Just think of the Andes Mountains of South America where the llama is still the pack animal of choice.

Over the past 20 years, a few guiding services have begun offering packing adventures into the wild. Excursions can be as short as a day or extend for weeks of wilderness camping. Llamas may be rented or the traveler can opt for guided trips.

You can start with any of these three companies:

Halligan Ranch Llama Adventures, www.halliganranch.com, 541-420-1334, offers pack trips into the Three Sisters, Mt. Jefferson and the Steen's Mountain Wilderness areas.

For adventures in the Wallowa Mountains and Hells Canyon areas of Eastern Oregon get in touch with Hurricane Creek Llama Treks, www.hcltrek.com, toll free, 1-866-FUN-TREK or Wallowa Llamas, www.wallowallamas.com, 541-742-2961.

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@yahoo.com.

Llama packing