Llama Trekking In New England
by Candyce H. Stapen
Hiking with a llama is a bit like walking into the wilderness with Big Bird. Not only are these gentle creatures great companions, they also carry your daypacks, a trait that makes them particularly endearing.
At the Telemark Inn and Llama Treks, Bethel, Maine, we find out how to handle these intelligent creatures. Our guide shows us some easy moves with the rope lead to get the animals to go, stop and turn. Even the shy 5-year-old in our group proudly mastered the commands. Llama trekking is fun and a great confidence builder for both kids and adults.
We also learn some llama love rules: don't pet their heads, watch their ears as a barometer of temperament, learn their preferred hiking order, and listen to them hum when happy. (They really do this).
The back country surrounding the inn, located about ten miles outside Bethel, is beautiful, especially in fall when the birches turn the color of spun gold and the oaks and maple leaves blaze red.
On our day trips into the woods, the llamas breathe softly on our shoulders, their footsteps mingling with the rustle of leaves. On one outing we stroll several miles down an abandoned logging railway track. Ferns feather the riverbank, the moss covered rocks glisten and the sound of the rushing river accompanies us.
Around a bend under a canopy of ash and maples, the guides have set up a lunch of sandwiches and cookies. After eating we sun on the smooth gray boulders by the water. On another day we cross streams, scramble around some rocks and uphill, passing no one else until we reach a scenic mountaintop. From here Maine's valleys float purple in the distance.
Along with llama treks and hikes, the Telemark Inn’s multi-day itineraries–two, three and five –day packages--include canoeing on Umbagog Lake or the Androscoggin River, both easy flat water runs, good for novices. When hiking or paddling, keep an eye out for moose.
At the inn, enjoy close encounters with hummingbirds as the guides explain the behavior of these tiny birds who beat their wings 70 times per second. You can also opt for a private horseback ride (extra fee). The lodge, a rustic hand-crafted Adirondack style country house, offers just five guest rooms so your outings will never be crowded.
In winter the Telemark Inn, which sits at the base of Caribou Mountain surrounded by the White Mountain National Forest, morphs into a ross-country ski center offering miles of groomed trails, dog sledding as well as dog joring—cross-country skiing while attached by tether to a dog who pulls you along.