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Trekking with llamas

Hiking mountain trails isn't always easy, but if someone else is carrying your gear, it takes a load off. Sandy Sgrillo moved to Sevierville, Tennessee, to get away from city life. One day she went on a trek that featured llamas trained to hike and carry packs, and she fell in love with the llamas.

Nobody in her area offered llama trekking, so she bought two llamas and started a company. Today she has eleven llamas and two alpacas, all trained by her to hike alongside humans on Smoky Mountain trails.

"The animals are quite smart, and they're quite easy to train," Sgrillo says. "They have all different personalities, so some learn faster than others. But, they have a good  memory so if you do the same thing over and over again, they pretty much have it after that. Find one that's calm and not too skittish and not too scared, and it's best to start when they're young."

Each hiker leads a gentle llama. The animal carries all the food, gear, and supplies in custom-designed backpacks. Llamas will spit at each other because that's how they communicate. But Sandy believes a llama that spits at people wasn't raised properly as a baby, so she makes sure her llamas are able to mind their manners.

Life for the llamas isn't all work and no play. They enjoy soaking in the kiddie pool after a long, hot day, and get to go special places with Sandy.  

"They'll just walk right into buildings and go upstairs," Sgrillo says. "I love to take them around to schools and the kids. We recently did a litter clean-up day and they went around and we put all the litter in their backpacks and they brought it to the dumpsters. We dress them up on Halloween, and on Christmas we take them in the parade every year and they have beautiful costumes."

Radio interview source: Sandy Sgrillo, Smoky Mountain Llama Treks

Click here to listen: Country View: Sandy Sgrillo - Trekking with llamas - Sevierville, TN

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