On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions.
From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
A thread just for me! And for anyone else who enjoys the llamas. My favorite is the fellow who’s chillin’ after dinner, looking absolutely regal as he surveys his domain. ~WaterGirl
When I submitted the OTR photos for the Green River, WaterGirl let me know she wanted “moar llamas!” So these photos are for the person who keeps OTR on track and anyone else who wants to see these camelids. To me it is like showing pictures of your kids – adorable to the parents but maybe a bore to everyone else. Let me know in the comments if you want to see more photos of these guys OTR or something else. We do take trips to interesting places without them.
Our three llamas were purchased in the fall of 2014. We did a couple of low elevation day hikes with them, but early season snows made longer mountain trips impossible. Wanting to get to know them better, we headed south to the Mohave Desert over Thanksgiving week.
With the llamas along we were limited to dispersed (roadside) camping. Since there are almost no facilities in this huge national preserve, that meant hauling lots of water, food, and a chemical toilet. We would drive to different areas, set up our tent, and then day hike. The two exceptions were overnight hikes to Cima Dome and the Kelso sand dunes. We were limited to overnights as the llamas had to carry water for all of us.
Cima Dome is an unusual geological feature – a ten mile across symmetrical dome rising about 1500 feet in elevation, covering 70 square miles. It holds more Joshua trees than Joshua Tree National Park – the largest and densest such forest in the world. We hiked about 5 miles toward the top, left the trail, and found a wind sheltered spot among boulders and Joshua trees.
In camp, with “ saddle hair” showing.
An impressive Joshua tree. Each one seemed different and weird looking.
It was 4-5 miles to get to where we camped in the Kelso Dunes. This photo is a little deceiving, as there are a series of dunes beyond what you see from the trailhead. The going was slow (took about 4 hours) because of the loose sand. The llamas needed encouragement at times as they didn’t like their legs sinking into the sand. They are camelids but not camels.
We had hay at the llama trailer to feed them when we dispersed camped in the preserve. For the overnights, they hauled concentrated feed pellets, which they like very much. In addition to the pellets, the llamas also wanted to eat some of the dry, scrawny brush. Note that two have their heads down while one is looking up. They take turns doing that as a way for the herd to maintain “situational awareness.”
The yellow bands around their necks are reflective so it is easier to spot them in the dark doing a quick headcount from our tent. The stakes for their ropes didn’t hold very well in the loose sand.
Chilling after dinner. You can see some of what was left after he browsed. Note the hoof prints next to the undisturbed sand. We move them around to minimize their impact on vegetation.
After camp was set up and the llamas attended to, the sun was low on the horizon. Here is a photo of the sun and shadows on the dunes.
Caught the sun fringing the top of a dune. Off road vehicles are prohibited in the dunes. We didn’t hear another hiker all evening. The sun sets early by the end of November and the temperature drops quickly in the desert. So we were in our sleeping bags by about 6 pm.
A woman from anywhere (formerly Mohagan)
Thanks for the great pictures. I love llamas and all camelids.
Looking at the map, Cima Dome is near the Mojave Cross.
Great photos! Love the llamas.
I llove llamas! This really is a full service blog.
Any post that sends me to Google Maps for a look around and vicarious traveling has already brightened my day. And llamas! You certainly make a great commitment to your traveling – thanks for sharing the results.
Great pictures ???
I’m with WaterGirl – moar llamas! And I love the Mohave too, so peaceful and empty and quiet when it’s not boiling hot.
Absolutely moar llamas! What wonderful pictures and you are taking me places I will never see on my own…because of course, no llamas. Thanks!
Great story about some great places. I’ve seen Kelso Dunes but never hiked there because it was normally in a season where you would fry in a few hours! Thanks for the closer look at them.
My days of hiking into areas far from roads are gone (now that I think about it they never started) so these pictures are great to see.
Are there any predators that you might have encountered on this kind of overnight trip?
Those are great photos. I am not nearly hardy enough for this kind of expedition so I admire your fortitude.
This is a trip I will never take, so I’m happy to enjoy it vicariously. Love the llamas, and those Joshua trees!
@Barbara: The most frequent “predator” problem is off leash dogs. We have had several really unfortunate experiences so my spouse walks ahead with a spare leash to hand to the owners who forgot their leash. We once had an encounter with a coyote that seemed aggressive but we chased it off.
Llamas are such interesting creatures, thanks for the photos and insight into traveling with them.
Estes Park was a wool fair every spring (except this year) with all the animals that you’d expect and few you’d not. We watched as a woman had her 2 llamas jump into the back of her older model Outback, from when those were a much smaller car. They got in with zero fuss and laid down with each one having an open back door window to delicately stick their nose out of. The view from behind as they drove away had us grinning from ear to ear.
What regal llamas!
Thanks for the pics- very enjoyable!
Llamarama! Who knew that was what we needed this morning with our coffee? (OK. WaterGirl did.)
I vote for monthly llama OTRs. Even llamas @ home. At a minimum.
Lash: what are your llamas named? How long do they live? They’re beautiful.
@Elizabelle: Their names are Mage, Gypsum, and Trek. Llamas live between 15 and 25 years. Pack llamas start packing when they are about 4.5 years old and can continue until about 18, if you don’t overload them (not more than 25% of their body weight).
@lashonharangue: Moar Mage, Gypsum and Trek.
I love the Mojave and spent my teenage years rockhounding that whole area with my Dad – back when the train facility at Kelso was still working and we got pie at the cafe.
Cima Dome is a well known geologic feature even though it does not look like much, and it was explained by my UCLA geology professor on a five day field trip to the Mojave. The Mojave itself has a number of nondescript mountain ranges that are unique geologically as they are direct evidence of the unusually shallow subduction angle of the Farallon plate that massively influenced the geology of western North America from 100 to 30 million years ago. Some of the ranges are metamorphic pieces of the Farallon Plate poking up through the North American plate.
There are many wonderful Joshua tree forests outside of the National Park. I know it is common to see the Cima Dome forest as allegedly the densest, but I tend to disagree (though there are a lot there). My favorite is on Hwy 164 in the southern tip of Nevada (that is an obscure road that leaves Interstate 15 on the massive drop down to Ivanpah dry lake at the California-Nevada border just south of Prim – it is Nipton Rd in California. The road goes through one of those obscure desert hamlets known as Nipton and then crosses into Nevada and becomes Hwy 164. The road ends in Searchlight, NV, Harry Reid’s hometown.)
Along the road is a remarkably dense Joshua tree forest preserved in a small wilderness area known as Wee Thump. https://www.birdandhike.com/Wilderness/WeeThump/_WeeThump.htm. What is unique about it is the old growth size and health of the forest. https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wee_Thump_Joshua_Tree_Wilderness_2.jpg. In many places, Joshua trees can be big and have dense growth, but also spindly and gaunt looking. Not these.
There are many far away places in the Mojave with nice stands of Joshua trees, and I love them all.
As one who did a spot of copyediting back in the day, I appreciate the tact displayed in the comments above that mention the Mojave Desert.
hey! more como se llamas! What’s next, alpackas? Anyway, thanks for the lovely shots :-)
FYI it is spelled Mojave, CA ?
Mohave is in AZ