Over the past few months, the focus of the Pack Llama Trail Association board of directors has been on rebuilding the association’s foundations and getting programs fully functional. Last quarter we reported the change of the association’s name from ‘Trial’ to ‘Trail’, and adjustments to the mission statement to reflect the broad scope of supporting all working llamas. This quarter the PLTA board is pleased to welcome two new members to its ranks, Hank Balch and Richard Galloway.

Hank Balch resides in North Carolina. He became interested in llamas during his missions to South America with the Air Force reserves. Shortly before retirement his wife asked him what he wanted for his birthday and he said “llamas”. He got his first pair over twenty years ago and has enjoyed them ever since. Hank enjoys both packing and showing llamas. He has been a member of the Southern States Llama Association (SSLA) for twenty-two years. After retirement he decided to become more active in the llama community and has served on the SSLA board of directors as both vice president and treasurer.

Richard comes to us from northeast Oregon, where he spent most of his life either working or playing in the outdoors. He became interested in llamas as a way to hike into the Eagle Cap Wilderness without backpacks, and to be able to carry more camera gear. Richard has a master’s degree in anthropology and considers myself a ‘historic’ archaeologist. He currently owns and operates Llama Hardware. Richard is an avid supporter of the working llama. Regarding his vision for the association, he comments:

 “I see the PLTA as a way to get more people, and hopefully younger people interested in using their llamas to hike and see the great outdoors that we have available in the US. My "vision for PLTA future" would be a group that not only offers the pack trials as a way to prove their llamas have learned the skills needed for packing, but also, a place to learn those skills. Add in the mileage program and other programs that are in the works and even those that are unable to attend a pack trail can feel like they are a member of the group and are gaining something by being a member of the PLTA.”

Regarding those PLTA programs, field testing continues for GeoLlama and PLTA Challenge. Association members have been having a lot of fun refining the procedures and regulations for GeoLlama in particular. Final protocols for both these programs are expected to be put in place within the next few months. Preliminary details about how the programs work and how you can participate may be found on the programs page of this website under pack trials.

The Mileage Program is in full swing. 2014 showed forty-four llamas reporting a total of 4954. The top reporting llama, BLT Gypsum, owned by Lynn Alexander and Larry Levine logged 511 miles, while his hiking buddy, BLT Wahoo’s Mage, also owned by the Lynn Alexander and Larry Levine, reported only three miles less.  Two llamas reported over 400 miles. Two more reported over 300 miles and, in all, fifteen llamas reported hiking more than 100 miles.

Congratulations to all of the Mileage Program hard-hiking llamas and their sturdy human companions. Their year-end tallies are shown in the Accolades article on the llama's page of this website. Remember, program miles accumulate over the course of all years a llama participates in the program. Don’t hesitate to get your hiking buddy started now.

While one of the purposes of the Mileage Program is to show that a particular llama is working, an equally important part is to demonstrate pack llama capabilities in general. Critics of the Mileage Program have made statements like, ‘well that’s nothing, my llama can do better than that’ to which participating members respond, ‘great, now you have a way to prove it.’ We invite all owners of avid llama hikers to join the program and let their llamas show their stuff. Details about how it works can be found on the mileage program page of this website. 

Please also remember that changes have been made to the Pack Trial procedures and regulations to allow broader participation. Llamas are now given credit for completing trials above and beyond those necessary to earn certifications. The board has also approved a change in regulations that allows for the substitution of longer distances for a lack of available elevation gain. This means that being surrounded by flat terrain is no obstacle to holding a pack trial. The llamas are simply required to hike further to meet the trial standards.

As we start the spring season, two Pack Trials have already been scheduled.

Support and information for setting up your own pack trial is available on the PLTA web site. We look forward to hearing from you.

Happy hiking,
Lisa Wolf
PLTA President