Online at www.LeConteLodge.com
We are llama wranglers for LeConte Lodge in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, located in Tennessee and North Carolina. LeConte Lodge has been packing with llamas for thirty years. Llamas were chosen by the National Park Service to replace the horses that originally supplied the lodge because of the llamas’ low impact on the fragile mountain trails.
We hike the llamas on the Trillium Gap trail which, round- trip, is a thirteen-mile day with 3,200 feet in elevation gain that usually takes us over fifteen hours. Our day includes a beautiful woods walk, trekking behind Grotto Falls, and catching glimpses of astounding views of the Smoky Mountains. On each trip, eight of our hard-working boys go up the mountain in a string, each carrying between sixty to ninety pounds. We have twenty-four llamas that rotate through the string three times a week to carry laundry, fresh goods, and packages to the lodge. Our guys go, rain or shine, every day of our working season, from late March to late November. There is no road to the rustic mountaintop lodge, so all the visitors must hike at least five miles to the summit.
Alan has been packing with the LeConte llamas for thirteen years, and has logged over 15,000 miles leading them. Alan and I met at 6,593 feet, on top of Mt. LeConte, working for the lodge. We quickly saw that we shared a passion of walking, being in nature, and animals. At this point, we became the llama wrangling team. This soon led to a great friendship and a wonderful marriage. Our life is simple, rustic, and full of adventure. We are avid hikers—if we have any free moments, we love to be in the woods. Alan has backpacked all over the world, completing many long distance trails such as the Pacific Crest Trail and the Australian Alps Walking Track. We were able to walk the Camino de Santiago on one of our winters off. We look forward to having many more adventures throughout our life.
We often say, “We can’t believe we get to do this!” It is a once-in-a-lifetime role. We are amazed every day at the endurance and the relentless hard work our llamas are capable of. We feel there is a mutual respect between us and our llamas that makes for a successful and balanced working operation. We believe our teams of llamas are the hardest-working pack trains in the eastern United States. The people we encounter on the trail are totally amazed by what they see. We definitely work to make sure the public gets a positive spin on llamas and what they are capable of.
Our pack strings have recently been caught in action: featured in an independent film documentary, Llama Nation, and a Park Service documentary titled Grandstand of the Smokies—A Journey to Mt. LeConte.