Twin Creeks Llamas, Take a Hike        

 us and our llamas

How We Got Llamas in the First Place

“Quirky Getaway”.--That’s how Jim Yenckel, the Mid Atlantic Travel Expert, described Twin Creeks Llama Treks on an edition of NPR’s Metro Connection that aired shortly after we started our business. I think most of our friends and family would agree with that description. When we first broke the news that we were buying llamas and were going to start a hiking business, our friends would smile a blank smile and nod vacantly, as if to humor the mentally unstable. Those who have come to visit and have experienced the gentle nature of the llamas and the pleasure of their company on a hike have come around to our way of thinking. But I’m sure most of our acquaintances still inwardly think of us as “quirky”. But that’s OK with us, ‘cause we’re having a ball.

on the trail 

The question we’re inevitably asked, (that is, of course, after “Do they really spit?”), is “How did you ever decide to get into llama trekking?” There is no clear answer to that question, because it is not something we ever planned to do—it just sort of evolved—like serendipity. 

Our first 3 llamas 

After spending 24 years in the Air Force, Tim retired and took a job in Northern VA. As we were living in Southern MD at the time, and hating life on the beltway, we decided to buy our dream getaway in the mountains of the Shenandoah Valley. Well, that’s not quite true, because, again, we never planned to do this. We drove out to the valley on a 3 day Valentine’s Day weekend in 1998, and, on a whim, dropped into a local realty office just to check out prices for the area. We described our idea of the perfect piece of property, (several acres, pasture, woods, mountain views, a stream), and when the agent drove us out to see a piece property that was for sale, and it was 100% what we had envisioned, we bought it on the spot. 

Gooney creek 

We had always thought we would someday like to have horses, but when we settled in and started thinking along those lines, I was afraid that horses were more demanding and expensive to maintain than I was prepared for. But we wanted some kind of livestock to make use of our pasture. I certainly wasn’t going to raise anything that was ever going to end up on someone’s dinner plate, and after months of research it seemed like llamas would be the perfect additions to our family. The next dilemma was what we would do with them. Again, serendipitously, I read an article about llama picnic hikes and thought that might be just the ticket. Here we were living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains—and we love hiking and meeting people—and we’re, well, sort of “quirky”. 

Llamas on the field 

Tim was coming up on his 50th birthday, so I planned a surprise trip with a group of our close friends to go to NC and take a llama trek. We loved the experience—the llamas were so captivating and cute and added a whole new dimension to the adventure of hiking. So the decision was made to go forward.

Christmas Llamas 2001 

Our first Christmas with our first 3 llamas

Getting Started: Selecting the Llamas

The next hurdle was finding the right llamas. It would have been ideal to buy llamas that were already pack trained and trail wise, but we would have had to travel some distance to find them. Most of the llama packing in those days was done in the western mountainous states; Wyoming, Oregon, Washington, Montana, all a 3 to 4 days drive from Virginia.   It was important to us, as new llama folks, to buy our llamas from a farm close by, from people who could mentor us and offer us support.

We also wanted to find llamas that had the right temperament, were trained to lead, and easily handled. We knew that we were not going to be doing arduous, long distance hikes, so we focused on finding sound llamas with good temperaments, and hoped to train them to be good packers.  We found the perfect match for our first boys at a farm near Roanoke, VA, who sold us 3 llamas. Over the next couple of years we expanded our herd to a total of 8, all purchased from reputable llama farms within an hour from our farm.  

Bonny Drill Sergeant 

Back in 2001, when we first started our llama quest, there were lots of llamas and llama farms in Virginia. I seem to remember that there were over 200 llama farms in the mid-Atlantic area, and we visited as many as we could. We have been very pleased with our selection of llamas. They all were easily trained to carry a pack and all were very enthusiastic about going on hikes.

Creek Crossing