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Llamas are the Answer. How to Make Backpacking Easier is the Question.

Updated: Mar 28, 2021

A good outfitter and strong llamas remove the burden of carrying the gear required to comfortably camp in the backcountry, giving you more time to spend in remote places.


Our outfitter and friend, B.J. Orozco, leads four llamas out of Grand Gulch in Cedar Mesa.

B.J.'s website can be found here: https://llama2boot.com



A number of the Escalante canyons—especially those closer to the towns of Escalante and Boulder—can be explored with day hikes. Even some of the more southerly canyons can be hiked in a single day, enabling you to sleep in a motel bed by night. You have to be willing to drive long distances on wash-boarded gravel—but it is possible.


The canyons in Bears Ears National Monument are at least as far from any town, so trying to see canyons in a single day is a challenge—especially if you are a photographer.


Photographing the canyons requires spending some time getting to know them—at least for me. If I come across a scene I find interesting, I explore it a bit to find the right composition. I take off my pack, set up the tripod, and compose, but often the composition needs a little refinement. After the exposure is made, I take time to ensure the focusing is precise and I didn't miss anything glaring. Then I put my camera back in the bag and collapse the tripod before resuming the hike.


Sometimes the process is very quick, sometimes it takes much longer. When the photography is good, I often don't complete the intended hike because I have run out of time.


You need time to explore the canyons photographically. Of course, that means: 1. finding the time necessary and: 2. camping nearby, or 3. backpacking to the destination. Backpacking would be ideal if you didn't have to carry all the gear on your back. That's where llamas come in.

Llamas are strong and can carry a lot of weight. They are more gentle on the terrain than horses and are more agile. Because they eat local vegetation, less food has to be carried in for them, leaving more room for gear. They are quiet, alert to predators, and because they are herd animals, like to stick together.


I would guess that 50% of the photographs from the Escalante Canyons and Bears Ears National Monument galleries in this website were made on day hikes. Another 25% were made during hikes taken when I was camping nearby, and another 25% were made on backpacking trips—many of those with llamas.


I have been on about 15 or 16 backpacking trips in the Escalante canyons and Cedar Mesa with a great outfitter who uses llamas to carry the camping gear and the food. All I have to carry is my photography gear, water, and lunch. We generally make one camp and use that as a base for exploring the area. It is a very productive way to explore and photograph the canyons—especially if your outfitter knows every inch of the land like B.J.


If you plan to explore the Escalante Canyons, I highly recommended hiring B.J. Orozco and his team. You'll have a great, comfortable, and safe experience with very knowledgeable guides. Here's link to his website: https://llama2boot.com


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