The Llama Wrangler on Mount LeConte
It was 5:15 a.m. and pitch dark when Alan Householder parked the livestock trailer at the Trillium Gap trailhead at the foot of Mount LeConte. The autumn leaf change was in full swing in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and by mid-morning, the parking lot would be overflowing.
But for now, Householder and his llama team were all alone. Working by headlamp, Householder brushed each llama and cinched their pack saddles. The cargo that day consisted of clean laundry and Styrofoam meal trays bound for LeConte Lodge, which is the highest overnight lodge east of the Mississippi River and only reachable by hiking one of five different trails.
When dawn broke at 7:15 a.m., Householder and his seven llamas were on their way.
“I will miss working with these guys,” he said. “They each have their own personality, and they don’t talk back.”
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