My first llama hiking trip into the Pasayten Wilderness in north central Washington State was on a sunny September day. Not an unusual day for one of the largest wild areas in the lower US, which is shielded by mountain ranges to the west, effectively blocking the low lying Pacific rain clouds making their way eastward. The flowers were gone but the grasses and sedges were still green against blue sky. The llamas rarely lifted their heads as they gorged. It was peaceful and idyllic. Especially since there were no bugs. Why not? Well it seems the disappear when the flowers do. Not when it gets colder in this wilderness. Astonishing really – being out away from any human sounds, in nature, with no mosquitos and only the occasional fly.
Most of my life I had been too busy to go llama packing or into the wilderness but life had changed. Lanette who lived on Wolf Canyon Ranch convinced me that there was more to llamas then just breeding them for profit. Prices reached a lofty high in the eighties and then cascaded down the right side of a bell shaped curve nearly as fast as they had risen. The business of breeding and selling had slowed allowing time to find out what else llamas were capable of. It turns out that they are wonderful animals, as I had always known they were, but living closely with them on the trail and in the mountain meadows – they became truly special.
The characters in Off The Edge, Over The Line and Out of Time are for the most part fictional or bits and pieces of lots of people all mixed into someone new. The llamas, however, such as Pipestone , Shasta, Meteor are just as they were. the same colors, the same personalities, at least as I remember them. It was the Pasayten Wilderness and the llamas, along with special people that inspired the book trilogy. And made them such a joy to write. Writing about them takes my mind back to the wonderful times spent in the ranch canyon, nestled partway between Twisp and Winthrop in the Methow Valley. Times that can’t be repeated but can be well remembered.