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Want to get away for a while and have some fun with your llamas? Donít miss the 2006 Backcountry Llama Rendezvous and Drive-in! The format has evolved from a single annual event, located in Western Washington in recent years, to multiple regional events. The idea is to make available activities closer to home and provide more occasions to fit into various schedules. The Eastern Washington gathering is set for June 16-18 at Godman Springs in the Wenaha-Tucannon area, southeast of Dayton, and is shaping up to be an event with broad appeal to those near and far.

With the focus on the working llama, several organizations have come together to offer an eclectic event for llama enthusiasts and investigators alike. Joining the Backcountry Llama Association (BCL) is the Pack Llama Trial Association (PLTA) and the Inland Northwest Llama Association (INLA). Local organizers consist of Scott & Gayle Noga of Rattlesnake Ridge Ranch, and Rex and Diana McMullin, of Pasco, Washington.

Godman Springs has a horse stable, camp sites with gazebo, picnic tables, fire grills, and maintained vault toilet, and a large two-story furnished rental cabin (former Godman Guard Station, built in 1933-34). The building sleeps eight people in two bedrooms, one upstairs and one on the ground floor, living room, kitchen and bathroom. Propane is used for the furnace, cook stove, refrigerator, lights and water heater. There's also running water (gravity fed spring water in the building) and toilet, though the water isn't turned on until after it's tested each Spring. We have reserved the cabin for this event the nights of June 15 - 17. The campground area is free for tents and RVís, but the cabin has a rental fee. Level RV parking space is limited and there are no RV hookups. While cabin space is limited, it will provide a refuge if the weather gets uncomfortable.

Speaking of weather, typical for this time and location is highs in the low 70's with nights near 50F, some sunshine, no rain and slight breeze. There will likely still be patches of snow. It should be fairly comfortable but at 5600 feet the weather can be a bit unpredictable in the Spring.

Whatís in store? For starters there are mini-seminars and knowledge sharing to educate folks about how to care for, pack and drive with llamas, lessons learned, and places to go. Working with llama fiber is also on the agenda. To keep us from getting lost (the llamas always know where they are) there will be a GPS training seminar on Friday, followed by a GPS treasure hunt for valuable prizes. Donít forget to bring your GPS unit, or just tag along with someone else. Want more prizes? Enter the llama races! (No, not for speed. Smoothness is what counts in this race.)

Friday evening features a Dutch Oven potluck dinner. There will be a variety of main fare to choose from, along with beans and dessert. Participants are invited to contribute side dishes such as salads, breads, etc., for additional variety. Please note any special dietary requirements on your registration forms.

Breakfast on Saturday and Sunday is being provided by local 4-H groups active in showing llamas, as a fundraiser. Your donation not only supports 4-H activities, but should get your day off to a good start with all-you-can-eat eggs, pancakes, sausage and more.

Saturday and Sunday include a PLTA-sanctioned double pack trial, basic through master levels. Two of the three trials required for llama certification can be completed during this one event. For those unfamiliar with a pack trial, the basic course requirements are completion of five basic manageability tasks of haltering, jumping in and out of a trailer, saddling, loading packs and being tied out on a picket line for 5 minutes.

1. Basic level - Minimum age 24 months. Llamas age 24 to 30 months will carry no weight, but will have filled out packs. Llamas over 30 months will carry 10% of body weight. Llamas will cover 3 miles, gain at least 250-500 feet elevation and negotiate a minimum of 5 obstacles; including 1 water, 1 deadfall, and 1 jump.

2. Advanced level - Minimum age 36 months, carry 15% of body weight, cover 5 miles, gain 750-1000 feet in elevation, minimum 10 obstacles; including 2 water, 1 rock rubble, 1 deadfall, 1 jump.

3. Master level - Minimum age 48 months, carry 25% of body weight (not to exceed 90 lbs.), cover 8 miles, gain 1000-2000 feet elevation and negotiate at least 12 obstacles; including 3 water, 2 jumps, 1 deadfall, 1 rock rubble, 1 brush, and 1 foot inspection.

Participating in the pack course each day, whether or not you are signed up for PLTA certification, automatically enters the llama handler in the poker run. The farther you go the greater the odds of getting a good hand, which entitles you to a larger selection of prize choices.

Saturday evening features a potluck dinner consisting of a combined sampler of favorite on-the-trail cuisine (recipe sharing and denigration of ultra-lightweight backpackers is encouraged). Be prepared to share a favorite on-the-pack-trail dish (or side dish) and recipe(s) for Saturday eveningís potluck Ė enough to serve several people. Multiple submissions are welcome. (If you don't have one, make one up that you think would work well on the trail.) Itís not a bad idea to label your culinary masterpiece or even have recipes printed for handout.

Interspersed amongst the other activities will be many opportunities for driving your llamas. The Godman campground is near the intersection of several forest roads and ATV trails. If your previous driving experience is limited to level paved or graded roadways, consider this to be a step up in challenge. Roadways and trails are relatively smooth but wind through trees as they rise and fall. Your llamas will get a real workout, which is one reason this event is being held while temperatures are still cool. If equipped to team, this would be a good place for it. Fortunately, going away from the campground is generally downhill (easy), while the return is generally uphill (harder, when the llamas are more motivated to get back to the soft life.)

Alternate hiking and packing opportunities exist, ranging from a moderate day hike three miles in to the Oregon Butte fire lookout station to a very challenging 11 mile venture along Butte Creek. Choose the activities that interest you, share those experiences, learn from one another and most of all, have fun with llamas!

For up-to-date information, registration, and more, visit the Rattlesnake Ridge Ranch webpage at http://rattlesnakeridgeranch.com and click on "Events". While there, be sure to visit the "Packing" page where youíll find links to photo journals of previous trips to Godman Springs and Oregon Butte.

Finally, contact Gayle or Scott at (509) 545-5903 with questions.


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Last modified: 15 May 2012