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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

RIM COUNTRY LLAMA HIKES


RIM COUNTRY LLAMA HIKES 
Pine-Strawberry

The llamas of the Ranch at Fossil Creek

Several years ago after an alpine (4 a.m.) start and 15 miles of hiking 5000 feet up a Colorado 14er peak, I hauled my self up those last breathless few hundred feet to claim my victory moment, and encountered---llamas. A tour company that employs the llamas to do the heavy lifting, taking the load off the backs and feet of the climbers, had escorted a group of hikers to the mountaintop sherpa-style.  This--I learned--was the smart way to hike. Outfitted in rough-wove woolens and bell garlands that pinged in the brisk 14,000' winds, the rugged beasts (and a minor case of hypoxia) colored this Rocky Mountain wilderness in shades of Andes.  That was the day I added, "hike with llamas" to my bucket list.  As with most of the items on my list, this one mellowed into invisibility while I toodled around the state systematically working through an assortment of hiking objectives both epic and mundane. Finally through a serendipitous interest in day hikes offered in conjunction Arizona Trail Trek 2014, I was able to walk with the llamas of The Ranch at Fossil Creek. The convergence of Pine-Strawberry Trails Day and Arizona Trail hiker Sirena Dufault passing through the town on her 817-mile trans-state trek was the perfect recipe for an outdoor celebration.  On Sunday, May 4, 2014, llama wrangler, Joyce Bittner conducted a short loop hike as part of the festivities, which serve as a party style shout out to all the wonderful hiking opportunities in the area and also to support Sirena's goal to raise $20,000 for the maintenance and promotion of the Arizona Trail. In addition to miles of trails on the cool forests of the Mogollon Rim, there are plenty of other reasons to pay a visit to the twin hamlets of Pine and Strawberry. Craft events, races, historical tours, proximity to Tonto Natural Bridge State Park and local business like The Honey Stand (try the Pine Wildflower honey) and That Brewery (yummy Arizona Trail Ale) complement the perfect summer escape.

GETTING THERE:
Pine-Strawberry is located roughly 110 miles north of Phoenix on AZ87 (Beeline Hwy).

THE RANCH AT FOSSIL CREEK LLAMA HIKES
Half-day tours cost $65 per person ($40 for children under 12 years). Reservations are required.
928-476-5178

RIM COUNTRY INFO:

CONTRIBUTE TO ARIZONA TRAIL TREK:


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