Com’on Sarah! We did two and half miles! But Sarah’s right about old goats. It’s the way I felt puffing up a hot trail drivin’ the goats before me while the two ladies, just getting acquainted, chattered like chipmunks, stopping only when they realized the goats we’re way behind. Irritable, I kept mumbling to myself that I hadn’t the frame or stamina to carry a heavy pack any longer as I kneed Elvis in the butt to keep him moving. Pooped by the end of that short day, I dropped my big pack to the ground, knew that I was done with it. Forever. Further, had disqualified goats as pack stock for a 3-month wilderness adventure. “Crazy!” I blurted to Sarah, “that we’re carrying more weight than the goats. And the idea of renting a band of them to distribute ALL our camp gear and provisions ain’t going to work either. We’re trekkers, not herders. We’d have to add a month to our Home Country Walk About. These guys go after every stem, blade, leaf and blossom."
Two days, two summits, several stream crossings and 15 miles later on our Smoky Mountains traverse I was certain about goat packing. “The bastards don’t want to get their feet wet!” Elvis especially. He did serious study on even the ditches before he vaulted them. And, as the top goat, Elvis affected Shanuk’s decisions. Across wider streams we had to push, pull and cajole. And if the weather were foul, which, thankfully, it was not the entire six days of our outing, we’d need to stop and shelter them. Goats - at least these goats - don’t like to get wet. Period.
Virtues? Goin’ slow! We’d heard this was a primary drawback of goat packing, but suited me to a tee. And you don’t have to lead them. They follow like dogs. Sometimes. What else? The fifth day was on the Skyline Trail, a high elevation twelve-mile long ridge with stupendous views. The goats and I made it a twelve-hour day. Crag hoppers, these guys jumped onto every precipice to take in the view. Muse about whatever goats muse about. The silky phacelia wildflower bloom was astonishing this year. Me and the goats lolly-gagged, finally drug our asses into Coyote Hut, one of Sun Valley Trekking’s high mountain huts late evening. My brother, his daughter, her husband and two boys, age 5 and 7 had dinner ready. The boys went nuts over the goats. Next day, they took care of them on the six-mile trail to the Valley floor. By the end of the trail, I’d put myself on the hook to pay for a three-day goat pack for the kids and family next summer. And I gotta’ admit, that bony, curmudgeonly ‘ole Elvis and I kinda’ bonded up there on the Skyline. The guy has character. Plus, he carried more weight than I did.
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