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Trek with a Llama Through the Great Smoky Mountains

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GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS — If the thought of lugging lots of gear on a hike through the North Carolina mountains seems too much of a burden, consider making the trek with a llama.

Often confused with camels -- even cattle -- llamas are often the recipients of strange looks from passers-by. Their home is the mountains, where the nights are cool and there is plenty of room to graze.

Llama herders who work the animals say they are meant for'trekking.'

"Llamas do not have hoofs like horses. They have soft pads like dogs, so they are low impact on trails," says a guide.

The pack animals are described as gentle and affectionate. They are strong, able to carry a quarter of their weight -- 60 to 70 pounds.

The animals eat anything they can reach. "The world is their salad bar," says the guide.

Llamas can live up to 25 years. Owners believe the animals are so gentle because they have been domesticated for about 5,000 years, making them some of the oldest domestic animals in the world.

Llamas do not spit like camels, but they are distant cousins.

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Robert Meikle, Reporter
Robert Meikle, Photographer
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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