Imagine hiking through the gorgeous New England fall landscape with a creature that should be in a "Star Wars" movie: the llama. Loooong neck. Huge, stand-up ears. Big round eyes with lovely lashes. No question, they're otherworldly.
Bob Wadds, owner of Moonlight Llamas in Stowe, Vt., calls them "catlike." Being a cat lover myself, at first I thought, Huh? How can this huge but adorable pack animal native to South America resemble a cat? But soon I realized he was right.
Llamas step lightly on soft pads. Constantly alert, curious, and aware of their surroundings, they don't miss a thing. Since their only defense is to run away, they have to be hypersensitive to avoid predators or perceived danger. The herbivores don't even have upper teeth, so they can't bite. Their funny, two-toed feet (no sharp hooves) don't provide much of a deterrent in terms of scratching or kicking. Nervous but friendly, llamas prefer to come to greet you, rather than the other way around.
When Jack, Czar, and Randy accompanied a group of us on a hike through the Long Pond Natural Area, a Nature Conservancy preserve outside Greensboro, Vt., the animals added whimsy and a touch of the exotic to a beautiful day. A walk in the woods will never be the same without them.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society