Despite the unpromising forecast, Sunday dawned fine and stayed more or less that way until mid-afternoon, just sufficient to allow the group of 20 hikers to enjoy a 10 kilometer hike. The trail we took followed a ridge for the most-part connecting Crazy Horse buttress (adjacent to Muang On cave) with Sankhampaeng hot springs.
The group met at Promenada at 7am, an earlier time than usual to mitigate walking overly much in a searing hot noon-day sun. A fleet of seven vehicles arrived at the turning-off for the Crazy Horse rock, to decant roughly half the party, who then walked up the dusty track to the rock. The drivers went on to park their cars at the hot springs, and then everyone clambered aboard Richard’s pick-up to return to Crazy Horse rock to join the others for the start of the walk.
And so we headed uphill towards the ridge. Looking back, the Crazy Horse buttress (see above photo) took centre stage, and several climbers were spotted on the rock face attempting to ride bareback (stretching the metaphor a bit – Ed.). Some major land excavations had been carried out at this point, with access roads obliterating the start of the trail, but this initial deception proved no match for Anders’ navigation skills, although it has to be said, the one who must charge ahead (S) was utterly flummoxed by it. Following his natural tendency he led a few of the group astray (and seemingly towards certain oblivion) before all were recalled to heel and to safety.
The ridge was rather like a deflated, gently-undulating roller coaster (an inflatable roller-coaster? – Ed.), with shallow dips, and mini peaks. The views from the ridge tended to be obscured by the light monodominant forest, but occasional views to the west and to the east revealed distant mountain ranges, but all the while appearing to look as if viewed through a very dirty lens – indeed, the smell of fire smoke pervaded everything. The ridge was typical of the region: sharply defined with relatively steep drops either side, but rarely descending too far between peaks.
One inspired member of the group brought with them several Thailand flags; these were waved vigorously at every photo-opportunity, and not just by the locals either!
One sad point, apart from occasional butterflies flitting by, was the near-total-lack of wildlife, no snakes, no bird-song, etc.; this is an unfortunate fact of the Chiang Mai province wildlife parks in general. It seems everything has been hunted to extinction.
Towards the end of the ridge, and with the ‘highest’ peak (756 metres) behind us, we stopped for lunch. The day had fortunately not lived up to expectations weather-wise; it was certainly nowhere near as hot as we had feared, there was a cooling, refreshing wind, and importantly, there was no sign of rain to this point: perfect conditions for hiking.
However, the most difficult part of the hike lay ahead on the descent into the valley, with the stony trail at times doing its utmost to upend the unwary, plus sections of very narrow cambered trail above steep drops demanding focus and care. Sticks/poles proved incredibly useful in this terrain.
And so once in the valley, the warmest part of the hike, we gradually made our way back to the hot springs car park and to a well-deserved lunch. All the while the clouds slowly but surely were getting larger.
The hiking statistics for the day comprised: total horizontal distance 10.4 km, very roughly 500 metres of vertical ascent, and a total duration of 4.75 hours (this included flag-waving time too).
Following lunch, some of the group headed for the pool and once there, luxuriated in the geothermal chemical soup until they were covered from head to toe in wrinkles. Being a Sunday, the facility was popular with families. Towards the end of our stay in the pool, thunder could be heard, and the first rain for months began to fall. An excellent day!
Hike Leaders: Anders & Peter D.
Report by Peter (“the wordmaster”) D.