Notwithstanding dire forecasts of heavy rain, the day dawned bright and cheerful as a group of 11 hikers gathered by the side of Canal Road. We managed to squeeze into two vehicles for the short trip to Wat Pong Noi and both vehicles managed in their turn to squeeze in to the small parking space immediately in front of the trail-head, reducing hard-surface hiking to the width of the lane.
Good progress was made at steady speed and with occasional short water breaks up the trial bike trail through the forest. This is a lovely area, well-endowed with bugs and bird song. Although still a little muddy from yesterdays’s rain and with clear tire imprints we did not see or hear a trial bike all day. The ideal combination – benefiting from the good trail, but without the noise and fumes.
About 2/3 of the way up, the trail gets very close to the road to Doi Suthep and traffic noise from the valley below is quite distinct. At this point a group of 4 men emerged from the trail down to the Observatory, well-equipped with camouflage jackets and machetes. We stopped for a chat before continuing on our way up the steepest part of the route climaxing with a lovely view over the hills to the south. The white gleaming spire of the new wat on Samoeng Road standing out clearly against the muted greens and blues.
Not too much further on we arrived at the Forester’s Camp where kid you not the National Park rangers had laid on a sumptuous picnic spot for us replete with tables and benches.
After lunch the group split, with 3 members led by Chan deciding to walk the forest trail down to Doi Suthep and catch a silor down the mountain. The other 8 members elected to get more close up and personal with the forest and make the loop back to Wat Pong Noi on forest trails. The steep downhill.section was negotiated carefully and without incident. Highlights were another superb view to the south, dominated by the same gleaming white temple, and a panoramic break watching the planes take off and land at Chiang Mai airport.
For anyone planning to do the Valley Cafe loop, the section we walked along is in terrible shape, with the trail difficult to follow in several places. The tree arch marker is now just a carbonised stump.
We arrived back in good spirits, and still in beautiful weather, at 14.30, a total elapsed time of 6 1/2 hours for a hike of 15 kilometers.
Filed under: Hike Reports