The Leader was as good as his word and the assembled group left the meeting point at Susco sharp on 07.30. Susco has proved itself as a good place to meet, with all mod cons and within easy reach of downtown both out and on the way back (there is a proper bus stop on the other side of the highway with regular silor service to central Chiang Mai).
The start point was in front of the guard post of a resort set alongside the scenic Mae Kwong River. No motorised vehicles shall pass, but the somewhat bemused guard is used to hikers by now and greeted us as we all trooped by. This part of the hike is a surreal experience as one trudges through what were obviously beautifully manicured grounds dotted with huge stylish chalets, which have now been left to the decay of time and climate, but are still fully-furnished as if awaiting new guests. An analogy with The Shining occurred to more than one person.
The resort behind us, we began a slow steady climb onto a low ridge line, which would have afforded good views to the south under less hazy conditions. There is still a good leaf cover for sun protection, but dead leaves are starting to shower down and early warning signs of the hot and dry season to come are well evident.
There is a decent trail along the ridge line, around the head of a small valley and then on to a higher ridge line heading back along the other side of the valley for the return trip, and once on the ridge line there was a persistent cool breeze. Good (but hazy) views to the north and south, shady trees and nothing too steep added up to very pleasant hiking conditions.
Just before the high point, we stopped for refreshments and resuscitation. From here it was an easy stroll to the high point and the deceptively broad initial descent. On previous reconnaissance trips Anders had explored the obvious ways on from this point, expending much time and effort with little reward. So by the time us late-comers arrived on the scene there was really only one option left – the intimidating-looking slope leading directly down to the valley below – and sure enough there is a distinct trail heading steeply downhill. This trail, sporadically marked by human trace fossils, descends by way of a subsidiary ridge to safely deposit the careful hiker back into the resort. Congratulations to Anders for finding a new, attractive and (relatively!) easy hike within comfortable reach of Chiang Mai.
Our Leader received final vindication when he was able to point out the promised large group of natural mowing machines, which would have made a Swiss farmer proud.
Post-hike refreshments were taken at the Pong Din Hot Springs, or would have been if they had been open. There was a large Poy Luang ceremony at the village wat and all owners and staff of the bathing cubicles and small restaurants had downed tools to dance and make merit. Fortunately we found one restaurant next door that was able to provide adequate foodstuffs and plentiful beverages to the hiking hordes.