While perusing local Facebook pages based in Chiang Mai I was quite excited to stumble upon the “Doi Suthep Walkers”, a local squad that leads volunteer group hikes every weekend. I sent a message to the group’s admin, Matt Harry, asking if I could tag along. Matt happily accepted, sending me an invite to the upcoming hike.
Last Saturday’s hike, appropriately titled on Facebook as the “Last Man Standing” trail, was advertised as a 16 km hike with a 1,200m elevation gain from the coffee shop ‘Bake Me Home’ just outside of Tropical Village all the way up to the Bhubing Palace. In the description of the event, Matt heeded multiple warnings for potential joiners: “This is a challenging trail close to Chiang Mai…This is a hard hike and you need to be fit.” Although I was admittedly quite intimidated by the title and warnings, I still somehow found myself on a Songthaew early Saturday morning. Upon arriving in the parking area of ‘Bake Me Home’ at 7:45 am, I met Matt Harry and eleven other fearless outdoor men and women ready to climb. At exactly 8 am, off the Walkers and I went up the mountain.
Now, I consider myself an avid hiker thanks to my time in Colorado, but nothing there could have prepared me for the intense environment I was about to step into. The first portion of the trek was wonderfully scenic as we passed Buddha statues, some with numerous offerings before them, and a few beautiful waterfalls. The second half of our ascent wasn’t so friendly on the glutes. The rest of the way up till Doi Pui Road was filled with muddy, steep slopes that sometimes went on for almost half a kilometer. Finishing one hill rewarded you with a short plateau that lasted one or two minutes before being bestowed with yet another pitch three times as nasty as the last. During the cardio-intense climb, we came across some incredible wildlife; a Golden Orb Web Spider, at one point, dangled just two feet above our heads.
At the summit of our hike, we broke for lunch and I got the chance to better know the Walkers who showed up for this trek. A few of these ladies and gentlemen are retired Europeans looking for some fun in the outdoors, while others are Thai locals who have traveled around before finding themselves back in Chiang Mai. Despite the exhausting hike, each one of these individuals had an abundance of friendly energy as we chatted under the awning of ‘Bhubing Coffee’. At this moment, I was under the false perception it would be smooth sailing on the way down.
To return to ‘Bake Me Home’, Matt took us down another route through the “Bamboo Trail” and the “King Cobra Trail” but to be frank, at times there wasn’t much “trail” to speak of. The trek back required balancing acts across messes of tree trunks that fell on our path, escaping nests of hornets hiding in the leaves, and traversing through kilometers of unimaginably thick and convoluted jungle underbrush.
The total trek had been 17.88 km and our moving time came out to a little over 6 hours. It’s quite humbling to consider that while I was recovering all the next day, Matt was leading yet another hike. The outdoors is famous for its ability to push one past their limits, and I can confidently say I was met with mine more than a few times in Doi Suthep-Pui National Park.
Thanks again to the Doi Suthep Walkers: Matt, Rocky, Jeff, Mark P, Mark B, Dan, Tip, Helen, Tai, Nay, Angel, and Tony!