With moss-covered evergreen trees, sword ferns, and alpine lichens, I felt suddenly magically transported to Olympic National Park's rain forest in Washington State, USA. The cool 65-70 degree temperatures (yes, farenheit) added to the illusion. I had just summitted Thailand's highest peak, Doi Inthanon on April 14, 2005.
OK, "summitted" and "peak" are stretching it a little. A paved road to the top made it convenient for our little songtheaw (red pickup truck with bench seating in the back) to huff and puff it's way to the top of the 8,415-foot mountain. We stopped a couple times for the little overheated engine to cool off. Thai pick-ups are just out of their realm in these airy mountain regions. Then there's the "peak"--actually a heavily forested rounded mountain top, crowned by a white buddhist shrine. Not my normal Cascade Mountain peak-scaling experience.
mountain's many scenic falls.
However, beautiful waterfalls, Hmong hilltribe villages and formal gardens mid-mountain (courtesy of the Royal Thai Airforce) added to the unique trip, about two-days' bus ride from my home in Mahasarakham. This was the environs of Chiang Mai, near the Burmese border in north Thailand. The formal gardens were full of flowers and plants one would find in grandma's garden in Washington or Oregon: snap dragons, pansies, fox glove, lilacs, juniper bushes, and other very USA Pacific Northwest flora.
Since this was the highest point in Thailand, I merely went for one of those "been-there, done-that" experiences with somewhat low expectations. After all, I had actually climbed peaks nearly twice that height back in the USA. Surprised, I came away with a little nostalgic touch of my beloved Washington Cascade Mountains and grandma's garden in The Dalles, Oregon. While most of the Thai in my group shivered uncontrollably, I for a moment, felt like a Seattle robin, just briefly released from a tropical sauna cage into my native refreshing mountain habitat.
[For more information about the mountain, please visit my contribution to Summitpost.org by clicking here.]