2019 Epic North Thailand Dirt Ride

Discussion in 'Touring Northern Thailand - Trip Reports Forum' started by ianyonok, Dec 19, 2019.

  1. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

    Dec 9, 2008
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    My old mate Chris had come over from England again and we were out for some fun in the dirt and remote areas.
    We hired a CRF250 from Chiang Rai Big Bikes and I was riding my KLX 250.

    3rd DECEMBER 2019. First day was a pootle around Chiang Saen.

    Map 3 Dec.

    Off the 3166, Wat Pa Daeng, recently restored and outside the Chiang Saen bypass, on a low hill.
    Photo 03-12-2019, 15 08 54. Photo 03-12-2019, 15 12 42.

    From the 4037, we took the concrete road to Huay Gwan, riding the nice little trail around the north edge of Huay Gwan reservoir, to the war memorial.
    Photo 03-12-2019, 16 19 22.
    Then the dirt road north and out to Bahn Rai on 1129.

    We rode up to the Viewpoint at Wat Prathat Pa Ngao, the large temple on the hill, SE of Chiang Saen, just over the Kham river. Great views of Chiang Saen environs and the Khong river, to the north and the east.
    Photo 03-12-2019, 17 07 59. Photo 03-12-2019, 17 08 07.

    4th DECEMBER 2019.
    Into the Lam Nam Kok National Park and the Kok river.

    Map 4 Dec.

    Departure from Viang Yonok Hotel, Chiang Saen
    Photo 04-12-2019, 10 54 19.
    It didn't take long....... No.1.
    Photo 04-12-2019, 14 35 15.
    The beautiful mountains of the Lam Nam Kok NP. Photo 04-12-2019, 15 19 32.
    We tried to get down the trail from Loh Sa to Loh Bue but it was steep and washed away. Actually, we got both the bikes a bit stuck in a ravine and had to manhandle them back up onto the trail, one at a time. All part of the fun...

    Photo 04-12-2019, 15 20 13.
    The trail hits the river near the rapids at Pha Kwang. A beautiful spot and a place to go camping one day.
    Photo 04-12-2019, 15 41 46.
    We then rode southeast along the river, down to the Karen village of Bahn Kwae Wuwa Dam and checked into the My Dream Guest House.
    Photo 04-12-2019, 16 22 45. Photo 04-12-2019, 16 40 40. Photo 04-12-2019, 16 40 48.

    A great place to stay right on the Kok River. The fire was most welcome.
    Every day was even colder after this, with morning temperatures around 7 - 10 deg C..
    Photo 04-12-2019, 17 58 53. Photo 04-12-2019, 19 48 06.

    5th DECEMBER 2019. From the Lam Nam Kok National Park and the Kok river to Thaton.

    Map 5 Dec.

    A misty cold morning on the Kok river.
    2019-12-05 06.31.13. 2019-12-05 06.32.51.
    2019-12-05 09.25.41.
    We soon came to "The Motorcycle Bridge"..

    We had both crossed this in 2010 when there was only half a handrail and one layer of loose planks.
    If you listen carefully, you can hear the recorded "F**k me", about halfway across.......

    Now in 2019, it was in better shape, with full handrail and double planking. Too easy really....

    2019-12-05 09.48.53.
    After crossing, we then rode southeast on the south side of the river.
    2019-12-05 09.49.02.

    Looking across the river to the Ruam Mitr Elephant Camp.
    2019-12-05 11.48.17.
    When we got to Kham Nu, we turned southwest around the great little loop through Pong Nam Ron past the waterfall, which finishes with a single track technical section back to the river road. The roads and trail here are extremely steep. One side of the loop is the Akha Hill House and the other side is the Bamboo Nest.
    We then took a dip in the Prasert Hot Springs.
    2019-12-05 12.20.18.
    We then rode northwest back along the Kok river on the south side and took the super dirt road across to Doi Gart Phi near Wawi on the 3037.
    2019-12-05 14.30.26.
    2019-12-05 14.41.00.

    2019-12-05 14.33.57.
    After riding north, up on to the 1089, we turned up the short dirt road that leads to the Burma border, north of Tha Makeng.

    2019-12-05 16.06.39.

    The concrete road finishes and dirt road 49 leads on across the border into Burma.
    2019-12-05 16.06.58.

    We stayed the night in Thaton, in the Garden Home.

    6th DECEMBER 2019. From Thaton around the full border road around the back of Doi Pahampok.

    Map 6 Dec.

    This was to be an exciting day for us. I last rode this superb border road in about 2013. As far as I am aware, it had been closed since the last army coup. But I was up at the checkpoint about 3 weeks ago, on a road bike and managed to pass the fiirst checkpoint. However the eastern end of the road is very broken, so I had to return after 1.5 klms. But now, back again, this time on a dirt bike and on a mission to ride the road.

    ..... More coming soon......
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  2. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

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    #2 ianyonok, Dec 20, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2019
    More info on the Pahampok border road here;
    Caution: Very Steep/Dangerous Road Collapse/ Restricted Area Dangerous Road

    We managed an early start and had vegetarian jok soup from a roadside stall
    2019-12-06 08.34.58.
    We rode out on the Thaton temple road first, to get the views looking into Burma up the Kok river.
    2019-12-06 08.59.48. 2019-12-06 09.00.00.
    Then headed NW on the 1314. Some nice coffee shops up on the loop. Super swoopy riding on that little loop too.
    2019-12-06 09.27.32.
    We got to the first checkpoint at Pang San Khrua. It was the same soldier on duty that we had met a couple of weeks earlier and he remembered me. After taking passport details and bike reg etc, he said we could ride the full border road around the back of Doi Pahampok. Fantastic.
    The tarmac road at the eastern end of this loop is in bad shape, very broken up as well as steep. Only usable for 4wd, dirt bikes and Honda Waves etc.
    2019-12-06 09.51.34. 2019-12-06 09.54.11.
    After about 5 klms we came to the Burma border. There is an army post tucked away behind the ridge here, but no checkpoint..
    2019-12-06 10.09.40.

    Border Patrol Division 3203.
    2019-12-06 10.12.51.

    There was no-one around here.
    2019-12-06 10.12.54. 2019-12-06 10.13.35.
    Riding the border road west.
    2019-12-06 10.16.02.
    There were regular markings and razor wire marking the border.
    2019-12-06 10.26.40.
    Very thick jungle up here.
    2019-12-06 10.26.54. 2019-12-06 10.30.20.
    The 2nd border checkpoint. This is one of the highest points on the road, 1674m on David's map and pretty cold it was, even at 10:30 in the morning. These were tough looking Border Patrol Police officers. The officer in the brown coat was the senior man.
    2019-12-06 10.40.14.
    We arrived at the checkpoint at the same time as some locals. They were questioned for some time and had their bikes searched. We gave passport details and bike reg again. I informed them that Officer Taweesak at the first checkpoint had said we could ride the full loop and that seems to help the discussion. They said we could pass and off we rode.
    2019-12-06 10.40.32. 2019-12-06 10.42.03. 2019-12-06 10.47.32.
    Some of the downhills were a bit slippery but no problems for the KLX or CRF.
    2019-12-06 10.52.41. 2019-12-06 11.05.34.
    "Do not enter. Disputed border area."
    2019-12-06 11.07.14.

    Then the road turns south, away from the border and dips down into a lovely secluded valley and the village of Nam Hua.
    2019-12-06 11.15.45. 2019-12-06 11.15.57.
    There were no people around at the time. We took a little dead end detour up a dirt road north here but still saw no-one.
    2019-12-06 11.16.00. 2019-12-06 11.16.05.

    This next checkpoint was near to where the road comes back up to the border. We gave the same details and were allowed to pass.
    2019-12-06 11.31.20.
    As you reach the border again, you come to Doi Lang.
    2019-12-06 11.43.46. 2019-12-06 11.43.56.
    Looking back south into the secluded valley.
    2019-12-06 11.55.57.
    There is a new built National Park Office here and a new toilet block. This indicates it may be easier to visit this area in the future. A great place to camp but very cold at this time.
    2019-12-06 11.56.15.
    Following the border road again.
    2019-12-06 11.57.18.
    Around this point we came to a favourite birdwatching area and there was a large group of twitchers there.
    Then also another large checkpoint where the soldiers took our details again.

    Here are 2 photos of the checkpoint from 2011, with Gary Sharpeyes.
    This was before the broken road was repaired. 6 klms to the break.

    Back to 2019 and along the border. There was a second area for the birdwatchers somewhere around here and again we saw about 20 people. What was really funny was the bridwatcher who would not accept that we had ridden around the entire border road. Perhaps guys on dirt bikes are more likely to be let through than those in Toyota Fortunas.
    2019-12-06 12.13.19-1.
    The San Ju Viewpoint. The views are indeed spectacular, looking north into Shan State.
    2019-12-06 12.14.58. 2019-12-06 12.16.19.
    The road climbs up here over a saddle.....
    2019-12-06 12.16.56.
    ..... then dips down to the concrete repaired section.
    2019-12-06 12.22.24.
    How this was in 2011 when severely broken and only just passable, by walking your bike over.
    Pahampok 13.

    Now in 2019.
    2019-12-06 12.23.18. 2019-12-06 12.25.29.
    Looking across to a couple of Burmese Army camps on the mountain ridge to the north.
    2019-12-06 12.37.24. 2019-12-06 13.00.53.
    This was at the top northwest end of the border road. The road does a 180 here and heads back south.
    2019-12-06 13.03.55. 2019-12-06 13.15.18.

    This was the last checkpoint at the border and pretty relaxed, just a brief acknowledgement from the soldier.
    2019-12-06 13.16.21.
    Last checkpoint we just rode through.
    2019-12-06 13.16.24.

    The road back south down to Fang parallels the ridge of Doi Pahampok, seen here in the background.
    2019-12-06 13.24.21. 2019-12-06 13.25.10.
    Looking east across to Doi Pahampok, 2285m. I hiked up this about 10 years ago, with my brother. It is 3.8klms and takes about an hour and a half from the campsite. Well worth doing.
    2019-12-06 13.48.10. 2019-12-06 13.49.14.
    A lovely view across the Mae Mao dam
    2019-12-06 14.07.45.

    We finished the day in the Fang Hot Springs. Very nice after a cold day in the mountains.
    2019-12-06 16.08.33.

    2019-12-06 16.13.02.

    What a great day that was. A very special road indeed and we are very lucky to have ridden it. Such spectacular scenery. But it may be getting easier to ride it now, as far as the security goes.

    7th DECEMBER 2019. From Fang to Phrao

    Map 7 Dec.

    Some people are just so good at this coffee art...
    Photo 07-12-2019, 11 05 41. Photo 07-12-2019, 12 48 53.
    We rode east out of Fang on dirt roads across to 3037, the Wawi road and around to the Abonzo Coffee shop for lunch.
    Photo 07-12-2019, 13 40 22.
    From Doi Chang, it is a super ride down from the mountains to Mae Suai and 118.
    Photo 07-12-2019, 14 42 10.
    We then rode down to Mae Tam, before turning west and taking small roads and dirt to get to the Chiang Rai / Chiang mai border ridge dirt road after Doi Ngam. Some of this ride is wonderful.
    Photo 07-12-2019, 15 04 58. Photo 07-12-2019, 15 05 04.
    We came through Doi Mon Lom before riding down to 1150.
    Photo 07-12-2019, 15 05 09.
    It was getting late in the day, so we rode west into Phrao and checked in to the Huean Poo Doi Resort, a simple place east on town on the main road.
    For dinner, we found Bahn Pusah Coffee Restaurant, which does excellent farang food. It is just south of town on 1001. The fish and chips was great.
    Photo 07-12-2019, 17 59 58. Photo 07-12-2019, 18 00 11.
    This has absolutely nothing to do with the ride, but it appeared that day and seemed suitable.
    Photo 07-12-2019, 18 34 38.

    8th DECEMBER 2019. From Phrao to Mae Taeng

    Map 8 Dec.

    We headed east from Phrao, back to the Chiang Mai / Chiang Rai border, to ride the dirt road south.
    Photo 08-12-2019, 09 41 30.
    The turn off from 1150 onto the dirt. Photo 08-12-2019, 09 41 48.
    Another great ride that takes you down to the village of Huai Sai, in the Khun Chae NP.
    This is a great homestay run by Khun Thongsu. We met a couple from BKK who had stayed the previous night and the temperature had dropped to 3 deg C!
    Photo 08-12-2019, 10 54 59.
    A lovely spot in the country.
    Photo 08-12-2019, 10 55 05. Photo 08-12-2019, 10 56 27. Photo 08-12-2019, 10 58 28. Photo 08-12-2019, 10 59 27. Photo 08-12-2019, 11 47 29. Photo 08-12-2019, 11 48 23.
    From the temple, you can see Doi Pa-Ngom. This is a one hour hike to the top and Khun Thongsu will guide you up, if wish to go. I made it a couple of years ago, on the third attempt, but no views that day due to fog.
    Photo 08-12-2019, 11 48 31. Photo 08-12-2019, 11 48 58. Photo 08-12-2019, 11 50 52.
    While on the 1001, a visit to the "Sticky Waterfall" was in order.
    Photo 08-12-2019, 14 25 36. Photo 08-12-2019, 14 31 42. Photo 08-12-2019, 14 36 02. Photo 08-12-2019, 14 40 19. Photo 08-12-2019, 14 41 27.
    The cold mineral spring that feeds the waterfall. It tasted pretty good.
    Photo 08-12-2019, 15 14 33.

    ..... More coming soon......

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  3. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

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    9th DECEMBER 2019. From Mae Taeng to Wiang Haeng.

    It was another cold night, in Mae Taeng this time, down by the Taeng river, up past all the elephant camps.

    Map 9 Dec.

    After riding alongside the river on the road, we soon reached dirt and headed northwest.
    Photo 09-12-2019, 09 53 36.
    More wonderful scenery Photo 09-12-2019, 09 54 04.
    We stopped for lunch in Muang Khong and saw a large group of Triumphs that had ridden in on the tarmac road from Chiang Dao. They were staying in a great looking spot by the river.
    Photo 09-12-2019, 10 40 35.
    Lots of water crossings this day. Photo 09-12-2019, 10 41 05. Photo 09-12-2019, 12 17 56. Photo 09-12-2019, 12 29 55.
    Here is video of water crossing games.

    Chris got stopped on the bridge over the Taeng river, due to the wide panniers getting caught on the bridge side ropes.
    He got over that and then came back across, in the river.
    However, he didn't get all the way across, as the clutch failed!

    Luckily, a local rider helped out and while we waited, he continued 5klms into Wiang Haeng, to return about an hour later with a friend and a pick up truck.
    Photo 09-12-2019, 13 45 03.

    After getting to Wiang Haeng and cheking in at the Wiang Haeng Garden Farm resort, we took the bike to a local repair shop. Luckily, the excellent mechanic had the correct spare Honda clutch plates, which he fitted within an hour. We were mobile again.

    ..... More coming soon......

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  4. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

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    #4 ianyonok, Dec 21, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2019
    10th DECEMBER 2019. From Wiang Haeng to Pang Ma Pha.

    Today was to be a great ride....... then a disaster....... where the red lightning bolt is.

    Map 10 Dec.

    We warmed up by the log fire at the guest house in Wiang Haeng, then set out on another cold morning. I had had 6 layers of blankets on the bed, but was only just warm enough.
    Photo 10-12-2019, 10 36 45.

    The first part of the ride was the well known dirt road to Pai. But at the junction near Muang Noi, we took the dirt road north, heading for Pang Ma Pha.
    Photo 10-12-2019, 10 45 54.
    Some of this route follows the Pai river.
    Photo 10-12-2019, 11 26 10. Photo 10-12-2019, 11 26 23. Photo 10-12-2019, 11 26 36. Photo 10-12-2019, 11 32 17. Photo 10-12-2019, 11 33 42. Photo 10-12-2019, 11 36 29. Photo 10-12-2019, 11 36 47. Photo 10-12-2019, 11 46 15. Photo 10-12-2019, 11 47 28. Photo 10-12-2019, 12 12 31.
    We turned off along this single track route, but it was a runner's trail and soon became too severely steep, so we turned back to the main trail.
    Photo 10-12-2019, 12 21 17.
    By about 13:00 we were high up in the mountains.
    Photo 10-12-2019, 13 11 29. Photo 10-12-2019, 13 11 32.
    At around 14:00, we came to a checkpoint with one soldier on duty, who checked our passports and wanted us to take photos on his camera, of him checking inside our bags.
    Photo 10-12-2019, 14 03 17.

    Soon after the checkpoint, we came to the helicopter landing pad and army camp, where a crashed helicopter had formerly been sitting for years (now removed).

    Then the dirt road comes to an end at a royal project and Lahu village. After that, the route continued on a very difficult single track, with steep ups and downs. I believe this is at the northernmost point on the route, around Doi Li Ki.

    By 15:30, we were descending on a steep rutted single tack trail. Chris had already dropped the bike and bruised an ankle by this time.

    Now it was my turn.

    We turned a corner and came to a very steep rutted section, where the original dirt road had been washed out and filled with boulders. We discussed turning back, but it was late in the day and there did not seem much to turn back to...
    We met some locals coming up on a Wave, who said the difficult broken trail continued down for another 5 klms.
    What to do..... continue slowly and gingerly was the only choice. I paddled the KLX down the deep rut on this section, then walked back up, to ride Chris' bike down, as he was unable to put weight on one foot due to the ankle bruise. After that bit, it got slightly easier, so Chris continued riding.

    But, during the next steep section, he hit a rock, went over the handlebars and fell hard on his right shoulder on the other side of the deep rut.
    2019-12-10 16.09.35.

    It was now 16:15 and we needed to get out of the National Park, before dark. But Chris could not ride due to pain in his arm. So, I got the CRF up and rode down to a flatter spot beside the trail and parked the bike up.

    Chris was walking, as fast as possible on the difficult slope down, in pain. The GPS said we had about 5 klms to go, to get out of the park. Then we met 2 local hunters with radios. They were able to radio a friend to drive a 4wd from the village of Ae Ko to come to the bottom of this broken trail, to assist us.
    I continued riding the KLX and waiting for Chris as he walked down. Luckily, the 4WDriver had made it to the very bottom of the steep broken section, a couple of klms inside the park.

    Chris went in the 4WD and I rode behind, the 35klms to get to Pang Ma Pha Hospital.
    An X-Ray indicated Chris had a fractured arm. We checked in to the Soppong River Inn for the night.

    11th DECEMBER 2019. From Pang Ma Pha to Chiang Dao.

    Next day, we had to rescue the bike. Luckily, the manager at the River Inn, Khun Gai, is an Enduro rider. He got 2 team mate friends to ride a Wave, while I rode the KLX, back the 35 klms to the bottom of the broken trail. While I waited, they rode up about 2.4 klms to where the CRF had been parked for the night.
    2019-12-11 11.13.33.
    This is all very steep, as well as broken up.
    2019-12-11 11.29.10. 2019-12-11 11.29.39.
    The severely washed out dirt road. Apparently this happened about 3 years ago.
    2019-12-11 11.30.48.
    About 20 minutes later, one of the guys rode the CRF (like an Enduro expert) down the steep broken trail.

    An hour or so later and we were back in Pang Ma Pha with the CRF in the back of another pickup
    2019-12-11 13.48.15.

    We left after lunch, Chris and CRF with Khun Gai driving the pickup and me on the KLX.
    We stopped for the night in a Guest House on the 107, in Chiang Dao.

    12th DECEMBER 2019. From Chiang Dao to Chiang Rai.

    Today was a drive and ride up the 107 to Chai Prakarn and then the swoopy 109 across to Mae Suai. Then after lunch in Charin Garden, on to return the CRF to Chiang Rai Big Bikes. We got some money back for the early return and bike clutch repair. Then on to Overbrook Hospital for Chris to get another X Ray and second opinion. A fractured upper arm was confirmed, so he will probably need an operation on return to England after the holiday.

    So concluded a wonderful epic ride, through marvellous northern Thailand. Unfortunately it ended with some damage, but we all understand the risks involved in biking.

    Thanks to Khun Gai (at the Soppong River Inn) and his friends, for rescuing Chris and the bike, then taking us back to Chiang Rai.

    Khun Gai told us that last month, another rider had injured himself trying to ride up this same trail. He also needed emergency evacuation in the pickup truck.

    So, I would suggest, do not attempt the western end of this trail to Pang Ma Pha, unless you are an expert enduro rider.
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  5. scotty007

    scotty007 Ol'Timer

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    Great stuff Ian, enjoyed reading that, you guys are certainly giving it a go out there, power on!
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  6. ZCM

    ZCM Ol'Timer

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    WOW! What an amazing trip! I held my breath watching the dodgy bridge crossing video!
    I hope one day to progress more in riding dirt to be able to take on a trip like this. So very inspiring.
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  7. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    Jan 16, 2003
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    Indeed. Wow what an epic trip with an eventful ending.
    You guys certainly picked an amazing route & the perhaps best off road route in North Thailand?
    That Chris is a tough bugger alright - I was impressed meeting him for that Mekong Pizza a few days later with his arm still in a sling.

    If you're going up to Doi Phahompok / Doi Larng again, I've got the phone contact for the army there now, after having a meal & drinks with them in Thoed Thai on holidays a couple of days ago. There are 3 brothers stationed up there, all good guys & wonderful people.
    I showed my contact your photos & the old GTR ones from Rod Pages report. The early ones from Dave Early & Rod page blew him away, such that he asked for copies of them.

    He sent me these sunrise pics from up there this morning


    Last but not least , glad that GTR maps still work well for an expedition like that.
    You still can't beat a hard copy GTR map to get the big picture & plan a real trip.
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  8. Ian Bungy

    Ian Bungy Ol'Timer

    Sep 19, 2006
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    I passed You near Pai when You were heading back! We were on the way to MHS. I was on My Harley. Great Ride. Shame Your Friend Chris suffered an Injury! Amazing how people seem to just turn up at the crucial time, rally around and always help out in times of need here! Fantastic!
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  9. Guzzibs

    Guzzibs Member

    Jul 20, 2018
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    Thanks for the write up and pics this trip was on my list to try but its a bit too technical for me and the 500x, Will wait till I get a proper trail bike. Good report thanks, Looks like good country out there though.
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  10. Moto-Rex

    Moto-Rex Moderator

    Jan 5, 2008
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    Great report Ian, “epic” is definitely an appropriate description of this ride.

    Its like you put together the best dirt rides the north has to offer into one great tour.

    Ill will check out My Dream guest house next time I’m up that way.

    Well done on riding that border loop. I like many have been turned away at the first check point.

    Great stuff.

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  11. Tarquin Ferrets

    Tarquin Ferrets Active Member

    Feb 4, 2019
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    Fantastic report and well captured on great photographs. Very inspiring to explore more dirt.....skill level allowing. Good stuff.
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