Sunday, October 28, 2007

November Hikes

The Hikes for November

All hikes meet at Grace Christian School and Everyone is Welcome.

November 4, Sunday - Hike to Dump Coke. We will be taking a short hike to the Dump Coke area to view some ancient Chamorro pictographs and the sunset. Because of the rough limestone rock it the area, please wear good walking shoes. You might also want to wear gloves to protect your hands and a flashlight for the walk out. Please bring a snack to share as we watch the sun set. Meet at 4 PM.

November 10, Saturday - Hike to the Chiget Cliff Line. We will be returning to the Chiget area to explore the cliff line in more detail. This will be an all day hike so bring a lunch and plenty of water. See the October 2oth hike for some of the things we saw last time. We will leave at 8 AM and most likely return around 4 or 5 PM.

November 17, Saturday - Hike to Lion's Head. At the request of James San Nicolas, the NMC Upward Bound coordinator, we will be returning to Lion's Head on this hike. We will meet at 8 AM and should return by 12 noon. Everyone is welcome on this hike. All that have gone on this hike have really enjoyed it.

November 24, Saturday - Hike to Ushi (North) Point. We will be hiking to a little known latte site near North Point. Also near this latte site is an old coke bottle dump. If time permits and the other hikers are interested, we might also visit Lamlam Beach, one of the invasion beaches during World War II. Meet at 8 AM.

If you have any questions, send me an email by clicking on the mail link at the bottom of this blog. I am also interested in any suggestions for hikes.

Remember, everyone is welcome on these hikes.

Long Beach Hike - October 27, 2007

On this hike, four of us set out to try to follow the latte stone trail above Long Beach. This trail was created either by the Marianas Vistor Authority or the Historical Preservation Office. It has not been maintained for years, so we were in for an interesting hike.

The trail starts at Long Beach. Long Beach is really a series of beaches on the east side of Tinian. It is one of the best beaches for camping and just relaxing. The swimming is not too good at Long Beach because of the shallow reef, and it is hard to get over the reef's edge because of the large waves. The picture below shows the main beach at Long Beach, looking north toward Saipan (not in the picture).

The trail that we are going to try to follow starts near the cliff at the back of Long Beach. The trail can be found if you follow the cliff on the north side of main beach at Long Beach away from the ocean. It will go into a notch in the cliff that will have steps going up the cliff. The picture below shows the cliff line above Long Beach.

Instead of following the north cliff line, I happen to know where the trail really started a little south and east of the cliff. The start of the trail is really overgrown as you can see in the picture below. After cutting the brush with our machetes for awhile, the trail opens up and was fairly easy walking.
As you start on the trail, you will come to a wall that usually has a lot of hermit crabs on it. They are usually found on the wall when it is wet. They are eating the algae that grows on the wet wall. Follow this cliff to the right and it will lead you to the notch in the cliff that has the steps built into it.

At the top of the notch, and the steps, is a sign that shows the old trail that used to go to the different latte sites above Long Beach. If you walk about 100 feet north of this sign, through the jungle, you will come to two large sinkholes. Sinkholes are common in limestone areas. They are usually created when the top of a cave collapses. In the picture below is Ariuka standing next to the first sinkhole.
Another 20 or 30 feet to the north is the second sinkhole. This one has a much larger opening. In the picture below you can see Ariuka standing on the south edge of this larger sinkhole.

Below is are pictures of the roots from a Banyan tree (Nunu) that grows down into the second sinkhole. The first picture shows the roots going down into the sinkhole and the second shows part of the tree on the top of the sinkhole.

Both of these sinkholes are connected together and must be about 40 feet deep.

After looking at the sinkholes, we returned to the sign at the top of the cliff above Long Beach. From here, we followed some old surveyor's flags that seemed to follow the old trail. The first part of the trail goes through an area of small limestone pinnacles and large trees. After the rough limestone area, you come out into a mixed secondary forest area. This forest is dominated by tangantangan trees, which was introduced to the Mariana Islands right after World War II. The trail was overgrown as you can see in the picture below.
The trail follows a long row of ironwood trees that parallels the shoreline. Most of the smaller latte stone sites are found in this row of ironwood trees.

As we followed the trail we would encounter old signs that indicated we were going in the right direction. Most of the signs were readable and offered interesting information about the different historical features along the trail or gave interesting information about the ancient Chamorros. The sign below was one of the ones in the worst shape. With a little cleaning it would have been fine and readable, but we decided not to clean it off because of the large boonie bee nest below it.
The picture below shows a closeup of the nest below the sign. Before touching a sign or getting too close to one, it is always a good idea to look below it first.

As we walked under the ironwoods, we were joined by White Terns. They could be seen hovering over us and following us along the trail. At any one time there would be from five to ten birds above us. When we left the area of the ironwoods, the birds would quite following us. White Terns roost and nest in ironwood trees, and that is most likely why they were keeping an eye on us.
In the picture below are Ariuka, Stacy, and Dan reading a sign that is next to a small latte stone site. The latte stones here are only about a foot and a half in height.

After following the trail for awhile, and looking at several small latte stone sites, we came to the foundation of an old farm house from Japanese times. I knew that the large latte stones were located to the west of this foundation. By this time, the survey tape flags that we had been following had ran out. So we set off through the jungle going toward the west. There is a row of ironwood trees that sort of go northwest, so I began following them.

As we traveled through the jungle, we came to an area without trees. I sort of remembered that the large latte stones were near such a clearing. I also remembered that these stones were not near ironwood trees. So, I headed out into the clearing to see if there was anything that I might recognize from my trips here in the years past (it had been about five years since I last visited this site). Looking toward the southwest side of the clearing, I sort of saw a tree I remembered. I did not want to walk across the clearing toward the tree because of the pako and lantana, which have sharp small thorns. We headed back into the jungle and walked around the clearing.

As we walked around the clearing, we came across some large papaya trees. Below is a picture Ariuka and Stacy standing next to one of the large papaya trees.

Finally, we arrived at the site with the large latte stones. In the picture below is Ariuka standing on a log near one of the large pillar stones.

This is an other latte pillar stone with a Banyan (Nunu) tree growing on it. This was the tree that I recognized on the other side of the clearing.

In the picture below, you see Stacy and Ariuka, with Dan behind, standing next to a pillar stone with its capstone next to the tree at the left side of the picture.

Below is the whole group between the two of the standing pillar stones. The one on the right is the one that had the Banyan tree growing on it.

After spending some time at the site with the large latte stones, we headed back through the the jungle. After a short time, I lost the trail and got a little too close to the cliff line. Below is a picture of Ariuka and Stacy look through a hole in one of the pinnacles that are common near the shoreline.

As always, the hike back is faster than the hike in. Below is a picture of Stacy and Ariuka sitting in the back of my truck, while I look for my keys.

It was a great day for a hike. The sky was clear and with no rain. There was also a nice breeze that helped to cool us off on the hike. As for the boonie bee count, it was only one, me again.

Since this Saturday is election day, the next hike will be on November 4th, Sunday, to the Dump Coke area to look at ancient Chamorro pictographs. We will meet at 4 PM at Grace Christian School so that we will have a chance to enjoy the sunset of Dump Coke.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Chiget Cliff Line Hike - October 20, 2007

On October 20, 2007, we were off to explore a new area of Tinian. The area went to explore is the cliff line near Chiget Beach.

Chiget Beach is a small narrow beach on the southeast side of the North Field area on Tinian. Chiget was formed by a normal fault that goes from Tinian to Saipan. This fault zone forms a narrow channel that ends at a small beach. This is one of the few areas on Tinian that you can see turtle grass. In the picture below, you can see the small Chiget channel with the eelgrass behind us; me, Melina, Rick, Ariuka and Dan.

While at the beach, it was time for photographs. Below is Dan taking a picture.

Below is the cliff line we have come to explore.
Luckily for us some one had cut a trail for us through the thick undergrowth near the beach. Most likely the path had been cut by coconut crab hunters. Below, the group gets ready to enter the jungle near the base of the cliff line. To the left of the group is a huge rock. There are several near this area that stick out of the jungle's canopy.

At the cliff we found a lot of hermit crabs eating the algae off of the wet rocks. Each crab is about the size of a hand. Almost all of these crabs are wearing shells from the Giant African Land Snail. This snail was introduced into the Mariana Islands some time around or just after World War II. It became a serious pest until a fluke was introduced to control it.

One of the nice things about this hike was the open jungle that we walked through. The large trees blocked the sunlight that reached the ground and there were not a lot of plants that we had to cut our way through. Below are Melina and Rick under a big Puting (Barringtonia asiatica) tree.

We took some time to explore areas that we found with lots of bottles. Bottles on the ground are usually a good indication that Japanese troops were in this area during the invasion of Tinian by American troops during World War II. We found one area that was like an amphitheater with lots of small caves and hiding places. Below Ariuka looks at Dan as he checks out a tunnel behind a stone wall built by the Japanese that leads to the amphitheater area that we had just finished exploring.

As we left the amphitheater area, we started to explore some areas that looked like the Japanese hide near the cliff line. We found another tunnel that is is in the picture below with Rick walking through it. This tunnel led to a shelf that was about 10 feet about the ground, an easy area for the Japanese to defend. We had to go back through the tunnel and walk around this area.

As we left the area with the Japanese defensive structures, we hit an area that was made up of loose boulders about 1 to 2 feet in diameter. This was one of the flatness talus slopes I have been on. As we walked through this rocky area, we had to be careful of loose or slippery rocks.

As we walked through this rocky area, I started to hear strange sounds that I have never heard before in the jungle. As I listen more, I realized it was someone calling. So I called back and soon realized it was Mony, who had gone on the Lion's Head hike. So I quickly headed back to the beach to lead them to the rest of the group.

We found the rest of the group in the rocky area waiting for us. With Mony was Ellen. The group continued along the rocky ground being careful not to slip. Below, you can seen Mony, Dan, Rick, Melina and Ellen walking carefully over the rocky area.

After the rocky area, we had to climb a little to get around an area with Pago growing in it. Pago is a hibiscus tree that grows branches that parallel the ground. A Pago grove is very hard to get through. As we started to climb it was raining. That is why there are drops in the picture below of Ariuka standing on a rock, being tall.

Just a little farther away from the Pago grove was a place with a lot of cement bags on the ground. It was have been 20 feet by 40 feet in size. Below is a picture of me sitting on the bags.

Below is the picture of the whole group sitting on the cement bags. From left to right are Ellen, Dan Ariuka, Mony, Melina, Rick and me.
On the way back to the beach, just below the cement bag area, we found two large water tanks, and maybe a Latte stone, at least that is what Ellen thought it was. I did not see it and will have to go back one day soon to check out this site more.

Because of time limitations, we had to turn back soon. So we had about five or ten more minutes to explore the cliff line. As we continued a little farther, we found a huge cave, with an opening of more than 30 feet in size. It must have gone done more than 40 feet, with maybe many lower levels, but we didn't have time to explore it. In the picture below is Mony trying to get a better view down in to the cave.

Below is Ariuka's hand pointing down into the cave.

I decided to walk along the cliff line a little more to see if there was another opening to the cave. A lot of these caves along fault lines usually have more than one opening. About 50 feet to the west, I found a second opening to the cave. If you look carefully in the picture below, you will see a three inch artillery round sitting on a rock. It is just below the middle of the picture on the right side.

While looking down into to enterance of the cave, we could see a ring of stones. Most likely this was a fire ring made by the Japanese during World War II. In the picture below, you can see Mony looking down into the cave toward the fire ring (not in the picture).

As we walked back to Chiget Beach, I walked past this bird nest. These nests are common in the jungle and 3 or 4, if not more, are seen on most of the hikes. They are made by either the Tinian Monarch or the Rufous Fantail.

Below, in the picture, is the dreaded boonie nest. They are a paper wasp that have a very painful sting. Most of the time, if you stay away from the nest, they will not sting. But if you get within three or four feet, watch out!
Well for the bee sting count on this hike, it was only one, me. Everyone was really impressed by this area and want to go back. I will have to schedule an all day hike to this cliff line to explore more of it more carefully.

The next hike will be on Saturday, October 27th. We will be going to the Long Beach area to try to find the latte stones. There was a trail to them about 4 or 5 years ago, which is now well overgrown and gone. We will meet at 8 AM at Grace Christian School.

Monday, October 15, 2007

South End of Tachonga - October 13, 2007

This was an easy hike for a change, compared to the Lion's Head hike last week. Six of us set off from the parking lot at Tachonga beach to look for the latte stone site at the south end of beach. After visiting this latte stone site, we were going to head south to an old dump site.

We all took a leisurely walk down the beach to its south end. At the end of the beach, I had to look around for a minute or two to try to figure out where to go into the jungle to find the latte site. I didn't quite find the stop I was looking for, but luckily we ended up finding an old Chamorro grinding stone. The ancient Chamorros may have used these stones to grind Fadang nuts or rice.

Below is a picture of all the hikers, Ariuka, Dan, Melina, Rick, Ed, and me, next to the grinding stone.

About 20 or 30 feet to the north of the grinding stone, we found some small latte stones. The ancient Chamorros built their house on top of these latte stones. Each pillar stone had a cap stone on top of it. Latte stones are usually found in groups ranging from 6 to 14 pillar stones, forming two parallel rows. In the picture below, Ariuka is sitting next to one of the small latte stones that we found north of the grinding stone.
I knew that there were larger latte stones in the area. After a few minutes of looking south of the grinding stone, I found the larger set of latte stones. This set of latte pillar stones are some of the most symmetrical and best carved stones I know about in the Mariana Islands. Below are Rick, Melina, Ariuka, Dan and Ed next to one of the pillar stones.
From this latte site, we head south to look for some World War II Japanese bunkers that I knew were nearby. As we walked in the jungle, Ariuka happened to step on a big spine that punctured her shoe. So, we had to take a break to bandage her foot. The injury was not too serious and Ariuka was able to continue the hike with no problem. While bandaging Ariuka's foot, Rick found a small branch, or part of a vine, on the ground that had rows of inch and a half long spines on it. These were most likely the spines that got Ariuka, so be careful.

The accident that Ariuka had was right next to one of the bunkers I was looking for. After taking care of Ariuka's foot, we took a few minutes to look at the bunker. It was made of old railroad rails and sheets of metal. On top of the metal had been placed sacks of cement. In the following picture you can see the some of the rails and one of the bags of cement that were used to make this bunker.

In the picture above is of the whole group sitting in front of the bunker that was made out of railroad rails and cement bags.

After the first Japanese bunker, we headed toward the shoreline. The shoreline is fairly rough and you have to watch your footing, but sometimes it is easier to walk on the rough rocks than fight the vines and shrubs in the jungle. In the picture below, Tachonga Beach is visible behind Dan, Ariuka, Melina and Ed.

After a short walk on the rocks near the shoreline, we came to a small carved notch in the rocks, facing out toward the ocean. It was obvious that the notch is man-made. If you look up the notch, you can see the opening of the other Japanese bunker that we were looking for. In the picture below, you can see the gun opening that faces toward Tachonga Beach. It is at the bottom of the flat wall in the middle of the picture, behind the dead branches and rocks.
This bunker is well made and constructed of reinforced cement. The opening to it is blocked by large rocks, so you can't get inside it without doing a lot more work than I wanted to do.

If you look toward the south end of Tachonga, you will see a cement platform at the edge of the cliff right above the ocean. This was our final goal for this hike. As we approached the platform, there was a large canyon next to it. In the picture below you can see Melina resting before crossing the canyon (I am taking the picture from the other side of the canyon).

This little canyon is easy to cross if you go inland a little bit. If you go toward the ocean, it gets deeper and deeper. Near the ocean, and right next to the platform, there is a little cave in the bottom of the canyon. You can see Ed in the picture below looking for a way to climb down the canyon as it nears the shore.
At the platform we took a fairly long break to enjoy the scenery and the blue starfishes we could see in the water below it. This platform was used by trucks to dump garbage into the ocean either before, during, or right after World War II. The current would have carried the trash out into the open ocean from this point. In the picture below, you can see Aguigan behind Dan. Aguigan is also called Goat Island because of all of the goats that live on it. Melina and Ariuka are sitting on a rail that stopped the trucks from going into the ocean when they dumped their trash.

In the picture below, you can see me, Melina and Rick sitting on the truck stop rail at the dump platform.

As we left the platform, we followed the old road to it toward a road that I knew would head back toward the Dynasty Casino. It really started to rain in earnest as we headed back. It had been raining a little on and off all morning, but now it started to rain more steady.

As we got to the road, I found it was overgrown with tall grass. We walked a few hundred yards down the road, thought the tall grass, before I got tried of it. It is easier to walk thought the jungle than all of that tall grass. So, we headed back into the jungle.

After a short walk in the jungle, we came out at the south end of Tachonga Beach. That was when the sky opened up with a down pour. Below is a picture of us, soaking wet, sitting under a pillion at Tachonga Beach.

As for the bee sting count, there were none because the weather was too wet for the boonie bees. This is a nice easy hike that has a lot of history, and some great places to just relax and enjoy the view.