Sunday, October 28, 2007

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.

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