Sunday, November 18, 2007

Lion's Head Again - November 17, 2007

On November 17th, I led 13 people to the rock promontory called Lion's Head that is above Marpo Valley on Tinian. Nine of the hikers where from the Upward Bound program at Northern Marianas College, Tinian, including the program coordinator, James San Nicolas. The rest were people that had come on previous hikes with me. They were Rick, Mitch, Erica, and me.

It was a nice day for the hike. The sky was clear with just a few clouds. Additionally, I knew exactly where Lion's Head was located because I had marked its located with my GPS on the October 8th hike. The only problem I had was that I did not have my camera with me this time. My wife had taken it on her trip to the Philippines, she and my daughter are currently on. So I am very thankful to Mitch and Rick for providing the pictures that are in this blog posting.

Every time I lead this hike, I see new things. I don't think I have ever followed exactly the same path up to and back from Lion's Head. That is what makes this hike so interesting, and maybe one of the reasons why I have done it four times since August of this year.

The start of the hike was about the same, we left the truck in the usual parking place and headed out through the tangantangan forest toward the cliff line that I follow to a draw that leads to Lion's Head. This time we ended up walking through some small canyons that followed the cliff line. As usual there there many bottles and rock walls, which were the remains of Japanese defense structures during War World II.

Below is a picture of the group as we took a rest. We were about a third of the way to Lion's Head and the hardest part still laid ahead. Luckily we had to only climb two cliffs on this trip. On past trips, we have had to climb three cliffs.
At the last cliff that we had to climb to get to Lion's Head, I found an old Japanese shelter, were I let everyone rest while I looked for a way up the cliff. Rick walked along with me, while I explored the cliff line. A little distance from the shelter where I had left the group, I found one of the notches in the cliff that I had climbed before and that was fairly safe to climb. Rick waited there while I went back to get the rest of the hikers.

When I got back to where Rick was waiting, he said that there was a coconut crab in a crack between two rocks. Below is a picture of the crab in the crack.

James and two of the Upward Bound students got the crab out of the crack and took it to the top of the cliff. I encouraged them to let it go since we were not on this trip to hunt coconut crabs.

They let the crab go on a nearby tree. I hope that it got away okay. One of the things I try to encourage on these hikes is a respect for nature. We should only take pictures with us and leave footprints.
Below is a picture of a flower of Arbus precautorius, also called rosary beads, crab eye, or old man's eyes. The plant has very poisonous seeds with only three seeds needed to kill an adult. It grows as a vine that has leaves that sort of look like tangantangan leaves. This plant is found throughout tropical Asia and Southeast Asia.

Below is a picture of the leaves and seeds of Arbus precautorius. The seeds in India were used as a unit of weight called the ratti. In more modern times, because the hardness of the seeds, they are used in decorations and rosary beads. If you have these seeds around, you should make sure they are out of the reach of small children.
Finally we made it to Lion's Head. Below is a picture of everyone climbing on to the top of Lion's Head.

Below is a view of the jungle that is on the terrace below Lion's Head.

I have a logbook that I have placed on Lion's Head. Every time I lead a group of hikers to Lion's Head, I ask them to sign the logbook. In the picture below, we all took a long break while the logbook was being signed.
There is a second, higher promontory to the east of Lion's Head that I always like going to. In the picture below, you can see the backside of Lion's Head as seen from the second promontory.

The picture below shows the view, looking down on the jungle, between Lion's Head and the second promontory.
Only about half of the group went to the second promontory to enjoy the view. In the picture below, you can see me standing up and enjoying the view, while other hikers climb upon the promontory.

Two Upward Bound students look over the edge of the second promontory in the picture below.
Below is a view of the cliff line that makes up the top of the Carolinas Plateau. The picture is toward the southeast from the second promontory, next to Lion's Head.
The picture below shows Mt. Laso and the upper Marpo Valley, going toward Masalog. The rise in the right foreground is the start of the Pina Plateau. This picture was taken from Lion's Head.
In the picture below, you can see Saipan in the distance, with Mount Tapotchau clearly visible. This picture was taken from the eastern promontory.
As we hiked back down from Lion's Head, I tried to use the GPS to follow our path back. I did follow it for a little ways, but soon gave up (I need to wear my glasses to see the GPS screen, but then I can't see where I am walking.) In the picture below, you can see the group walking thought the jungle, with the roots of a pandanus tree visible on the right side of the photograph.
After cutting my way through the jungle, I took a rest next to a banyan tree while I waited for the rest of the hikers to catch up. Banyan trees are believed by Chamorros to house Taotaomonas, spirits of the ancient Chamorros. The Chamorro name for banyan trees is Nunu.
After walking a little farther, we can out on the ranch that was near the truck. Everyone was glad to be back, especially after I had to clear a path through about a seventy-five feet of grass to get out into the cleared area of the ranch.
As always, everyone enjoyed themselves on this hike. It is one that everyone remembers for the rest of their lives even if they never go back to Lion's Head.

As for the boonie bee count, by the time we reached Lion's Head, three of us had been stung, including me. I think two more were stung on the way back down, but I really don't know, since the boys were teasing each other and the girls about bee stings and nests. I had expected more bee strings because of the nice weather we had for the last week.

The next hike will be on November 24, Saturday. We will be going to an area by the White Cross, up on North Point (also called Ushi Point). We will explore a latte stone site and two small mounds of coke bottles from World War II. The ground is fairly level and through tangantangan forest. If time and interest permit, I would like to go an look for two atomic bomb assembly buildings near this area. We will meet at 8 AM at Grace Christian School.

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