Monday, December 10, 2007

Masalok Hike - December 8, 2007

On December 8th, eight of us set out to explore the area south of Masalok Beach. I have never been in this area and did not know what to expect. I had been to the beach area, and knew it and the latte site next to it very well.

I would like to thank Mitch, Mr. Tsuchikawa, Dan and Pete for providing pictures for this posting. It seems that I forgot my camera on this hike.

The picture below shows everyone recovering from the ride to Masalok. The road was very overgrown with a lot of small tangantangan trees bent over into the roadway. The people in the back of the truck got hit a lot by the bent over saplings.

Since most of the hikers had not been to Masalok before I showed them the largest latte stone site first. This site has 14 pillar stones in two rows of 7 pillars each. In the picture below you can see me and Mr. Tsuchikawa, entering the site.

This site had recently been cleared by the NMI History class at Northern Marianas College (NMC). They were doing a survey of the Masalok latte sites for their class project. Below are Ariuka and Dan standing between the latte stones.

After visiting the large latte stone site, we walked a little to the east, where there were more latte sites. These latte stones were only a foot or two high and not as impressive as the large latte stones we first visited. The latte sites at Masalok follow a north-south axis, paralleling the shoreline.

As we headed south from the latte sites, the are aopen into a Puting (Barringtonia asiatica) forest. The forest was very open and easy to walk in. In the picture below, you can see James Carmicheal, Dan, and me standing in the open forest. I should mention that James came over 5500 miles from San Francisco, California, just to visit Tinian.

After the Putting forest, the going got a little rougher. We followed a cliff, but really did not get a good look at it because of the canopy formed by the trees and vines. Finally we came to a place that opened up, and we could finally get a good view of the cliff. In the picture below are Dan, me, James, Mr. Tsuchikawa, Mitch and Erica.

A short distance from where we were able to see the cliff, the cliff line ended. We were right next to ocean. Below are Dan and me looking at the waves splashing on the cliffs. As you can see by the sky in the picture and my hair, it rained the whole time we were on the hike, sometimes fairly heavily.

Below is a picture to the north. Masalok Beach is just by the line of waves breaking on the reef, but not visible in this picture. Also note the gray clouds that gave us all of the rain that we experienced on this hike.

The picture below is from the same point as the one above but zoomed in to show the wave action along he shore. The ocean was very rough the day of this hike. Mt. Lasu is visible in the background.

While enjoying the view at the end of the cliff line, I asked if the group wanted to go back or hike some more. Almost all said they wanted to hike some more. I had hoped that they would say they wanted to go back, because I was getting tried of getting wet. Since they wanted to go on, we hiked back along the cliff line until we could find a way up the cliff. After climbing up the cliff, we hit some really bad areas for hiking.

In the picture below, you can see the Pago (Hibiscus tiliaceus). Its stems tend to grow parallel to the ground, which makes it very difficult to travel through a grove of these trees.

As we walked through the jungle, we came out next to a road that runs from Masalok Beach to Marpo Valley. Again, I asked the hikers if they wanted to go back to Masalok Beach or continue hiking. Again, all said they want to hike some more. So off into the jungle we went.

As we walked in the jungle, near the road, I noticed a lot of 1 galleon cans. Most likely someone was growing something they should not have been here. We all had a good laugh and continued.

As we hiked on, we came to a notch in the cliff line. We worked our way down to the bottom of the notch. It was a fairly steep climb down. You can see Dan climbing down, with me toward the bottom.

Down at the bottom of the notch, sort of toward the top of it, I saw a pile of cement bags. As we walked around down in the notch, one of the hikers, either Dan or James, noticed an opening in the cliff face. The face of the opening had been closed up, except for a gun port and an observation port. In the picture below, you can see me crawling through the gun port to see what was inside the man-made cave.

Below is a picture, taken through the gun port, that shows the inside of the cave. Lined up against the cave's wall were ammunitions cases. They look like they held three inch, or so, rounds.

In the picture below, I am standing next to one of the ammunition cases. At the top of the cases was a box that looked like it might have held the detonators for the rounds. We really did not mess around with the cases, since we didn't want to damage them (also they may have still contained explosives, but I sort of doubted it).

Near the first cave was a similar second cave. It had been more disturbed than the first cave. In the picture below is Dan looking around in the second cave.

Below are some of the things we found near the caves. You can see a bottle from the Japanese period, an aluminum holder for ammunition rounds, and part of a six inch round most likely fired from a US Navy ship when Tinian was invaded during World War II.

We continued walking in the jungle, following old coconut crab hunting trails until we came to the edge of the cliff. I climbed up on a rock, near some pandanus trees, and saw that we were on a shear cliff dropping straight to the ocean. Ariuka, Dan and Pete went to the edge of the cliff. The picture below was taken by one of them from the edge of the cliff looking north.

At this point, I had had enough of the rain and decided it was time to go back to the truck. A short walk from the cliff edge, I found the road again. The road was overgrown, but easy to follow back to Masalok Beach.

Once we got back to the truck, we walked down to the beach. Masalok Beach is made up of three small beaches. The picture below was taken from the middle beach facing south, toward that larger beach. You have to run quickly, between the waves, around the rocky point in the picture, to get to the second beach.

On the second beach, we found lots of Bluebottle (Physalia utriculus) washed up on the beach. The Bluebottle is closely related to the Portuguese Man-of-War (Physalia physalia), but is much less dangerous. The Bluebottle is a lot smaller than the Portuguese Man-of-War, with the float being about 1 to 2 inches long.

After visiting the beach, I asked everyone if they wanted to see a cave that had some ancient Chamorro petroglyphs. Everyone was up for the visit to the cave. It is near the road to Long Beach, but you have to know where to look for it.

In the picture below is James entering the cave that has the petroglyphs. It is not a very large cave but it is an interesting cave.

Below is a picture of the petroglyphs. The picture shows a bird design (upper left) and some stick figures toward the lower middle. The fish design is modern and was drawn in the early 1990's by some former students of mine. I am glad they did not draw over the ancient petroglyphs, but it does wreck the experience. I encourage people to not wreck historical sites like this.
The petroglyphs at Long Beach are not as nice as the ones at Dump Coke, but it a lot easier to get to the ones at Long Beach.

I used to use this cave for my NMI History classes and Earth Science classes at NMC. In a small room at the back of the cave, you can find stalagmites, stalactites, columns, and flowstone. In the picture below, Mr. Tsuchikawa is walking toward the small room in the back of the cave.
Additionally part of the roof the cave had fallen in. This allows light to enter the cave, and algae can be found growing on the cave walls. Behind Mitch and Erica, you can see the algae growing on the cave's walls.

Everyone seemed to have a great time on the hike. I did get tired of being wet and was very happy to get home to change clothes. It was nice to get some dry clothing on.

As for the boonie bee count, it was zero, none at all. It was even too wet for the bees!

The next hike will be to the Long Beach area, on December 15, Saturday. We will meet at 8 AM at Grace Christian School. I am not sure what we will be doing, so be prepared. We may try to explore all the beaches at Long Beach if the weather is good and the waves are not too high. If the weather was like it was on this hike, we will explore the forest above the cave with the petroglyphs. I have been in this area and found it to be a pleasant walk. So, you will need to bring reef walkers, shorts and maybe a change of clothing, if we do the beaches. If we explore the forest, bring good walking shoes and a flashlight.

Everyone is welcome to join us on these hikes.