Thursday, January 31, 2008

February 2008 Hikes

The following are the hikes for February. I am starting to run out of ideas, so if anyone has any place they would like to explore, let me know, please.

As always, all hikes meet at 8 AM at Grace Christian School on Saturday.

February 2, Saturday - Hike to the Latte site above Long Beach. This is one of the Latte sites on Tinian. On this hike we will visit sinkholes, short latte stones, and the main latte site. This will be an easy hike through tangantangan secondary forest. Be prepared for boonie bees.

February 9, Saturday - Mt. Lasu upper cliff line. We will drive to the Shinto Shrine at the top of Mt. Lasu. From here we will drop down below the cliff and follow it to the north and west. We will see the old Japanese radar and window cave on this hike (see the January 26 hike for pictures). After visiting the window cave, we will continue to explore the cliff line pass where I have been before. Depending on the time we finish or the group's desires, we may explore the foundations for the old U.S. Navy hospital.

February 16, Saturday - Marpo Valley Hike.
We will explore an old Japanese train station near the asphalt plant in Marpo Valley. This is one of the best preserved stations I know of from this period. From here we will continue north until we reach the back road to the airport. I am not sure what we will find pass the railroad station.

February 23, Saturday - Hunt for the Latte site near the Tinian Shrine by Carolinas Heights. We will try to find the latte site again near the Shinto Shrine above Carolinas Heights. We tried to find it last month but were not successful (see the January 5th hike). I hope that we avoid the pandanus and most of the cliff's on this hike.

Everyone is welcome to join us on these hikes.
Just meet at Grace Christian School and be prepared to hike.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Mt. Lasu Climb - January 26, 2008

On January 26th, four of us set off to climb Mt. Lasu on Tinian. This has always been something that I have wanted to do. In my youth, I once climbed over 50 peaks in the Sierra Nevada mountains, in California, during one summer. I have also climbed Mt. Lamlam on Guam, its highest point. So, I also wanted to climb a mountain (okay, its really a plateau) on Tinian.

Before we started the hike, I had to make a quick detour to my house. I had forgotten my GPS unit and did not want to go on this hike without it. We would be traveling into unknown areas and it is easy to get disoriented in the jungle.

We started at the Japanese Defensive Caves site that is between Long Beach and the circle on Broadway, just before North Field. These caves were once a tourist site, but it is no longer maintained. The caves are at the base of the bottom cliff of Mt. Laso, which is about 75 to 100 feet high. In the picture are Erica and Judy standing in the bamboo grove that is next to the caves.

The cliff at the Japanese Defensive Caves is fairly steep and only about 20 or 30 feet high at this point. There are many ramps that can be followed to the top. In the picture below, Mitch is starting the climb up the cliff near the defensive cave site.

As we got above the first cliff, there was a short flat area, still with a slope, where we found a Japanese stone wall from World War II, in the picture below. At the end of the wall was an opening to a small cave that sloped down to a larger room. The slope was very steep with a narrow opening, additionally with a 6 or 7 foot drop at the end of the slope. I decided not to go down the slope, since I saw the larger room had an opening at its other end.

Below is the opening to the larger room of the cave discussed above. If you look carefully, you can see that a wall was built on the upslope side of the cave's entrance. This opening provided an easy climb down into the larger room of this cave complex.

Below is a picture of Mitch entering the larger room of the cave. Behind her, you can see the wall that is part of the cave's entrance.

There were not a lot of artifacts in this cave. Below is a picture of what we found in the larger room of this cave complex. All we found were the remains of a metal can, two aluminum pans, part of a rice bowl and some glass bottles.
Outside the cave was a pick head. Many of the defensive caves on Tinian were either completely dug, or enlarged, by the Japanese during World War II.

In the picture below are Mitch, Erica, and Judy standing just to the north of the cave that we had just finished exploring, with Judy taking a picture of me taking a picture of her. From here we walked around some rocks and headed up the slope to the continuation of the cliff we were climbing.

In the picture below, we started to climb the lower cliff again, just past the cave mentioned above. This cliff was the tallest and hardest to get up on the hike.
The climb up the cliff continues.

Finally, we near the top of the first cliff.

At the top of the cliff was a forest that was dominated by endemic understory trees, paipai and gulos. A short distance from the cliff's edge, the forest changed quickly into tangantangan secondary forest. One of the common plants in this secondary forest is donne sali, Capsicum frutescens. This variety of hot pepper is related to the Thai Bird's Eye Pepper, and is very hot.
I, and the other hikers, collect a few of the peppers as we hike. I usually place the picked peppers in my pants pocket and take them out when I get home. On this trip, because of the length of time we were out, the peppers in my pocket started to burn my leg. I had to get them out fast! I placed them in my waterproof box which I carry with me. When I got home, I emptied out the peppers and took the other items out of the box.

One of the other items in the box, with the peppers, was a Kit Kat candy bar. I placed it in the refrigerator, since it had melted on the hike. Later, my daughter found the candy bar and tried to rip the wrapper open with her teeth. You should have seen her face and heard her when her lips touched the wrapper. The peppers had deposited juice on the wrapper. The candy inside the wrapper was fine, and my daughter did enjoy it once she got the taste of the peppers out of her mouth.

As I lead the hike, I usually clear the path for the other hikers. This mainly consists of cutting vines, small branches and clearing spider webs. Sometimes I will try to tackle larger branches, especially if they are dead. Most dead branches are usually rotten, and one or two whacks with my machete will cause them to break.

So, I started to work on the branch pictured below. After 5 or so hits with the machete, I was about to give up, but Judy challenged me. Another ten blows with the machete, I was through the branch and had also cut the vines near the branch. After I walked past the the cut branch, the other hikers noticed a large boonie bee nest that had been on one of the vines I had just finished cutting. The nest is in the yellow circle in the picture below. The rest of the hikers made a wide circle around this nest. Luckily no one got stung here.

There were many large open areas on the terrace between the upper and lower cliff of Mt. Lasu. Most likely these are the remains of cattle pastures. I hate to walk in the open areas because of the difficulty of getting past the weeds, grasses and vines; much more difficult walking than in the forest. Also there are a lot of plants with spines, like lantana (Lantana camara) and pakao (e.g. Minmosa invisa). I believe the Chamorro word "pakao" is applied to any woody vine that has spines, but the Chamorro-English Dictionary, by Topping, Ogo, and Dungca, says it applies to the plant Caesalpinia major.

In the picture below are Mitch, Erica and Judy in one of the open fields, with the forest that we had just come out of in the background.

The following picture shows us in the same open field as above, but heading toward the upper cliff of Mt. Lasu, which can be seen on the middle left side of this picture.

In the picture below is the upper cliff of Mt. Lasu, from the open area pictured above. If you look at the dip in the middle of the cliff, there are flame trees, Delonix regia, which are near the Shinto shrine at the top of Mt. Lasu.
As we left the open area, and after a short walk through the secondary forest, we soon were in limestone forest near the upper cliff. One of the things, which I noticed near our path, was a piece of metal sticking out of the ground with a shinny aluminum thing on top of it (see the picture below). I think it was a bomb, but I am not sure and I did not play around with it.

Finally we got to the cliff. I thought we might still have to climb it, since my GPS said we had another 150 to 200 feet to go to get to a cave that is near the base of the top cliff of Mt. Lasu. I told every one to take a rest while I explored, to try to find out where we where. I headed north along the cliff and happened to notice a foxhole that I sort of remembered from previous hikes. I took a look at my GPS and it now said I was about 70 feet from the cave that I wanted to go to. I was very surprised and happy at the same time. It meant that we didn't have to climb the cliff and I knew exactly where we where.

I quickly walked back to the rest of the hikers and told them the good news. As we walked to the cave which I wanted to show them, we passed a large shell that you can see in the picture below with Mitch standing next to it.

Finally we made it to the first cave I wanted to show the hikers. I had marked this cave on a previous hike to this area with my GPS. Below is a picture of all the hikers on this hike, Erica, Mitch, Judy, and me in front.

You can not clearly see it in the picture above, but the picture below shows why I wanted to go to this cave. It is full of 3-inch Japanese shells from World War II. You rarely find this many shells in a cave. I encouraged everyone to NOT enter this cave. You can't predict what these old explosives will do.
A little ways from the shell cave is the "window" cave. This was the second cave I wanted to show the rest of the hikers. This cave has three windows in it. If you look carefully in the picture below, I have circled two of the windows. The window on the right has nunu (banyan) roots growing across it.

The third window is built into a wall that blocks the large opening to this cave. It can be seen behind the vines and branches in the picture below.

After a little clearing of the undergrowth, it is a lot easier to the see the window in the picture below, with Erica looking out of it. Above the window is a board that is used as a support for the rocks cemented above it.

The picture below is a view of the wall, with the window in it, from inside the cave.

The picture below shows the middle window (the one covered by nunu roots) from the same point where I took the picture of the wall with the window in it.

The video below give a 360 degree view of the window cave.

After visiting these two caves, we headed south along the cliff, past where we had rested. I wanted to find the old road that led to the shine at the top of Mt. Lasu (see the December 22, 2007, hike). As we hiked towards the road, we passed the remains of the old Japanese radar antenna from World War II, which was near the Shinto shrine on Mt. Lasu. Part of the remains can be seen in the picture below.

The picture below shows some of the metal plates that held the wire mesh in place on the radar antenna.

Below are some insulators that were found with the Japanese radar antenna remains. They are about 8 to 10 inches long.

Next to the road that leads to the shrine is an old crane. In the picture below, I am sitting next to it, most likely checking on our position with the GPS.

At the top of the old road is a cattle guard, see the picture below. It looks like it is made up of old railroad rails. The Japanese had an extensive train system for moving sugar cane around the island before World War II.

A short hike from the cattle guard was the Mt. Lasu Shinto Shrine. Someone had cleared the area a little since my trip here in December to this area. In the picture below is the foundation for where the house for the gods would have stood.

The picture below shows the view from just behind the shrine. This is the area that we had just walked through, with the open fields and tangantangan secondary forest.

Just to the north of where the picture above was taken is a small man-made hill. This hill is the highest point on Mt. Lasu. It was the base for the radar antenna that was previously discussed in this posting. The picture shows all of us on the the top of this hill, and the highest point on Mt. Lasu.

On top of the radar antenna's hill is a round cement structure. It is hard to see in the picture below, but Judy is standing on the edge of it.

Laying against the west side of the radar antenna hill is the base plate for the antenna, which has the electric motor used to turn it. In the picture below, Judy stands next to the base plate.

Since Judy said she had not been to this shrine before, I took her to the Japanese sign for this Shinto shrine. It is almost mandatory that one has their picture taken next to this sign when visiting this site.

After visiting the shrine, it was time to head back to my truck at the Japanese Defensive Caves. We had to cross a lot of open fields to get back, more than we had on the way up. There was one field I refused to cross because there were too many tall lantana plants in it. I hate lantana. Below is a video of the upper cliff line of Mt. Lasu that I took from one of those open fields.

As we neared the lower cliff, I became a little worried because I knew it was a hard cliff to find a way up or down on. At the edge of the cliff, I told everyone to take a rest stop while I looked for a way down. I walked to the edge of the cliff to look for a way down, but it must have been over 50 feet straight down and not climbable.

Then I remembered that my GPS makes what are called tracks; this is an electronic trail that the GPS creates. About every minute or so, the GPS stores a reading of its current location. I took a look at our track on the climb up to the top of Mt. Lasu and saw that we were about 150 feet north of our previous trail. I decided to try to get back to this trail since it had been possible to climb the cliff at that point.

I went back to the group and we started to use the GPS to find our old trail. As I walked toward the old trail, I kept angling toward the cliff and looking for a way down. About 40 feet form the path which we had taken up the cliff, I thought I saw an easier way down. I took a quick look at this new way down the cliff and decided to give it a try. It proved to be a lot easier to get down the cliff at this point than the one we had used to get up the cliff.

I kept following the path of lease resistance down the cliff, until we had gotten to the flat area below the bottom cliff of Mt. Lasu. We ended up a little bit north of the truck in a bamboo grove. Mitch and Judy are in the middle of the grove in the picture below.

As we walked in the bamboo grove, we came upon a large cement structure. This structure may have some connection with the old Japanese railroad used to transport sugar cane.

Just above the cement structure, pictured above, are steps that led up the cliff to more Japanese caves. Erica, in the picture below is at the top of the steps, near a Japanese wall from World War II.

The picture below is taken from inside of one of the caves, towards its entrance, with Judy's legs just visible in the entrance.

The picture below shows Erica, Mitch, and Judy behind the stone wall that protected the openings to the various caves in this area.

A short walk from the caves, we were back to where we had started.

This hike took a little longer than I thought it would. We didn't get back to the truck until 2:25 PM. After this long hike we all were fairly tried and happy to get back to town.

I also learned that there are only two cliffs from the Japanese Defensive Caves to the top of Mt. Lasu. I had been told that there were three cliffs, but we never saw the third one. Either we missed it or it does not exist.

As for the boonie bee count, it was two on this hike. I got stung twice at the same time, and Mitch got stung two different times. After awhile you start to get used to the stings, but they still hurt and are a surprise when they happen.

Next week's hike will be to the latte site at Long Beach. The hikers on this trip have not been to this site and requested I take them there. As always, we will meet at 8 AM at Grace Christian School. See you all there.

Everyone Is Welcome To Join In On These Hikes.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Return to Chiget - January 19, 2007

For this Saturday hike, we traveled to Chiget, which is a small beach on the southeast edge of the North Field area on Tinian. There were three of us on this hike, Judy, Mitch, and me. This was the second time for me into this area (for more pictures see the October 20, 2007, hike).

Chiget is a small beach that was created by a normal fault zone at the south end of North Field area. As you can see in the picture below, Chiget is a small narrow bay with a large cliff next to it.

Rocks have fallen from the cliff and some are quite large. These rocks litter the bottom of the cliff and make lots of areas where rock shelters can be found. In the picture below is one of these large rocks at the top of the beach at Chiget.

The bay at Chiget may be the only place where eelgrass (Zostera sp.) grows on Tinian. Eelgrass needs a sandy bottom with shallow calm water. Eelgrass is fairly common in the lagoon on Saipan but very rare in the coastal waters of Tinian. In the picture below, you barely can see the tips of the eelgrass sticking out of the water.

In the picture below, Judy is walking next to a very large rock that most likely fell off the cliff. This rock is at the start of the trail that leads to the base of the cliff that we will be following on this hike.

On the large rock in the picture of above is growing one of my favorite plants, Gausali (Bikkia tetrandra). This plant is endemic to the Mariana Islands, growing near the sea on limestone. Its English name is torchwood, and small sections of its stem can be used for candles or bundled together to make torches. The picture below is of Gausali growing on the rock in the picture above.

Below is a close up of the torchwood flower.

After passing the large rock, pictured above, we soon were near the cliff that we followed on this hike. In the picture below, Judy and Mitch are looking at the cliff which we will follow. I have also hidden a geocache near this spot (Chiget - Tinian's first geocache).

Near the start of this hike is a Japanese tunnel that was made by several large boulders leaning on each other. This tunnel ends in a platform with a wall that is about 15 feet above ground level. In the picture below is Judy coming back out of the tunnel. You can also see a red surveyor's tape in the left corner of the picture. Almost all of the archaeological features along this cliff were marked with this surveyor's tape. The Navy does surveys of the North Field area about every five to ten years, which includes archaeological sites.

Just above the tunnel, mentioned above, are some rock shelters where the Japanese hid during World War II. On my last trip here, we explore a few of them, but not very well because of the rain. In the picture below, Judy is entering one of the rock shelters.
Mitch took a careful look in the shelter, pictured above, and found a bone. I am not sure if it is human or not, but in another shelter, a little farther along on the hike, we found some bone fragments that I am fairly certain are human. The bone Mitch found is in the picture below.
After the tunnel and rock shelters, there were a lot of small rough boulders that we had to hike over. We had to be very careful where we stepped because you don't want to fall on these rocks. They have sharp points on them that usually cause some serious scrapes.

Another obstacle on this hike is Pago (Hibiscus tiliaceus), as pictured below. Pago grows branches that are parallel to the ground and difficult to walk over and through. Luckily for us, we were able to go around most of the Pago that grows in the lowlands below the cliff.

Near the bottom of the cliff the forest was fairly open and easy to walk through. One of the reasons for this was because of the dense tree cover. Most of the larger trees in this area are Puting (Barringtonia asiatica). In the picture below is a large Puting tree that had a lot of rock shelters behind it.

The picture shows the seeds of Puting and young saplings.

In the picture below, you can see me as I walk toward one of the rock shelters that is near the Puting tree discussed above. The white bag you can see me carrying is for the aluminum cans that I seem to always find in the jungle. These cans are usually left behind by coconut crab hunters.

In the picture below are some bottles left by the Japanese in a small rock shelter.

Judy and Mitch, in the picture below, are in another rock shelter that we found near the cliff behind the large Puting tree. I think this is the one that we found the bone fragments in which I mentioned above.

This was the last shelter we found behind the Puting tree. As you can see in the picture it was marked by red surveyor's tape. From here we walked back to the Puting tree and continued along the cliff.

As we walked along the cliff, we found a really large Puting tree, which Judy is standing next to its trunk in the picture below.
Along the cliff I noticed a notch which was filled with large rocks, pictured below. I decided to climb up in this notch to see if there was anything worth looking at. Once I got to the top of the notch, I found a canyon full of artifacts from World War II. I did a quick walk through the canyon looking for an easier way to it, which I did find.

As I walked back to the other hikers, I saw the large pile of cement bags that I had found on the October hike. Below is a picture of a small area of this pile of bags. See the October hike for more pictures of these bags.

The easier path that I had found to the canyon was a notch that looked like it had steps in it. Below is a picture of Mitch entering this notch.
In the picture below are Judy and me at the top of the notch that leads to the canyon.
Below is a picture of the first canyon with Mitch entering it. To the right side of Mitch is a huge pile of bottles left by the Japanese during World War II.
Below is a picture of the bottles that are to the right of Mitch in the picture above.
There was also an old metal cup near the bottles in the picture above. This cup was in fairly good shape for being out in the tropical weather for over 60 years.
On a rock toward the end of the canyon was a pile of bullets. I am not sure what caliber they were, but they were large and most likely 50 cal.
Next to the bullets were the souls of shoes. They must be Japanese because of the slit toe design.

It is really hard to get a good picture of this canyon. Below is a short video of the canyon taken by Mitch.


The picture below shows Judy and Mitch looking towards the end of the first canyon. After exploring this canyon, we climbed out of it to explore another canyon right behind it.

The picture below is of the second canyon. It just had a few bottles in it.

The two pictures below are of the same area of the cliff above the second canyon. It was almost straight up, but it looked like it could be climbed if needed.

After exploring the two canyons, we returned to the area next to the cement bags to have lunch. Below are Judy and Mitch enjoying their lunch.
I can't quite remember were this tree, in the picture below, was located. I think it was near the canyon we had just explored or it might have been next to a rock shelters that we found next. I just thought it was neat how the root/trunk has spread out to form a ring on the rock, as can be seen in the picture below.

After lunch we climbed up on a small shelf, above the cliff's base, where I found a cave. At least I thought it was a cave. In the picture below, you can see Judy in the entrance to what I thought was a cave. (I happened to have left my camera at the entrance to the cave and have to thank Judy and Mitch for all the pictures from this part of the hike).What I thought was a cave turned out to be a tunnel. In the picture below, you can see light from the other end of the tunnel, which Judy is standing in the entrance of in the picture above.

The tunnel came out into a flat area and was protected by a chest high stone wall, which can be seen in the picture below.

To the left of the wall was a narrow path that led up above the tunnel. This path widen and lead to an area with a few rock shelters. Near the cliff, we found that platforms had been built to make a smooth and level path continuing up the slope. In the picture below, I am on the path that continues up the slope near the cliff's face.

As we walked up the path, we came upon a large stone wall built next to the cliff. The picture below shows me looking behind the wall. There was nothing behind it.

The picture below is taken from upslope and shows the area behind the stone wall.

The path continued up the slope to a rocky area. At the top of this rocky area was a rock shelter carved into the cliff, near its top. It was obvious that the Japanese had dug this large cliff shelter, where the path up the slope ended. After reaching this shelter, we hiked back down the path to the tunnel, and started to follow the cliff line again.

Not far from the tunnel was a large cave/crevice where we had ended the trip in October at. In the picture below, Judy and Mitch are looking into the cave.

It is really hard to take a picture of the large opening of this cave, so below is a short video that tries to show the size of this cave's opening.

About fifty feet from the first opening to this cave/crevice was a second opening. In the picture below you can see the roots of Nunu (Banyan) trees growing into the opening. Also on the rock in the center of the picture is a 3-inch shell, just to the left of the white root in the center of the picture.

Right next to the second opening is a small hole in the cliff. It had roots growing through it and someone had tied a white flag on one of the roots. This hole lead into the large cave that could be seen from the second opening. In the picture below, Judy and Mitch are standing on a slope that leads down to the cave's floor.

In the picture below, I am working my way through the Nunu roots toward a place that we had to climb down about 5 feet.

Judy in the picture below has just finished the small climb down that we had to do to get to the cave's floor. If you look carefully in the picture below, on the rock on the left side of me is the 3-inch shell that was in the picture above of the second cave's opening. I am looking at a small room below the rock, which leads nowhere.

In the picture below is the second opening for the cave, looking out into the forest canopy.

As we worked our way toward the first opening, there was a room off to our right. We could not explore this room because the floor was about 20 feet below us and we had no way to get down to it. Below is a picture of this room.

As we worked our way to the first opening to this cave/crevice system, we had to stop when we reached a steep slope with a lot of loose rocks. This slope lead to a 20 or 30 foot cliff which I could see no way down. I tried to get a picture of the second opening from this rock slope, but there was not enough light. I took the following picture by setting my camera on the cave's floor, turning off the flash, and using the self-timer. As you can see, there is a little light coming in from the first opening, but not much of the cave can be seen.

After the cave, we continued to follow the cliff line. The cliff became a smaller and smaller as we traveled along it. As we followed the cliff, we started to follow a coconut crab hunter's trail because it was easier going. We did not find any more openings, rock walls or shelters past the cave in the pictures above.

As we walked along, I saw the road through the jungle. We had to walk about 100 feet past a large Umumu tree and some pandanus trees to get out. In the picture below is Mitch on the road that leads to my truck, which is located just past the end of the road that you can see in this picture (the road really does not end, but turns toward the north).

It was a short walk down the road and back to my truck. We finished the hike around 1:30 PM. In the picture below, Mitch and Judy are loaded up for the trip back to town. They seem to enjoy riding in the back of my truck. I think the ride is part of the adventure on these hikes.

As always I would thank Judy and Mitch for the additional photos and videos in this posting. As for the boonie bee count it was zero. We didn't even see a boonie bee nest on the whole hike.

Everyone really enjoyed this hike. The forest was beautiful, it was easy walking, and we found a lot of stuff from World War II. I think this is one of the best hikes on Tinian and I highly recommend it, just take your time and explore every little hole you find.

The next hike will be to Mt. Lasu. We will start from the Japanese Defensive Caves at the base of the first cliff line on Mt. Lasu, and climb to the Shinto Shrine at the top of the Mt. Lasu. On the way back to the Japanese Defensive Caves, if time permits, we will explore the second cliff line on Mt. Lasu. Mt. Lasu is made up of a series of three cliffs and terraces, and I have never been to the second cliff area. Because I have not been to the middle (second) cliff, I am interested in seeing what might be there. We will meet at Grace Christian School at 8 AM on January 26, 2007.

Everyone is welcome on these hikes.