Monday, February 4, 2008

Long Beach Latte Site - February 2, 2008

Four of us set off on a fine Saturday morning to explore the Latte site above Long Beach. This is a fairly easy hike and I have always enjoyed it because of the variety of communities that we will walk through. You start the hike at a nice beach, climb a small cliff, walk through limestone forest and finally into secondary forest with large ironwood trees.

The hike starts at Long Beach (Unai Dankulo). This is one of the few beaches that you can find star sand at, but you have to look carefully. The picture below is of Long Beach facing north. On the right side of the picture, behind the coconut tree, you can see Saipan in the distance.
The trail starts near the southwest corner of the main beach (Long Beach is really a series of around 13 beaches). It is hard to find and you really have to know where to look to see the start of the trail. Below is picture of the trail just after it starts. It is completely covered by vines and overlapping weeds. You have to bend over a little when first entering the trail, but it soon opens up and is easy to follow.

The trail soon comes to a cliff. You want to go to the right at the cliff. As you follow the cliff, you will come to some steps that have been build into it. These steps were built by either the Marianas Visitor Authority (MVA) or the Historical Preservation Office (HPO). In the picture below Judy is standing on the steps about halfway up the cliff.

At the top of the cliff is a metal sign that gives information about the trail. This trail was setup by either MVA or HPO, for either a tourist or cultural attraction, maybe 8 or 10 years ago. Just to the right of this sign, about 100 to 150 feet away, is a series of large sinkholes. Sinkholes are occur when the top of a cave falls in.

These sinkholes are fairly deep. I would guess they are about 30 or 40 feet deep. The picture below show the first sinkhole. It shows a column and an opening that goes to the second sinkhole in this series.

Below are a picture of Mitch and Ikue looking into the second sinkhole.

The picture below give a better idea of the size of this sinkhole. From the large stalactite in the bottom right of the picture, the sinkhole must drop down another 20 or 30 feet. This sinkhole is a little deeper than the first one and connects to it.

After visiting the sinkholes, we returned to the first sign on the trail. The trail continues toward the west, trough a rocky area with a lot of pinnacles. Pinnacles are caused by differential erosion of the limestone. Some of the limestone is a little harder than the surrounding limestone. Because it is harder, it does not erode as fast as the surrounding limestone and protects the limestone under it from erosion. The picture below shows the trail, looking towards the cliff above Long Beach.

Some of the pinnacles can be quite large, as the one in the picture below.

Also in the limestone forest area are fairly large banyan (nunu) trees. The banyans in the Long Beach area do not get as large as some other areas on Tinian, because this beach is on the east side of Tinian and more exposed to typhoons. Below is Ikue near one of the larger banyans we found on our hike to the latte sites.
This trail is also used by coconut crab hunters. To hunt coconut crabs, a coconut, with a cut in the side of it that goes through the shell of the coconut, is placed on a stake. This attracts the coconut crabs from their hiding places. The coconut crab hunter comes back at night to see what each trap has attracted. Below is a coconut trap that has attracted some hermit crabs.

Along the trail, just after you leave the limestone forest, is another sinkhole. This one is not too deep and can be easily climbed down into. Below is Mitch taking a picture of the sinkhole, which has another coconut crab trap next too it.

As mentioned above, this trail has metal signs along it that explain different aspects of the Chamorro culture. Below are Ikue and Judy reading one of the signs while Mitch takes a picture of the small latte stones next to it.

When first approaching the sign, be careful and look under them. There might be boonie bee nests under them, as in the picture below. If you disturb a sign, you might get stung.
The signs are quite well done, as can be seen in the picture below, too bad the trail has fallen into disrepair.

Not all latter pillar stones are that tall. I have found that most are about 18 to 30 inches tall. As you follow the old trail, you will end up going by about four of these small pillar stone latte sites. In the picture below the latte pillar stones barely stick out of the weeds.

In the picture below is Mitch next to a latte pillar stone and its capstone.

Pictured below is my shoe, with the heel on the ground, pushing against a small latte pillar stone.
There are pinnacles that stick out of the ground that might look like a latte stone. So how do you know if you are at a latte stone site? The stones will be usually in two rows with at least four stones, or more, in each row. The stones will also be fairly evenly spaced apart. Of course, you need to be careful since some of the stones may be missing from a given site.

As we walked under the ironwood trees, Casuarina equisetifolia, the white terns would fly above us. These birds would follow us as we walked along.

One other animal that we encountered on this hike was the boonie bee, which is a common paper wasp from Asia. In the picture below is a large nest of them. Lucky for us there were not that many nest because of the rain the night before the hike.

Finally we arrived at the large latte site that is a little over a third of a mile from where the trail starts. In the picture below is one of the tall latte pillar stones that still is standing. It is about six feet tall and covered in vines.

Below is Ikue and Judy next to the same stone as pictured above. This picture give you an idea of the size of these stones at the major latte site at Long Beach.

The capstones at this latte site are fairly large as you can tell from the picture below. Mitch is just getting ready to step over a fallen pillar stone with the capstone to her left.

One of the stones is slowly being overgrown with a banyan tree as can be seen in the picture below. Most likely this tree will slowly destroy this pillar stone with time.

Ikue is a professional photographer, and she was fascinated with the hermit crabs on the coconut crab traps. She spent a lot time trying to get a good picture of one and I hope she did.

As we entered the limestone forest, on our return, I happened to spot a land crab in the leaf litter. It blended in real well with its surroundings as you can see in the picture below.

After taking pictures of the crab, someone asked if it was alive or not, because of how still it sat. I said it was most likely alive and put the tip of my machete next to it. As I did this, the crab suddenly became very active, raising its claws to defend itself. Every one hurried to turn their cameras back on, but the crab started to head toward a rock very quickly. I got the picture below just as it went around a tree, next to the rock it was heading towards to hide under.

Finally we arrived back at the beach, and spent some time enjoying it and taking pictures. The picture below is again toward the north, like the first picture in this posting. Just around the point, on the left side of picture, the beach continues. Notice that there are now more clouds then there was earlier in the morning.

The picture is taken from about the same place as the photograph above. It shows Long Beach toward the south. Just past the rocks at the south end of this beach is another smaller beach.

The video below gives a 360 degree view of Long Beach.

In the wall at the south end of Long Beach are two Japanese bunkers from World War II. The picture below shows the one nearest the ocean. It is now full of rocks and sand, and is impossible to get into.

The second bunker, pictured below, is more inland and behind some trees. Again, it is full of sand and rocks, and impossible to enter.

One of the traditonal stops on the Long Beach hikes is to look at the petroglyphs in a cave nearby. In the picture below Judy is entering the cave with the petroglyps.

In the picture below Ikue is looking at the petroglyphs. The one that sort of looks like a tunna facing up is modern, and most likely less then twelve years old. It was done by one of my former students. Please, if you visit this cave, don't damage this site anymore than it already is.

In the back of this cave is a room that has some neat cave structures. You have to walk over some loose rocks to get to this room. The picture below is taken through the mouth of the room, toward where the petroglyphs are located.

This is a fairly easy hike, and I do recommend this hike if you want a little adventure, but not too much adventure. You should have a guide to find the large latte stone site, but you can find the smaller sites by following the flags that mark the old cultural trail. If you have a GPS, the coordinates to the large latte site are N 15 degrees and 02.313 minutes, and E 145 degrees and 38.741 minutes.

I would like to thank Judy for the additional pictures used in this posting.

As for the boonie bee count, it was zero. We did see some very large nests, and even a few small ones with one or two bees on them, but no one walked into any of the nests.

The next hike will be on Saturday, February 9. We will be going back to the Mt. Lasu are to explore the cliff line from the Shinto Shrine toward the northwest. We will visit the old Japanese radar and the window cave (see the January 28 hike). After the window cave, I really don't know what we will find. We will meet at 8 AM at Grace Christian School.

Everyone Is Welcome On These Hikes.

1 comment:

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