Monday, February 11, 2008

North Cliff Mt. Lasu Hike - February 9, 2008

On February 9th, eight of us set off to explore the cliff below the Shinto Shrine on the top of Mt. Lasu. We were going to explore some previous sites (see the January 26, 2008, hike), but continue along the cliff to the north and west in to a new area.

In the picture below, the hikers, Masa, Mr. & Mrs. Takeuchi, Mr. Aoki, Erica, Judy, and Mitch, get ready to start the hike. Of course everyone wanted to ride in the back of my truck to the shrine on top of Mt. Lasu. I think the ride to and from where the hikes start is part of the fun, but I really don't know since I have to do the driving.

We first visited the Mt. Lasu Shinto Shrine. In the picture below Mitch, Mr. Aoki , Mr. & Mrs. Takeuchi, and Masa are enjoying the view from the cliff edge behind the shrine.

After a brief visit to the shrine, the group climbed up on to the radar hill, next to the shrine. While they went to the top of the hill, I had to go back to the to the old Japanese sign for the shrine to get my machete which I had left on the ground. After joining them on the hill, I asked if they want to see the base for the radar antenna. They all said yes. So we climbed down the west side of the hill to look at the radar's base. In the picture below Mr. Takeuchi stands next to the base plate for the radar antenna.

After visiting the shrine, we headed along the ridge, to the south, to an old road that goes below the cliff top. We followed the road until it was easy to leave it and follow the bottom of the cliff. Near where we had left the road are the remains of an old crane, pictured below.

From the crane, it was a short walk to the remains of the radar antenna. It is really hard to get a good picture of the antenna and I tried to take a video of it, which is below, but it does not do it justice. You really need to see the antenna in person to appreciate it. I have been planning a posting on this blog just about this radar and will do it soon.

I think the thing pictured below was the mount which held the radar antenna, but I will have to look more closely at the picture I have of the antenna from World War II to be sure. This mount was just past the antenna's location.

After leaving the mount, pictured above, I got a little confused and kept on getting too high on the cliff, almost near the top. So it was up and down, with some back tracking, until I decided that we had to go way down the slope. It was a fairly steep slope, but not too bad, as you can see in the picture below. At the bottom of this slope, we found an old wall that was not too high (maybe two feet high) and very long (50 or more feet). It was most likely pre-World War II, but I am not certain.

After getting to the bottom of the slope, we walked only a little ways before we had to climb back up to the cliff face. At the cliff face, we followed it to the north. In the picture below is Masa next to a large shell near the cliff. There are a lot of these shells at the base of the cliff and you get very used to them after awhile.

Just past the shell in the picture above is a cave that is full of 3-inch shells with one larger shell, as can been seen in the picture below. There are more pictures of this cave and the window cave posted on the January 28th hike.

Right next to the shell cave is the window cave. This cave has two windows built into the cliff's face and a third window in a large stone wall across its entrance. The picture below shows Mr. & Mrs Takeuchi and Mr. Aoki in the window in the stone wall.

The picture below show Mrs. Takeuchi looking out through the window in the stone wall.

Below are Judy and Masa entering the window cave.

At the window cave everyone took a break and lots of pictures.

When in the jungle, I usually try to follow marked trails. It is a lot easier than having to cut a path through the jungle. Most of these trails are made by coconut crab hunters, but others are made by people doing surveys. The U.S. military usually has archaeologists and biologist surveying the different areas of Tinian where they might do future training. These trails are usually marked with surveyor's tape or blazes on the trees. The shell below is one of the strangest trail markers that I have seen.
Pandanus is common in the jungle and I try to avoid large patches of it. Below are Mr. Aoki and Masa next to a small pandanus tree that shows off the pandanus prop root system real well. These roots are covered with spines. On this hike there was only one large patch of pandanus that we had to go through but it had a trail already cut in it.

As we walked in the jungle, we came to some fence posts made out of old train rails, most likely from the Japanese sugar train rail system.

Near the fence, above, was an old water tank, as shown in the picture below.

The picture below shows a closeup of the water tank that is pictured above.

Next to the water tank were some large cement structures, most likely foundations for large machinery. They had at least one inch mounting bolts in the concrete to hold something large down. The picture below shows one of these cement structures.

After the water tank, we kept following the cliff line but did not find much. It was fairly open and easy to walk through, except for some vines, as can be seen in the picture below.

We reached a place where the flag markers we had been following seemed to go every which way. I decided to have the group take a rest, as you can see Masa and Mr. & Mrs. Takeuchi doing in the picture below. While everyone rested, I went off to explore. I headed down the slope to see where the flags went. Finding nothing of interest, I decided to continue along the cliff line.

As we followed the cliff, the terrace we were on became narrower and narrower. At one point, we took a look over the edge of the cliff that was growing below us, just to see where we were. After looking carefully out into the distance, I saw the shoreline of Saipan. It was to the far right of our location. This meant that we had rounded the corner of the cliff and were headed west, with North Field below us.

At this point, I decided that the terrace was getting too narrow. Besides it getting narrow, we had not seen any thing of interest for awhile. So, I started to look for a way down the cliff that had grown up below us. It must have been over 50 feet tall. After a very short time, I found a path that I thought we could take safely to the bottom of the cliff. In the picture below Masa is helping Erica down the last part of the cliff.

As soon as we got to the bottom of the cliff, we started to find more shelters and caves that the Japanese had used during World War II. Below is Mr. Aoki in front of one of the shelters that the Japanese had dug into the cliff. From here we headed toward the west a little bit, following the cliff, but the undergrowth was getting heavy and we were running out of time (everyone was thinking about lunch). So, it was time to head back toward the shrine on the top of Mt. Lasu.

As we followed the lower cliff back to the shrine, we found a fairly large cave that was dug into it by the Japanese. In the picture below Masa is entering the cave.

The picture below shows everyone in the cave mentioned above.

We did a fairly quick walk back to the shrine. As we walked back, Mitch asked if we could visit a tunnel that I knew about south of the shrine. I said of course and set my GPS to find it. I had planned on trying to find the cliff side of the tunnel, but we ended up at the crane that we had seen at the beginning of the hike. At that point, I decided to use the road to get to the top of the cliff and follow ridge on the top of the cliff to the tunnel.

The tunnel is not easy to find and you really have to know what you are looking for. The tunnel's entrance is hidden behind a berm of earth. Since I have been to it a lot, it was no problem finding it (I also had a GPS position for it). In the picture below is Judy in the tunnel's entrance walking toward the exit.

The picture below shows me walking down the steep slope that is the entrance for the tunnel.

The picture below shows everyone getting ready to walk out of the cliff side exit for the tunnel. This exit is even hard to find because of the forest and the pile of rubble that makes a very large steep slope below the tunnel.

Right next to the tunnel is a second cave dug by the Japanese. Since I had been to this cave many times, I decided to rest, as can been seen in the picture below, as everyone else explored

After exploring the cave and tunnel, we went back through the tunnel and followed the ridge line back to the Mt. Lasu Shinto Shrine. The picture below shows Judy on the trail right before it comes out at the shrine.

After quick walk down the grass path that forms the lower part of the shrine, we were back at the truck.

At the truck, everyone took a quick water break before loading up for the ride back to town.

This hike was interesting because of the shelters, structures and caves we found from and before World War II. The pace was a little fast because I was also exploring a new area and wanted to see what there was. But everyone had a good time and really enjoyed exploring.

I would like to again thank Judy and Mitch for the some of the additional pictures in this posting.

As for the boonie bee count, it was only one. Erica got stung in an area where I had seen bees but no nest. There may have been a nest and that is why she got stung. We did see a few nests on the hike, but I had thought we had avoided them.

The next hike will be in Marpo Valley area. We will explore an old Japanese rail station from before World War II, when they farmed sugar cane on Tinian. After exploring this station, we will head north, trying to follow the old rail road. I hope to make this a short hike because of the Hot Pepper Festival this weekend. As always we will meet at 8 A.M. at Grace Christian School.

Everyone Is Welcome On These Hikes.

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