Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Harlem Hike - March 8, 2008

On this hike, we were off to explore an area on the southwest side of North Field. On old maps, from World War II of the U.S. airbase at North Field, this area is labeled as Harlem. The engineers that designed the roads and layout for Tinian noticed that it looked a lot like Manhattan. So, there are roads and areas on Tinian that are named after similar roads and areas on Manhattan. We even have a Central Park on Tinian.

Seven of us set off to explore Harlem and the cliff above it. I had never been to the cliff above Harlem so this would be a new place for me to explore too.

As I drove down 8th Avenue, looking for the road for Harlem, I didn't see it at all. I soon got to the circle on 8th Avenue and knew that I had missed it. I did a loop around the circle and headed back south to see if I could find a way to get to the cliff near the Harlem area. I finally saw a place, along the road edge, where I thought it would be an easy hike through tangtangan forest to the cliff, and stopped the truck to unload everyone.

After everyone had gotten out of the truck, I decided to walk another 50 or so feet down the road to see if there was a better place to enter the jungle. As I walked down the road, I saw a better place to park the truck and decided to move truck. After moving the truck, everyone caught up with me. Right next to where I had parked the truck, there was a road that seemed to go through the grass, following the tangantangan forest I had thought about following to the cliff.

Below is a picture of hikers setting off to explore Harlem. I took this picture from a frame of a video that I had accidental shot with my camera instead of taking a picture that is why it is a little blurry. From left to right are Erica, Kimberly, Mitch, Judy, Masa, and Kaori, with me taking the picture.

Once I saw that the road going though the grass was paved, I was fairly certain that this was the road to Harlem. I was positive that we on the road to Harlem when I saw the large amounts of tar on the road. Below is a picture of one of the large tar pools on the road to Harlem. The tar is very hard after sitting on the road for over 65 years.

The road was overgrown with grass, and the grass was starting to get thicker and thicker as we followed the road. It was soon time to head into the jungle because of the thick grass. It is a lot easier to walk through the jungle than through a field of guinea grass. In the jungle, there were a lot of ferns growing under the tangantangan trees, as can be seen in the picture below. Also in the picture I am walking up hill. The top of the hill was very narrow and must have been an old road.

The roadway on top of the hill ended at a large metal tank, pictured below. Most likely trucks drove up the roadway on the hill to dump gravel into the tank, or other structure now gone, for the asphalt plant, which was at Harlem during World War II.

On one side of the tank was a narrow trough, which is pictured below, with Masa taking a picture of me taking a picture of him. In the above picture, the trough is on the right side of the tank.

On the other side of the tank was a large grass field. We stayed in the jungle to the right side of the tank. As we walked, I noticed a cliff just to our right. I decided to head toward the cliff. As we walked toward the cliff, Mitch noticed a wall running toward the base of the cliff. Below is a picture of the wall's end, the end farthest from the cliff. It had some large metal channel beams in it. These beams must have been about eight inches across.

Soon other hikers spotted another wall about 150 feet away from the first one, along the cliff. Below is a picture of the second wall. Again it ran from the cliff out into the jungle. Toward the jungle end, the wall formed a T with another wall. It looked like the two walls made up the edges of a compound, with the cliff being the back wall for the compound.

The walls were about a foot wide. Below is a picture of me standing on the wall that is pictured above. Again this wall had large metal channel beams in it, which I am standing in between.

We followed the cliff, which was by the walls, toward the east, but it soon ended. After walking though a some more tangantangan forest, we came to the cliff that was on the east side of Harlem. While following the bottom of this cliff, we ended up at a large field of grass. I decided to try to cross the grass field but it proved to be very difficult walking. That is when I decided to climb up the steep slope and back into the jungle. Below, in the picture, are Kimberly, Judy, Kaori, and Masa in the grass field, with me taking the picture just below the forest on the steep slope.

Here is a close up of Masa, Kaori and Judy in the grass. I am not sure if they are happy being on the hike or if they are ready to quit. At least Kaori is smiling.

Above the grass, the cliff was fairly steep. The two pictures below, show Kimberly and Kaori walking carefully along the cliff at about the same place, just before we rested by an umumu tree.

The red leaves, in the pictures, above are young leaves of the gulos tree (Cynometra ramiflora). These leaves contain the pigment anthocyanin. Anthocyanin may protect the young leaves from fungal attack, or from sun damage, because anthocyanin soaks up free radicals.

There were also a lot of bird's nest ferns, Asplenium nidus, growing on the trees and cliffs. Below is a picture of some of these ferns growing on the cliff.

The cliff we were following was very steep, and at one place I had to make a choice of either climbing up or down. I decided to go down. In the picture below are Kaori and Masa climbing down the cliff.

After getting to the bottom of the cliff, I saw that I had made a mistake and that we should have gone up instead of down. So, we had to climb up the steep slope again to get to the base of the upper cliff line. As we got to the top of the slope, we found a small cave/shelter that had two broken bowls in it and a few shoe souls. Below is a picture of one of the bowls.

As we walked along the cliff's bottom, I noticed a hole in the ground under a rock, pictured below. Most likely this is a hole that was dug by a coconut crab. We also found a second hole a few hundred feet from the first one.

While we rested, a Tinian Monarch, Monarcha takatsukasae, came in close to watch us. I was a little too far away to get a picture, but Mitch got a good one of it. The Tinian Monarch is only found on the island of Tinian, in the Mariana Islands.

We also found some cup mushrooms growing on the leaf litter.

A little further along the cliff, there was a tunnel or cave visible in it. After going through the opening, we emerged in a large room that had a tall stone wall protecting its main entrance. Below are Masa, Kaori, Judy and Kimberly standing in the cave.

Below is another picture of the wall the protected the main entrance of the cave.

There was a lot of stuff on this cave's floor. In the picture below are an old metal pan, bottles, wooden planks and other artifacts. We left everything behind, in case a future archaeologist wants to study this area.

The picture below shows a closeup of the wall that protected the cave.

At the base of the wall was an old ammunition case, pictured below. It most likely held rounds for a small canon.

Right at the main entrance, near the stone wall, was an old rusty pick. In the picture below the pick is toward the left side of the middle of the picture, and pointing straight up and down.

As we walked along the bottom of the cliff, I noticed a large rock below us. It looked like it might have an opening in it. I climbed to the bottom of the rock and saw that it was a shelter that was used by the Japanese during War World II, which is pictured below. It was raised about two feet above ground level and could also be entered from the back. Of course, Mitch and Kaori had to climb all the way through this rock shelter, form the back entrance to the front one.

The cliff started to die out, so we headed up the slope to see if we could find more of the cliff line or not. On the way up, I happened to get some large spines in my shoe, like the ones that I had gotten on the Tachonga hike. After getting to the top of the slope, the cliff had disappeared and it looked like we would have to cut our way through a lot of vines and weeds before finding anything. Since it was getting late, I decided it was time to head back to the truck.

As we walked down the slope, we encountered the spines again. This time we found the source. It was on the roots of a plant growing in the ground. After consulting with Carmen Farrell, I found out this was a wild yam called nika in Chamorro. With a little research, I found out that this yam is called Dioscorea esculenta var. spinosa. One article, which I found, called it the 'devil yam.' After seeing the spines on the roots of this plant, I see calling it the devil yam is very appropriate.

The following picture shows a closeup of the spines from the nika plant. We all had to stop to pull the spines out of our shoes. They are about an inch and a half long.

We went almost straight down the slope on our way back to the truck. Because of the recent rainfall, the ground, and the leaves on it, were wet and slippery. At least four of us fell on this hike because of the slippery conditions and steep slopes.

The picture below shows about where we ended the hike along the cliff line. It was by the ironwood trees, gagu, at the top of the cliff. Just before where the ridge drops down on the left side of the picture. The trees at the top of the cliff are about 50 to 60 feet tall, just to give you an idea of how high the cliff was.

After crossing the field in the picture above, we entered the tangatangan forest. It appeared that we were walking on an old road. It was fairly flat, about wide enough for a large truck to drive on, and covered with gravel. As we followed this old road, there were a lot of hot peppers to pick, so we made a lot of rest stops for picking peppers.

On the side of the road, we found an old collapsed tank. This meant that we were getting near the asphalt plant, if not there already. Below is a picture of the tank, covered with vines.

The picture is taken toward 8th Avenue, about where the truck was parked. As you can see, it is grass forever. I did want to go through that grass because of how difficult it is to walk through it. It is very difficult to cut; it is taller than a person; and most of the time you have to fall on it to push it down to make a trail.

Finally the road ended in a large field of grass. We dropped down to the edge of the road, where some tangantangan trees grew. There was a little shelter down there with some metal drums in front of it, as shown in the picture below.

I took a look at my GPS, while we rested, and realized that the road we had followed in was about 75 feet to the south of our resting place. With encouragement from the other hikers, I set off by myself, through the grass, to look for the road. I had to cut through about 50 feet of grass, luckily it has been burned last year and was not too thick, to get to the road. After finding the road, I went back to the others and led them out to the road. As you can see in the picture below, Mitch was real happy to be back on the road!

After leaving Harlem, I decided to stop at the SeaBee Monument. The SeaBee Monument is dedicated to the 107th SeaBees, one of the main U.S. construction battalions on Tinian during World War II. It is where 86th Street meets 8th Avenue. On the monument is a map of Tinian as it appeared during the U.S. buildup at the end of World War II. I am pointing out Harlem to Masa on the map in the picture below.

The main reason why I stopped at the monument was because of Kimberly. She is from New York and I thought she would enjoy see the names of the streets and areas on the map. Below is a picture of all of us standing by the monument, except Mitch, since she is taking the picture.

This was a fairly interesting hike. I wish there was less grass at the Harlem site. I have to wonder what else was hidden by the grass, especially after what we had found on the edges of the area.

Now for the bonnie bee count. It was none. I did almost walk into a nest, but as I saw the bees fly around me, I got away from it fast before I got stung. It was hidden behind some vines and was not visible until we got around the vines. That was the only nest we saw. Because of the rain that had occurred the night before the hike, I did not expect to find many nests.

The next hike will be Lion's Head above Marpo Valley. This is always a good hike with a great view of Tinian and Saipan. I have done this hike in under two and a half hours with two people. With a group, it usually takes about three and a half hours. I enjoy this hike a lot and want to do it one last time before leaving Tinian. We will meet at 8 AM, on Saturday, March 15, at Grace Christian School.

Everyone Is Welcome On These Hikes.

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