Wednesday, March 26, 2008

West Field - March 22, 2008

On this hike we set off to explore the area just north of the current airport on Tinian. During World War II, this area was called West Field. It was a fighter airbase, which protected the U.S. bombers on their raids over Japan. I knew we would find an old Japanese Shinto Shrine in this area. According to Mitch, the name of the shrine is the Tachibana Shinto Shrine.

There were ten hikers on this hike. Most of them are pictured below, getting ready to start the hike. It took two trucks to get to the starting point for this hike, but I was willing to put everyone in my truck; I have had up to fourteen people in it before. But, everyone decided it was best to take two trucks. In the picture below are Dan, me, Judy, Kimberly, Joe, Erica and Gary. Not pictured are Pete, Masa and Mitch, who took the picture.

After a short walk through some short grass and pass some down trees, we came to a bamboo grove. In the bamboo grove was the shrine. Below are me, Dan, Erica and Mitch looking at the shrine in the grove.

We entered from the backside of the shrine and had to follow a cement fence, which surrounded the most sacred area of the shrine. The base for the gods' house can been seen through the fence in the picture below.

Dan had to clean the top of the foundation for the shrine's house. The steps to the foundation's top are clearly visible in the picture below. Where Dan is standing is where a small wooden house would have been located.

Masa is pictured below leaving an offering at the Shinto Shrine.

After visiting the main part of the Shinto Shrine, we decided to try to find the torii gate for the shrine. As we looked for it, we noticed large foundations for buildings on both sides of the path we were following. These foundations were most likely for buildings that serviced the shrine, maybe where priests or monks lived. In the picture below, one of the foundations is visible behind the trees and vines. By the way, we didn't find the torii gate.

Below is a closeup of the foundation in the picture above. Erica is just barely visible in the picture below.

Once you are on top of the foundations, it is fairly easy to walk because there are very few trees and vines growing there. Below are Kimberly and me standing on one of the building foundations. You can see how clear it is on the foundations, which are really just large cement slabs.

There were a few artifacts near these foundations and on them. Below, Masa is looking at one of these artifacts. It looked like some type of large electrical motor or switch.

Because of the shallow soil found in limestone forest areas, trees have developed ways to help keep upright. Some of these ways are using prop roots, which are common on nunu and pandanus trees, or using buttress roots, which are common on flame and ironwood trees. Pictured below is a flame tree, Delonix regia, which got knocked over maybe in a typhoon. Another adaptation many tropical trees have is that when they get knocked over, they grow advantageous roots from where ever their trunk touches the ground. The flame tree does this.

The picture below shows a great example of a buttress root on a flame tree.

After leaving the shrine, we headed south towards the current airport. We found a few more foundations. These most likely were part of the Seabee base that was in this area, or could have been air operation buildings. We even followed a few old roadways which could have been taxi ways for the fighters at West Field.

It was fairly hard walking with all of the vines in the jungle. Being the leader, I usually had vines wrapping around me until I either cut them or they broke. We also had to watch out for boonie bee nests. There were not that many, but there were enough to keep us alert.

One other nest that we did find was a bird nest. It had baby birds in it. I am fairly certain they are Tinian Monarch young, since this was the most common bird that we saw on the hike. I did see one or two Rufous Fantails, but we saw many many more Monarchs.

We travelled from one kamachili tree to an ironwood tree to another tree, and not finding much. I finally got tried and decided to head west towards 8th Avenue. As we walked towards 8th Avenue, we found more kamachili and ironwood trees. Ironwood trees, Casuarina equisetifolia, also have large buttress roots, as can be seen in the picture below. In the picture, Mitch is climbing over one of the large buttress roots, while Gary and Joe are looking on. Gary was visiting Tinian for a few days, and Joe is the father of Don Farrell, a well-known local historian. Joe is also a World War II veteran, who had just visited Iwo Jima, where he fought during its invasion. (Just a side note, if you want to learn more about Tinian, I highly recommend purchasing some of the history books that Don has written.)

As we headed west, we came upon an old roadway. I can remember about 3 or 4 years ago this road had been cleared and could be driven on. Now it was overgrown, and with trees on the side of it leaning out on to the road. Also, some small trees have started to grow on it. The jungle does cover things very quickly here in the tropics. We followed the road a little ways to the south, but it was difficult to get through some areas because of the trees leaning out into the road.

I decided to head west again towards 8th Avenue. I knew we where close to it. As we left the road, it dropped into a deep wide ditch. In the picture below Masa, Joe and Gary are working their way down the steep slope into the ditch. Of course, when I first went down the slope, I couldn't see where I was placing my feet because of the thick vines. There were also a lot of rotten branches on this slope, because of clearing the road a few years ago, which made the walking even more interesting. After a few people had followed me, it was a lot easier to see your footing, but you still had to be careful because it was easy to slip.

On the other side of the ditch, we had to climb up another slope. After a short distance in the secondary forest, we hit grass. I hate grass. I started to crawl through the grass to push it down and to make a trail for the rest of the hikers to follow. As I was doing this, I suddenly dropped down. There was another steep slope that was hidden by the grass. A few of the hikers slide down this slope instead of trying to walk down it. After the slope, I still had more grass to make a path in. In the picture below, I am finally got out of the grass and I am standing on 8th Avenue. I think it is Mitch and Erica that are still in the grass in the picture below.

The picture below shows Joe about ready to get out of the grass. I think that is Pete standing at the top of the slope thinking about how to get down it.

After a short walk down 8th Avenue, we stopped at the SeaBee's Monument. Below are Masa, Pete, and me look at the map of Tinian as it appeared after the U.S. buildup during World War II.

Below is a closeup of map on the SeaBee's Monument showing the area we were hiking in as it appeared during World War II. It doesn't look that way now!

After visiting the monument, we headed down 86th Street toward our trucks. They were about a quarter mile down the road.

I was fairly tried after this hike. I think fighting all of those vines and the grass got to me. This was not the best hike we have been on, but it was different, as almost all of the hikes are. I was glad to get home and to take a hot shower.

As for the boonie bee count, it was one again. I bet you all can guess who got stung. Yes, it was me, right on the stomach.

I would like to thank Judy and Mitch for providing all of the pictures in this posting. My camera was with my wife in Bali and Java.

The next hike will be to the Japanese canon above Turtle Cove. We will follow the cliff that the canon is on to the north. I have done this once before, about 12 years ago, and have found some interesting caves and tunnels, so bring a flashlight. This will be the last Saturday hike I will be leading on Tinian, since I will be leaving in early April. We will meet at 8 AM, Saturday, March 29, at Grace Christian School.

Please join us on my last hike. I hope that others will continue these hikes on Tinian even after I am gone.

Everyone is Welcome.

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