Wednesday, February 27, 2008

March 2008 Hikes

We will be doing the following hikes for March. This will most likely be the last set of hikes I will be leading on Tinian. I plan on leaving for the U.S. Mainland sometime in early April. So, if you have been meaning to come on one of the hikes, this will be your last chance.

All hikes meet at 8 AM at Grace Christian School on Saturday.

March 1, Saturday - Circumnavigation of Lake Hagoi. We will start on the southwest side of Lake Hagoi, where an Okinawan village from the Japanese times was located. It has been years since I have visited this site. From here, we will try to walk around Lake Hagoi staying as close to the water as possible. Most likely we will not see the lake because of the Pago and tall reed. I will even show the hikers the best way to visit Lake Hagoi, which should be done right at the end of the dry season. We might even try to see Lake Hagoi at this point, so be ready to get wet and dirty.

March 8, Saturday - Exploration of the Harlem area by North Field. Harlem was the location for the old asphalt plant when the SeaBees built North Field. This area is on the south west side of North Field, just past the turnoff for the Shinto Shrine on top of Mt. Lasu. From this area we will walk to the cliff line above it and see what is along the cliff. I have not been to the cliff in this area before.

March 15, Saturday - Lion's Head.
We hike to the rock outcropping above Marpo Valley, on the north end of Carolinas Plateau. I always enjoy this hike and this will be the third time we have been to Lion's Head since I started the Saturday hikes, click here to see the November 17 hike and here to see the October 6 hike.

March 22, Saturday - Exploration of West Field. We will start at the West Field Shinto Shrine. From here we will head toward the south and try to find the foundations for the old SeaBee base that was located near the shrine. We may even end up on some of the old runways used during World War II.

March 29, Saturday - The Old Japanese Canon.
We will drive to the old Japanese canon just past the dump. After looking at the canon, we will follow the cliff toward the north. I know there are some interesting caves and tunnels near this area, so bring a flashlight.

Because of the dry season, be prepared to meet boonie bees!

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

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sumiyoshi (Tinian) Shinto Shrine - February 23, 2008

Again we were off to try to find the latte stones above the Sumiyoshi Shinto Shrine. This shrine is now called the Tinian Shrine. But as was pointed out for the January 5, 2008, hike, the real Tinian Shinto Shrine was near the current Catholic church in San Jose. On this hike there were six of us. This time I was sure we would find the latte stones because I had found them a week and a half ago, and marked their position on my GPS.

We started at the shrine as always. One of the first things you will notice is the large piga, Alocasia indica, going at the base of the shrine. This plant was most likely grown by the ancient Chamorros for food. To find out more about ancient Chamorro agriculture, click this link, but be warned this is a pdf file. This area located at the end of a drainage for the cliff area above, and has fairly deep rich soil. In the picture below, Erica stands next to the large piga plants.

A visit to the shrine is always called for on any hike near it. So the group headed up the path to the top of the shrine. In the picture below are Masa, Stacy, Mitch, Judy and Erica standing under the torii gate that marks the entrance to the Shinto shrine.

At the top of the Sumiyoshi Shinto Shrine is a small house. In the picture below Masa is leaving an offering of rice and salt, which is a traditional Japanese offering. From what I have read, salt is used for purification and rice is offered in prayer to the Shinto deities. Masa did this offerings at other places where Japanese soldiers may have died on this hike.

After visiting the shrine, we set off to find the latte site. The jungle near the shrine is some of the thickest jungle that I know about on Tinian. When I first arrived on Tinian, I visited this Shinto shrine. I wanted to see what the jungle looked like near it. So I set off to do a little exploring. Within ten minutes, I was so turned around that I didn't know where the shrine was any more. It took me another hour to find my way out. The picture below shows how dense the jungle can be in this area.

As we walked upslope toward the latte site, there is an old Japanese road that cuts across the slope. The base of the trees, in the picture below, are growing on the road bed. The slope above this road is very steep.

As you walk up hill, the jungle does open up a little bit, but is still fairly dense. The picture below was taken as we walked up the slope from the road pictured above. You can tell from this picture how steep the slope is.

A short distance above the old overgrown road is the latte site. This site is heavily overgown. Below is one of the larger pillar stones at this site, which has a nunu (banyan) tree growing on it. This stone is about seven feet tall. This is a fairly large latte stone and is part of a group of at least 14 stones, in two parallel rows of seven stones each, at this site.

The next two pictures below show another one of the pillar stones. The second picture shows me standing next to the stone.

Most of the pillar stones in this group were knocked over. Below is a picture of one of the down pillar stones.

The picture below is a capstone for the pillar stones pictured above.

Just to give you an idea of how overgrown this site is, the picture below does have a down pillar stone in it. It is right in the middle of the picture. Because of the overgrown nature of this site, it was very difficult to get a true idea of its size.

Right in front of the latte site pictured above, there is a second set of latte stones. These were shorter stones, maybe four feet high. Below is a picture of one of the pillar stones in this second site. I really did not count the number of stones, but most likely there are eight stones at this site.

The picture below shows how close these two sites are to each other. Below the whitest-gray stone, in the smaller of the two sites, is right in front of one of the downed stones from the larger latte site.

The picture below shows Stacy standing next to one of the smaller pillar stones at the second site.

After visiting the latte site, we continued south below the top of Carolinas Plateau. I can't say we really followed the bottom of the cliff, since in a lot of places there was not a cliff but a very steep slope.

As we walked south we came upon a patch of snake plants, Sansevieria trifasciata. These plants usually indicate a place where the Japanese had a settlement since they were commonly planted around buildings for ground cover. In the picture below Stacy and Erica are walking though the snake plant.
Just past the snake plants, we ended up on the top of plateau. The top of Carolinas Plateau used to be a cattle ranch for MDC (Micronesian Development Corporation). There are still fences running across it, that marked the old pastures. Most of these fences are in disrepair now. Below, in the picture, is a large corner post for one fence lines that used to run right at the edge of the plateau. This post was one of the markers I used for this hike, since I used it to tell me when to head back down the slope to the Shinto shrine on our return.

There are some small cliff areas near the latte site. They are not very high, maybe 10 feet or so, and do not run very far before just becoming a steep slope. In two of these cliff areas, we found Japanese shelters from World War II. Below is a picture of the first shelter with a stone wall that we found. It might have been large enough to hold two or three soldiers.

The picture shows one of the steep slope we had to cross between the cliffs. In the steep slope areas are a series of fox holes. The picture below does not show any fox holes but it does show how difficult it was to walk on these slopes because of the steepness and thick undergrowth.

Pictured below is the second shelter we found. It was much larger than the first one. Judy is just starting to come around the stone wall that helped to protect the entrance to the shelter in the picture. This shelter may have held between 5 to 8 men during World War II.

We continued south for a short distance past the shelter pictured above. The vines started to get thicker, because fewer trees were blocking the sunlight from reaching the ground. It was getting more and more difficult to travel through the jungle. But, at one point we did get a great view of San Jose Village, as is shown in the picture below. The dock area can clearly be seen in the picture below.

Because the undergrowth was getting thick, I decided it was time to head back to the shrine. I really did not want to follow our trail back, so I headed up the slope to the top of Carolinas Plateau, where I hoped the walking would be easier.

As we climbed to the top of the Carolinas, I almost walked in to the boonie bee nest pictured below. I felt a bee hit me in the chest and backed up real fast. Luckily that bee did not sting me. We carefully walked around this nest and no one got stung.

Below is a close up the the bee nest pictured above, after the bees had settled down once they got over me disturbing them.

Once we got to the top, the walking was a lot easier. We sort of followed an old fence line that ran north-south. I tried to avoid open fields, like the one picture below, because lantana, Lantana camara, grows in these open areas. This plant is poisonous and has small spines that are really irritating. They get under the skin and are hard to get out. Also scratches from this plant can take a long time to heal, and be irritating for three or so days afterwards.

After awhile, we found the fence post, which I mentioned above, and walked back through the snake plants to the latte site. We happened to come out a little below the latte pillar stones, but there were many capstones in this area. Most likely they rolled down the slope from the latte site, which is about 50 feet above the capstones.

It was back down the steep slope to the shrine. The picture below was taken just above the old road that was discussed above. It was really steep as you can see from how how Stacy and Judy are going down it.

Right now, it is the dry season, and for animals water becomes crucial. During the dry season, we may not get rain for 3 or 4 days in a row. If there is no rain for two weeks, it is considered a drought. The reason for this is that Tinian is a raised limestone island. Any water that falls on it drains very quickly through the soil and into the aquifer. Water puddles after a heavy rain (2 or 3 inches) rarely last more then a day.

Because of the dryness, animals have to find ways to get water. In the picture below a hermit crab is getting some moisture from an injury in a coconut tree. I really don't know if coconut crabs caused the injury or are they just taking advantage of it. It would be an interesting research project for some tropical biologist to learn how different animals get water during the dry season.

Finally we made it out of the jungle and back to the shrine. The picture below shows Mitch and Judy as they leave the jungle.

So we finally found the latte site above the Sumiyoshi (Tinian) Shinto Shrine. The problem is that it is not the one that I remember finding last spring. The latte stones had found with Dan, Aruika and John, last spring, were much shorter (may 2 or 3 feet high), with a larger set of stones very close to the top edge of the plateau. I will have to do some more hiking in the next month to see if I can find the other site I think is in this area to see if I can find the other site I remember. Well, at least we finally made it to some latte stones!

As always, I would like to thank Mitch and Judy for the additional pictures in this posting.

The boonie bee count for this hike was zero, none, zip. No one got stung. There were a few close calls, but we got lucky this time.

The next hike will be to the Lake Hagoi area at North Field. I want to look for the old Okinawan village that used to be on its west side. It has been over 10 years and many typhoons since I have been to this site. Once we find the village, we will walk all the way around the lake, most likely not seeing it at all because of the pago and tall reed that grows on its edge. Be prepared for bees since a lot of this hike will be through tangangan forest. Meet at 8 A.M., on Saturday, March 1, at Grace Christian School.

Everyone Is Welcome On These Hikes.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Marpo Valley - February 16, 2008

On February 16th, six of us set off to explore an old Japanese train station in Marpo Valley. This is one of the best preserved train stations from the Japanese time when they grew sugar cane on Tinian. I also wanted a short hike because this weekend was also the Tinian Hot Pepper Festival. I needed to help my wife setup her booth before the festival started.

As I sat talking to Dan and Judy, at Grace Christian School, Mitch, Erica, and Mr. Suzuki walked up with a big Styrofoam box. In the box was a birthday cake for me. On the cake, it said, "Mr. Cole Happy Bee's Day." I think it was very appropriate, especially with the number of bee stings that I have had. I was really surprised and I really appreciated the gesture. My thanks to all for the cake.

After dropping the cake off at my house, since the hike starts less than a quarter mile from there, we headed to where the hike would start from. Right next to the road, where the trail starts, is tall grass. I had already cut a trail through the grass about three days ago, to the train station. The picture below shows the the hikers following me into the grass.

Less then 50 feet from the road is the train station. In the picture below Mitch is standing next to the wall that was right next to the rail bed. There are even steps that go up this small wall, with steps that are only about 6 inches wide. The cement structure above Mitch is a water tank and foundation for maybe a small building.

Below is a picture of some of the tracks that are still found on the old railway bed.

The picture below is taken from the top of the water tank. The water in the tank is about 3 feet deep.

Below is a picture of Erica standing next to the water tank, with the rail bed being on the left side of the picture.

There is another cement structure to the north of the water tank. Between them is a cement stand. This stand is pictured below.

The northern cement structure must have held a large piece of machinery, because of the large anchor bolts embedded in it. This bolts can be seen in the picture below, next to the half-circular depression in the structure.

Mr. Suzuki found an old Japanese gas mask filter near the northern cement structure. He was able to read the writing on the bottom of it, but I don't remember what he said was written on the gas mask.

After visiting the station, we dropped down to the railway to try to follow it toward the north. Below is a picture of Judy on the railway, just below the cement structure with the half-cylinder depression in it.
Just a little to the north, the roadway disappeared, almost at the end of the modern asphalt plant that the train station is near. Below is a picture of the railway just before it disappeared.

We continued toward the north trying to figure out which way the railway went. As we walked, we came upon an old road. As we followed the road, we soon realized that the railway had reappeared and was to our right. The picture below shows edge of the road, next to the train railway.

We continued to follow the road until it disappeared into the jungle. Right before it disappeared, we found some old Japanese bottles. The picture below shows what the bottles looked like when we first found them.

I picked up a few of the bottles to see if they had any writing on them, but we found none. We left the bottles where we had found them.

Being the dry season and not having any rain for a few days, the boonie bees were out in full force. As I led the group through the jungle, besides trying to find an easy trail, I had to be on the outlook for bee nests. The nests varied from the size of a dime, with one to two bees on it, to the size of a softball, with 30 or more bees on it. Below is pictured one of the larger bee nests that we found on the hike, and luckily avoided.

Most of the hike was through secondary tangantangan forest. There were not a lot of down trees and the walking was fairly easy, except for trying to avoid boonie bee nests.

Besides some of the herbs (i.e. weeds) growing on the forest floor, the only tree that we noticed blooming was the Sumak, Aidia cochinchinensis. This plant is found from topical Asia through the Pacific islands, but not on Hawaii. It is one of the more common pioneer species in tangantangan forest, as it slowly changes into limestone forest through a process called succession. The flowers are very fragrant.

Picking the path in the jungle is sometimes fairly easy. In the picture below, you can see the path I choose between the tangantangan trees (Leucaena leucocephala). The path is straight down the center of the picture. Of course, if a bee nest is found, we would have to make a detour around it, which could be easy or not. There was one place where our path was blocked by five bee nests. That was a fairly hard area to get through and not get stung.

We hiked until we hit a fence. In the picture below, the fence is right in front of Dan, covered with vines. At this point, I decided to turn toward the east to find a road that would take us back to the truck. I had hoped that the road was closer than backtracking on the path we had taken to the fence.

Most of our path to the road, which was east of us, was through tangantangan forest. There were a lot of bee nests and hot pepper plants that slowed our progress. There were three places where we had to go through tall grass, Napier grass (Pennisetum purpureum). I don't like walking through tall grass because it is very hard to cut through it or push it out of the way. Napier grass was planted on Tinian during the Trust Territory Days, when Ken Jones, from Guam, ran a cattle ranch here. Below is a picture of Dan working his way through the grass.

We stopped often to pick hot peppers as you can see in the picture below.

Finally, we came to civilization, an old watermelon field. Part of the field was still being used to grow tomatoes. A short walk across the field and we were on the road that I had been looking for. It took us a lot more time to get to the road than if we had followed our trail from the fence back to the train station.

The road we found near the agricultural field led to another road that took us back to the truck. The picture shows Erica, Dan and me walking down the main road to my truck.

Mitch had asked if we could stop at San Isidro on the way back to the village. San Isidro is very near to where we had gone hiking. It is currently used for an annual religious festival. In the past, it had also been a site for a quite extensive Chamorro village. There is still one set of latte stones there, as can be seen in the two pictures below.

During the Japanese times, San Isidro had a Japanese Shinto Shrine. This shrine was called the Izumi Shinto Shrine. Below is the picture of the torii gate to the shrine.

This cement lantern-like structure, at the shrine was damaged by a falling tree, most likely during our last major typhoon, ten years or so ago.

The path for the shrine continued down a set of steps that led to the base where the shrine's house would have been.

Below is a picture of the base that would have held the god's house for the Shinto shrine.

After the visit to San Isidro, it was a short drive back to town. The hike took a little longer than I had expected. I had hoped to be done by 10:30 A.M. but I didn't get to the Hot Pepper Festival, to help my wife, until 11:30.

Overall, as always, everyone enjoyed the hike, especially the train station and San Isidro. As for the boonie bee count, it was two, Dan and me. I got stung just above my left eye, which resulted in the eye swelling up. Yes, it was a Bee's Day for me.

The next hike will be to one of the latte sites above the Shinto shrine near Carolinas Heights. We will find latte stones this time since I have marked their position with my GPS two weeks ago. They are not the same as the ones I found last Spring, but they are still of good size and interesting. After visiting the latte stones, we will continue south along the cliff line. Meet at Grace Christian School at 8 AM.

Everyone Is Welcome On These Hikes.