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Spots on The Rock

Hike into history

Nine Spots preserving Guam's past

  • 7 min to read

Passing through the bustling highways of Hagåtña and even the sleepy streets of the south, it's easy to disregard or dismiss the landscapes around us, and the histories they hold.

However, if you venture a little further into your passive thoughts and stare a little harder out your passenger window, you might be inspired to think past the island's modernity and into its actual past!

You don't have to look too far around Guam to find glimpses of island history. In fact, gateways to our ancient CHamoru roots, Spanish colonization, Japanese occupation and American influence lie all around. You don't have to be a history buff to be interested, either, you've just got to let your curiosity run wild!

Listed here are a few hikes into history, showcasing a few of the best outdoor excursions to experience island history firsthand. Most of the sites contain ancient CHamoru latte stones and artifacts, Japanese war fortifications, Spanish settlement remnants and historic American facilities, and most in their original locations, too!

Simply click the hike's name for directions and more information.

Pågat

LUSONG: One of many lusongs along the Pågat trail near the ancient village. Lusongs are stone tools used by the ancient CHamoru to grind food. Don't touch, move or otherwise damage these ancient artifacts. Post file photo

Pågat

One of Guam's more preserved, ancient CHamoru villages, Pågat is home to one of the largest concentration of latte stones, lusongs and other indigenous artifacts.

The prehistoric area is one of four villages that the Spanish are believed to have settled shortly after colonizing Guam in the 17th century. The ancient village also was partitioned as one of four original church sites after the introduction of Christianity to the island in 1672.

Archaeological records suggest that Pågat was occupied by the CHamoru people up to 1,000 years before the Spanish arrived. However, the area was never resettled after the Spanish began colonizing the island in 1668.

Today, the remnants of Pågat lie among the limestone benches of the northeastern coast, one of four recorded latte sites in that particular area of Guam, according to Guampedia.

There are at least 15 recognizable latte stones and 35 other basalt slabs believed to have been parts of an ancient settlement.

The area was added to the Guam Register of Historic Places, as well as the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

In 2010, the National Trust for Historic Preservation included Pågat on its list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

Sella and Cetti bays

Two remote bays off the coast of southwestern Guam lie undisturbed, for the most part, with many hidden gems that serve as keyholes to peer into the island's past.

Sella Bay is a popular hiking destination containing pristine snorkeling venues and the picturesque old Spanish bridge.

In the late 1600s, the Spanish attempted to connect their southern ports in Umatac to the growing capital of Hagåtña.

The rustic bridge seen at Sella Bay was a part of the unfinished infrastructural project known as the El Camino Real, which translates to "The Royal Road."

To the south of Sella Bay lies Cetti Bay, the site of an ancient CHamoru village formerly known as "Jati," housing at least two latte structures and numerous Spanish pottery shards.

Today, there are remnants of ancient latte stones and other artifacts scattered across Sella and Cetti bays' jungle landscape, treasured jewels of the island's CHamoru and Spanish pasts.

Both bays and the surrounding foothills of the coastal area are currently preserved in Guamʼs Territorial Seashore Park. Cetti also is on the Guam and National Register of Historic Places.

Ritidian

CAVE TOUR: The "cathedral" of Ritidian surrounds the ancient Star Cave and is an enchanting spot along the Cave Tour. Post file photo

Ritidian

Ritidian, or "Litekyan" in CHamoru, is one of the many ancient villages dotting the island's northern coastline with neighboring Urunao and Jinapsan.

The area had been settled by the CHamoru for thousands of years by the time the Spanish arrived in 1521, according to Guampedia. Recent work at the site revealed a fishing camp beneath the shores of Litekyan, believed to be more than 3,300 years old.

Along the limestone cliff line of Ritidian there are a few caves containing ancient CHamoru pictographs, as well as unique geological formations and a plethora of native flora and fauna.

The settlement was transferred to the U.S. Navy after World War II, and was used as a communications facility until it was turned over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the early 1990s.

The preserved unit covers 371 acres of coral reefs and 832 acres of terrestrial habitats including limestone forests. The refuge is also home to native tree snails and small lizards, the endangered Mariana fruit bat, the Mariana crow, and hawksbill and green sea turtles.

Haputo

STILL STANDING: An ancient CHamoru latte stone stands in the jungle behind Haputo Beach in Dededo. The area also is the site of an ancient CHamoru settlement. Post file photo

Haputo

A contender for the island's most pristine white sandy beach, Haputo, or "Apoto," was another ancient settlement overrun by the Spanish.

According to Guampedia, archaeologists believe Haputo was occupied almost 2,000 years ago with ceramic artifacts in the area dating back to between A.D. 100 and 400.

Notably, some of the most well-preserved, large latte stones still stand near the limestone cliffs of Haputo. At least 23 latte stone sets in the area have been identified by archaeologists.

There are also numerous shards of Spanish pottery and other CHamoru artifacts scattered throughout the jungles just beyond the beach.

Although not much is known about the area, historic accounts say the village was burned by the Spanish en route to Tarague in 1678.

Haputo was designated an ecological preserve in 1984, covering 252 acres of coral reef and limestone forest.

Presently, the area sits on military-owned land, near the Naval Communications Station (NCTAMS) in Finegayan, protected by the U.S. Navy. It also is listed in the Guam and National Registers of Historic Places.

Deadline to apply for youth writing workshop July 15

WARTIME WEAPONRY: Japanese coastal defense guns sit on a vegetated hill in Piti. The guns are part of the War in the Pacific National Historical Park and have recently been beautified for future preservation. Post file photo

Piti Guns and Asan Beach

Multiple coastal defense guns, cliff line fortifications, pillboxes and other remnants of World War II history are encapsulated in the villages of Piti and Asan.

The Piti Guns unit is the site of three Vickers type Model 3 140mm coastal defense guns, installed by the CHamoru as part of forced labor under the Japanese wartime occupation.

The guns were strategically placed in defense of what the Japanese expected to be a flank of the island's western side by approaching American forces.

Not one of the three guns was fully operational by Liberation Day on July 21, 1944, so none of them were ever fired. Each were capable of firing across 10 miles.

Up the street is Asan Beach, the site of a confluence of history between the CHamoru, Spanish, Germans, Filipinos and Americans.

The Spanish arrived in the central village and set up minor settlements in the late 17th century. By 1892, the village area also was the site of a leper colony, utilized for eight years before being destroyed by a typhoon, according to the National Park Service.

In 1901, Asan was used as a prison campsite for exiled Filipino rebels, including Apolonario Mabini, one of the 42 imprisoned on Guam, and who is considered a Philippine hero.

The SMS Cormoran, a German cruiser, became stranded on Guam after making rounds through the Pacific in 1917. The ship, which was supposed to stay for only a short while to refuel, ended up being scuttled in nearby Apra Harbor upon U.S. entry into WWI.

Today, remnants of these histories lie around Asan Beach. Japanese fortifications along the western side of the beach, as well as pillboxes atop the hill on site, still stand and are preserved. Additionally, there are plaques commemorating American history around the park.

Follow the river to famous Fonte Dam

MAN-MADE WONDER: The historic Fonte Dam, located within a valley behind Nimitz Hill in Asan. The dam was originally built in 1910, serving as Hagåtña's primary fresh water supply during the early part of the century. Post file photo

Fonte Dam

It's not Hoover Dam, but by Guam standards, Fonte River Dam is a man-made wonder all its own!

The historic dam lies isolated within the Nimitz Hill valley, heavily contrasted against the surrounding jungle that has slowly grown around the structure.

The concrete structure is about 150 feet wide and 24 feet high, built in 1910 as part of an organized effort by the U.S. Navy to supply the island's capital with a reliable water supply.

While the base and side structures of the dam are made of concrete, the front-facing wall of the dam was constructed with red bricks, now often covered in mud and grime.

The dam was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014. Today, the dam is a popular hiking destination with refreshing swimming holes.

Solemn Merizo hikes that end with a splash

SERENE SITE: The Tinta massacre site is hidden deep in the jungles of Merizo, shrouded by bamboo groves and serenity. Post file photo

Tinta and Faha Memorial sites, and Priest's Pools

On the grimmer side of history, a couple of short hikes to the Tinta and Faha memorial sites in Merizo render a darker image of Guam's past.

Near the end of occupation during World War II, Japanese soldiers rounded up nearly 50 CHamoru men and women from Merizo and massacred them in caves deep within the village.

On July 15, 1944, 25 of the most influential men and women in Merizo, including the village commissioner, parents of military service members, rebels and teachers were taken into the Geus River valley, told they were going to become part of a work crew.

Instead, the group was marched to Tinta Cave. The Japanese tossed hand grenades inside, killing many of the prisoners and stabbing others they thought to be alive with bayonets and swords. By pretending to be dead, 14 survived.

The following day on July 16, 30 of the village's tallest and strongest men were rounded up and taken to the Faha area of Merizo. This time, the Japanese used machine guns in addition to grenades and bayonets to murder the men. None survived.

On the lighter side of the hike, a short nature walk to Priest's Pools also includes some history! When the Spanish first arrived to Guam in the 1500s, Catholic priests would bathe in the refreshing pools just up the hill from the village church.

Gådao's Cave

ICONIC IMAGERY: Prehistoric pictographs seen in Gådao's Cave rendering human-like forms. Post file photo

Gådao's Cave

To get a better picture of how the ancient CHamoru saw Guam, Gådao's Cave in Inarajan has some of the most well-preserved pictographs on island.

Among the walls of a shallow, limestone cave along the shoreline of Inarajan Bay, Gådao's Cave is a short distance to an epic site of truly ancient history.

Archaeological work was done at the site in the 1960s, finding approximately 50 pictographs ranging from 2 to 20 centimeters in height. The variety of drawings show abstract human- or animal-like forms and even geometric shapes, according to Guampedia.

The most popular, an image of two human stick figures holding items, is iconic on Guam and is branded across the local tourism industry.

All the pictographs are speculated to have been drawn using white lime, which bonded with the limestone surface and has thus remained preserved for centuries.

The cave was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

Ipan

WARTIME REMNANT: One of the many World War II remnants seen along the Ipan Beach hike is this Japanese war fortification. The structure, mostly intact, can be found halfway between Togcha Cemetery and Jeff's Pirates Cove. It can't be missed as it's right along the trail. Post file photo

Ipan Beach

The shores of Ipan aren't just known for Jeff's Pirates Cove or white sandy beaches, but also a quieter reminder of Guam's war history.

From the coastline beyond Togcha Cemetery down to First Beach, the outskirts of Ipan are dotted with World War II remnants.

Just beyond the cemetery, under a grove of gago trees, are the remnants of an old WWII-era Japanese fortification. The concrete structure often is covered with fallen leaves and has a few trees growing through its cracks.

Down the breezy beach path, halfway to Jeff's, is another, smaller fortification, but this one is more intact with small windows peering out toward the Pacific.

Jeff's Pirates Cove itself is the site of a former WWII U.S. Navy flight rehabilitation camp, established for military members after the war.

Another Japanese fortification, mostly intact, is seen near the mouth of the Togcha River by Jeff's.

Continuing down the southeastern coast, the former site of Camp Dealy will be reached a little past the Tongan Beach Resort. The WWII camp was used by U.S. submariners as another recreational site, with offshore swimming holes and excellent snorkeling opportunities.

At the end of the hike, a refreshing swim at popular First Beach awaits, along with another hidden Japanese fortification toward the southern end of the beach.

'Spots on the Rock' book now available for purchase

SPOTS ON THE ROCK: The Guam Daily Post's hiking book, "Spots on The Rock: A Guide to Guam Hikes and Nature Trails," is now available at Bestseller Bookstore in Guam Premier Outlets and the Micronesia Mall, and Pika's Café and Faith Bookstore.

Reporter

The Scoop coordinator, Spots on The Rock columnist and Life documenter. Email: tihu@postguam.com. Follow Tihu on Twitter and Instagram at @tihualujan.

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