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Guam: Wildlife Ritidian Refuge Part One

I lived on the island of Guam for three years and enjoy writing about my experiences.

Ritidian National Park, Guam

Ritidian National Park, Guam

Treasure Hunting on Guam

Playing a treasure hunting game in Guam led us on many fascinating adventures. We felt like kids searching for hidden jewels where X marked the spot. The geocaching game is a worldwide outdoor searching activity using high-tech coordinates sent to our mechanical devices from satellites. Using the Global Positioning System and our computer, we searched for interesting places in the various countries we visited. Every weekend, during the three years we lived in Guam, my husband and I joined like-minded folk in Guam's villages, mountains, and jungles. One morning before the heat became sweltering, my husband said, "Let's go, there's another geocache outside Anderson Air Force Base."

Anderson Air Base Guam

Anderson Air Base Guam

Anderson Air Force Base

There was and is a large military presence on the island of Guam. Anderson Air Base houses the United States Air Force, The U.S. Navy is stationed on what we called Big Navy, and the U.S. Marines joined the contingency in 2014. My husband and I lived in Tamuning, not on any bases, because we were civilians, not affiliated with any military branch. Off we drove toward Anderson, past the Last Mission Monument, and onto a dirt road into the jungle.


The Jungle of Guam

I didn’t want anything to do with a jungle, but Joel said it wouldn’t be that bad. The jungle is not like in Africa; it’s just a bunch of trees. Off we drove past The Last Mission Monument, we found earlier, tuned onto a dirt road, and drove into the jungle toward Ritidian Point just outside Anderson Air Base.

"It's over there somewhere," Joel pointed into the thick green mass of vines. You can stay in the car while I explore," he said.

Imagining tigers hunched, waiting to pounce on intruders, snakes hissing ready to strike, and monkeys hanging from trees, I took a deep breath, squared my shoulders, sprayed my legs with mosquito repellant, and bravely walked into the green wilderness where who knows what lurked behind every tangle.

The air felt humid and sticky, but the heat wasn’t too bad. I wore gloves, shoes, and shorts, and I stank of bug spray. Joel held vines to pass by without too much trouble, but roots grabbed at my feet. Stumbling along, I followed the great white geohunter.

Following the GPs directions, Joel put his hand on the cache, brushed something aside, and walked to the car. I followed. He wrote on the log found inside the cache container, then returned to the jungle and replaced it into the hiding space. With no breeze and the sun beaming, the heat index climbed.

I retired into my passenger seat, turned the air conditioning on, and waited while my husband continued searching the jungle for additional caches.

spider bite

spider bite

Recluse Spider Bite

I am not afraid of spiders, although I probably should have been. That evening, Joel’s hand swelled. A spider had bitten him. I thought this could be serious, so I told him we were going to the doctor.

The doctor asked, “What kind of spider bit you?”

“I don’t know. I can tell you this; the bite came while we were walking in. . . “

The doctor looked at the green blob that formed on Joel’s hand. “It may have been a recluse spider. They are not indigenous to Guam, but we’ve found a few in that area.”

“How did they get here?” I asked.
"I read in the paper they hitched on cargo from somewhere, probably, by a plane at Anderson."

“Are they poisonous? His bite looks terrible, and it hurts. His hand is swollen,” I said.

“Yes,” the doctor put salve on Joel’s hand. “Keep it iced if you develop a fever or severe pain, come back. You should be okay.”

After a few days, Joel’s hand returned to normal, but he will always remember the pain. This experience did not dissuade us from exploring the jungle.


Ritidian Nature Center

Ritidian Nature Center

Ritidian Nature Center

Ritidian Nature Center

On another day, we drove our secondhand Toyota Camry toward Anderson Air Base on Marine Corps Drive and turned onto an obscure road leading into the jungle. Although the temperature that day stayed at the usual 85⁰F, I smiled when we stopped in front of a small building with the sign “Guam Natural Wildlife Refuge.” I wanted a cool drink and air conditioning. He wanted a geocache hidden there.

Joel disappeared, searching in the bushes with his GPS.

Eureka! The treasure is found.
He opened a green sandwich-sized container, pulled out a small tablet of paper, wrote both his and my geocache names, replaced the marble swag with a small Guam keychain, put everything back where found, and joined me inside the Nature building. If it hadn’t been for the adventure of finding that geocache, we probably would not have discovered the Guam National Wildlife Refuge.

Snakes? On Guam?

A poster sign beside the door of this small white one-story building contained information about an invasive species of snake that had probably been introduced from New Guinea after the Second World War. The theory says the snakes hitched a ride on cargo planes onto Anderson Air Base.
Once inside the prefabricated building, various bird songs and sounds of burbbling spring water filled the air. I was disappointed because I saw no live birds or water springs in the building, only posters depicting Guam before human habitation; I spoke with the rangers behind the information desk.
He said, “The sounds are piped in so modern tourists and islanders can experience what the area sounded like before the brown tree snake.”

At the end of the day, we made an appointment with Ranger Matt Brown to tour the jungle at The Wildlife Refuge and a visit to the Brown-Tree Snake Research Center there. “Be careful when you get to Guam,” My brother said when he learned, we were moving there. “Brown tree snakes fall from the trees. They’ve destroyed all the birds on the island. They even wrap around electrical wires causing severe outages.”

Up until we stopped at this spot, I had not seen this elusive snake. Thank goodness, because I’m not too fond of snakes

Sources Used

1. My experiences on the island of Guam.

2. Andersen Air Force Base, Guam (af.mil)
3. How to Identify and Misidentify a Brown Recluse Spider | Spider Research (ucr.edu)

4. Home - Guam - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


Comments

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on August 09, 2021:

That spider bite looks nasty! Thanks for sharing your experiences on Guam. Your article was interesting to read.

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