Part of the excitement of being stationed at the Fort Stotsenburg in Angeles in the 1920s was the opportunity to explore the wild environs of a new country. The officers of Stotsenburg made sure that soldiers, in their spare time, get to do some nature-tripping in the nearby Pinatubo area. A memo issued on 17 January 1925, listed down points of interest for those interested in riding, hiking, or just plain enjoyment of the scenery.
Some of the trails and sites recommended included the following:
FERN CANYON. This canyon offers the finest scenery of its kind. Here, one can see a beautiful array of ferns, wild fowls and smaller birds many of which are bedecked with the brightest of plumage. After entering the canyon, it narrows down into a gorge with rock walls from 75 to 150 feet in height. Huge trees jut out from the walls, refreshing and cooling the air, tinged with the scent of wild flowers.
THREE CRATER TRAIL. This trail forms part of the 24th Field Artillery China Sea Trail. The trail follows along a canyon which opens out frequentlt into circular clearings similar to and which probably are, very old craters. Interesting and unsual geological formations are frequently encountered. The stream which flows through this canyon furnishes a portion of Stotsenburg’s water supply.
LOST CANYON. Lying just south of the larger canyon of the Three Crater Trail is the Lost Canyon, which offers a lot to the seeker of the unusual. The canyon is narrow and overgrown with dense tropical shrubbery, vines and trees. Here, one can find everything in its natural state—from vari-colored birds to air plants and epiphytic orchids that grace the porches of most quarters in the Post. This is a fine place to cool off on hot, tropical days.
DRY RIVER BED TRAIL. An excellent route for beginners. It runs through the sandy river bed, with an easy footing for horses. This trail is also an excellent place to work frisky, nervous horses as the deep sand tends to quiet them down. Tress line the stream bed forming natural barriers on either side.
BANYAN TRAIL. This is an excellent route to take for a short ride. One can leave the Post, cover this trail to where it joins the Dolores road and return in 45 minutes. The trail is taken near the Air Service and then runs through the Banana Grove where the famous Banyan Tree is passed. There is a very dense growth in the Banana Grove and as the sun seldom filters through the thick foliage, it is always cool here.
ARTILLERY TRAIL TO THE CHINA SEA. This trail was constructed by the 24th Filed Artillery and is open from about the 1st of November to the 1st of July for individually mounted parties and pack animals. A 2 and a half hour ride, without one hill, brings one to Camp Three located on the Bamabn River, which is an excellent place for picnics. A good swimming hole lies 200 yards from the Camp. During this ride, you pass through the 4 craters marked with great scenic beauty and marvelous rock formation.
About 30 minutes from the 4th crater, the tropical forest begins and continues to the base of Mount Pinatubo. The beauty and wonders of this forest cannot be appreciated unless seen. There is practically no animal life but abundant flora: giant ferns, air plants, orchids, and other trees 250 feet tall and from 25-30 feet in diameter. Unnamed beautiful flora peculiar to this forest can be found here.
Camp Six offers a cool view of Zambales Pass and the plains of Pampanga at an altitude of 4,000 feet. To the west, one can see coastal mountains and the Capones Islands. Plenty of spring water is available here. A mile away from this Camp is the Pinatubo Crater, which is beyond description with walls rising shear from 500 to 2000 feet.
Today, some of these trails have either been settled on, forgotten or disappeared forever brought about by the Pinatubo eruption. But it is good to know that once, in the not-so-distant past, our fair province had more natural attractions and scenic wonders to offer adventurous souls—to lift tired spirits, enthrall the eye, and provide an unforgettable welcome to visitors from here and far.
(*NOTE: Feature titles with asterisks represent other writings of the author that appeared in other publications and are not included in the original book, "Views from the Pampang & Other Scenes")