23-Jan-2010 -- As Brian and I had been friends for many a decade, and as we had long shared an affinity for geography, and as we were together for only 36 hours, a confluence visit seemed like the perfect choice. Earlier on this day, we trekked to 31 North 98 West atop a beautiful hill in central Texas. We decided to make it an even better day by striking out immediately for 31 North 97 West. This was partly done to double Brian's total number of confluence visits (from 2 to 4), and bring me closer to a long-sought-after goal of 200.
The beginning of our journey took us from 31 North 98 through one of my favorite types of roads--one along a river bottomland, this time, along the north bank of the Lampasas. The road then climbed out onto the hilltops around Fort Hood, where some unmarked sharp turns puzzled us, but we kept striking for the north and east, eventually finding our way out. Soon we were on a long commercial strip, all the way from Killeen to Temple, Texas. Texas is remarkable for its miles and miles of commercial strips along major freeways. We were planning to stop for lunch in Temple but after skirting around the city on the loop (US 190), we found ourselves once more in a rural area. Instead of being hilly like the terrain around 31 North 98 West, we were now at the beginnings of the broad and flat plain of alluvium that stretched all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.
Thoroughly enjoying the terrain, and discussing All Things Geography and Life, we then drove southeast along State Highway 53 through the tiniest of towns. But now I noticed that Brian was showing signs of getting a bit too sleepy for our collective well being, and thus I suggested we strike out for the town of Rosebud before hiking to the confluence. The town afforded many photographic opportunities of long-abandoned drive-in restaurants, but we made a beeline for the local Dairy Queen. As is typical of Texas towns, it was a hive of activity, with a sports team lined up inside and a bus outside, so after making an oval in the parking lot, opted for the local convenience store down the block instead.
Still without lunch but now armed with coffee, we headed out of town, south on US Highway 77. We came to the next town of Burlington but missed our turn. The reason was that we totally missed the "town". The town really wasn't more than a few houses, agricultural depopulation having taken its toll. We turned north on Farm-to-Market Road 1963 and passed an abandoned feed mill, then jogged north still more, turning west on County Road 354. We opted to turn around a short time later, when the road became nothing more than a four-wheel drive trail, and Brian was driving a very nice Prius. We drove back to Burlington, and then noticed the dirt road to the west that we were seeking. This was County Road 133. We passed another photographic opportunity of a magnificent old farmhouse with a large Texas star on the front and laundry hanging on the side, but kept moving. Anticipation rose as we turned south on County Road 134, with the road still in a passable state, and what's more, no fences on the east side. I was puzzled not to see the line of trees that I thought would mark the field edge as I had seen in the ground photographs and satellite images, but then we saw the line of trees that had been uprooted since the last visit. Always something changing on the Earth's surface, even way out here.
We gathered supplies and set off to the northeast, along the former field edge. A single line of an electric fence was there as well, but we did not know if it was operational and declined to test it. The ground was very soft and it was a bit windy. The cloud ceiling had dropped again but the hike was easy. In fact, it provied to be the easiest of the four confluences we have done together and in the easiest 10% of the ones I have done in terms of difficulty. We saw no animals or birds. After less than 15 minutes, we found the confluence on the south edge of the field on the left, or north. The temperature stood at a mild 65 F (18 C) under cloudy skies.
The confluence therefore lies on level ground, on the south end of the field that stretched out before us to the north. The most prominent features in the view from the confluence were the broken windmill in the next field to the south, about 300 meters away, and about 1500 meters further to the south, a radio tower. To the north and northeast were a large stand of junipers, which looked like they had been planted by homesteaders long since departed. We could hear US Highway 77's traffic off to the east, but a line of trees blocked its view. We could have approached from the highway, but there was nowhere to pull over, and a fence blocked this approach. The view in all directions from the confluence was about the same in terms of distance, no more than 5 km, due to the flatness of the terrain and the gray sky. The closest house lay off to the north about 800 meters away. It was not quite as scenic as the hilly 31 North 98 West upon which we had stood a few hours before, but we thoroughly enjoyed this one nonetheless.
I had stood on 31 North a few times before, in Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, and here in Texas. I had stood on 97 West in Texas and in Nebraska on previous adventures. I was amassing quite a nice collection of Texas confluence points. After 15 minutes taking photographs and videos, we hiked back out the way we came in. Just like what has happened during many other confluence treks, as soon as we were back at the vehicle, the sky brightened considerably. We considered going back and taking brighter photographs, but declined, taking a few of the road instead. It was a peaceful spot. We then drove south and east through some more wonderful towns and terrain, stopping at Cameron's own Dairy Queen for luncheon, and then back to the Austin area. A wonderful day filled with wonderful memories!