13-May-2004 -- After trotting the globe on some 45 confluence quests, I, Joseph Kerski, Geographer, finally visited a confluence at the site of many happy childhood memories--The Grand Mesa, Colorado. I had hiked and fished here during many a summer's day as a child growing up in Grand Junction,
just to the west. Latitude 39 North, Longitude 108 West lies atop The Grand Mesa, touted as the
world's largest flattop mountain. Sprawling over 1,500 square kilometers, the Grand Mesa's wonder stems from its geologic history and its elevation. A former high-altitude lava flow, basaltic volcanic rims and blocks fill the landscape between enormous stands of aspen and pines.
At just below timberline at 3000 meters elevation, over 200 beautiful lakes dot the Mesa.
I left Interstate Highway 70 at State Highway 65 just after noon following a trip from Denver that had witnessed widely varying weather--snow, sleet, hail, rain, and sun. That's Springtime in the Colorado Rockies! I parked at a small reservoir on Ward Creek on the top of the Grand Mesa about 1250pm with the GPS receiver showing 1.6 kilometers to the confluence.
May is an excellent time to be alone on the Mesa--after ski and snowshoeing season but before the arrival of fishers and hikers. I only saw five cars in the 50 kilometers I drove along Highway 65. After a 10-minute walk along the road, I plunged into the Grand Mesa National Forest. The landscape was just shaking itself free of winter, and I hiked through snowfields still one meter deep, over rushing streams of meltwater, and through mud that was sporting small green shoots. Springtime arrives by elevation here--a few hundred meters below the rim of the Mesa, buds appeared on the trees, and lower still, bright green leaves quaked on the aspens. Yet up here, the trees were still bare. Melting snows had uncovered burrows from small rodents.
My route was largely to the southwest, and after hiking through the forest, I climbed in elevation about 120 meters to a large snow-filled meadow that was aligned in just the way I was headed. This made for faster progress. After traversing nearly the entire length of the meadow, I climbed over a barbed-wire fence, up a slope about 100 meters, and arrived at the confluence at 1:30pm local time. The 40-minute hike was highly enjoyable and beautiful, under partly sunny skies across which flew
purple, black, gray, and white clouds.
The confluence lies in the Grand Mesa National Forest. It is on an east-facing slope of about 10 degrees in a stand of aspens. I had a bit of a problem zeroing out the GPS unit due to the tree cover, although it was most likely not as difficult as it would be in June when the trees had leafed out. The snow soon bore imprints of my confluence dance. The view was obscured in most directions by stands of trees, but the meadow was visible to the northeast. The confluence lies just a few kilometers north of where the Grand Mesa drops off spectacularly 1600 meters into the Gunnison Valley and the town of Delta. The elevation of the confluence is approximately 2986 meters. The temperature was a cool but pleasant 9 degrees C. The landscape has not been modified by human activity, and I could see no buildings--a wonderful spot!
previously been to 39 North four times--once in Kansas, and three times in Colorado. Just last month, I visited 108 West, 7 degrees north of here at 46 North in Montana. After spending about 20 minutes at the site, I turned off the GPS. It was easy to follow my tracks in the snow back
to the road. I arrived at the vehicle at 210pm, traveled south off the Grand Mesa on Highway 65 to Delta, and on to Grand Junction.