28-Jun-2007 -- I was on a quest to determine how many confluences a person could visit in a single day. I had awakened at 2:22am and was now headed, at nearly 8:00am, for confluence #2 for the day. I had already visited 38 North 103 West about 2 hours before this one. I left Lamar, Colorado, heading east on US Highway 50, bound for Kansas. Life was good as I was listening to Heart's Dreamboat Annie album. What's more, I was listening to it on cassette tape. What's more, I had recorded the cassette tape from an 8-track tape during the late 1970s, complete with fade-out and fade-in between tracks. Now that's old school!
So, armed with great music and high hopes, I crossed the Kansas line. I was following the mountain route of the Santa Fe Trail. I almost missed my turn to the south at Coolidge because the town was much smaller than I expected, population 86. Still, there were signs of life: A woman painting her house on the main street, even an art gallery. I crossed the Arkansas River and turned east on the aptly named River Road. I wanted to visit the sinkhole to the south, but was pressed for time. Says the web page: "There is a sinkhole about seven miles south of Coolidge. It's not very impressive, but the drive down to see it gives a good sense of the countryside."
I was glad I turned on the river road because many of the roads on the online map services in this area turned out to be fencelines only, or, as we used to call them at the US Census Bureau when we were compiling the first nationwide street atlas, "paper streets." These exist only on paper maps, but are not actually on the ground. River Road, lined with sunflowers, headed due east toward a wildlife area and then due south, following section lines. It was quite dusty and somewhat rutty but I was able to negotiate it in a standard passenger car. I parked at the point where River Road continues to the east again, a few meters from the 102nd Meridian, and 1 mile (1.6 km) north of the confluence.
I donned more sunblock, quickly gathered the necessary supplies, and set off. I first stepped over a fence and then wormed my way over and under a string of cables near the ground. Hiking along the east side of a fence that was a rough cattle trail of sorts in places, I assessed my surroundings. To the north, along the river bottomlands, corn was growing, but here it seemed a world away -- very dry, some grasses, sage, and other shrubs, not irrigated. I felt like Moses amid the locusts, while walking through a seemingly endless sea of grasshoppers. The fenceline ran north-south almost right on the 102nd Meridian. This was Kansas, but this portion was on the mountain time zone, and was very similar in climate and vegetation to eastern Colorado. In fact, the Colorado-Kansas line was supposed to be along the 102nd Meridian, but in fact, the state line runs about 5 km west of here. Still, considering the equipment and conditions that the early surveyors faced, they pinned the state line pretty close to 102 West. After 25 minutes and one more fence, I arrived at the confluence.
The confluence is on a small hill, on a 20-degree slope facing east, less than 3 meters west of the fenceline. The longest view was to the north, where Coolidge's grain elevators were clearly visible. The view to the south was one of my favorites on any confluence trip, with the fence marching toward the distant horizon. Under a blue sky with moderate (for Kansas) breezes, the temperature already stood at 83 F (28 C) in the middle of the morning. I spent only 10 minutes at the confluence site, departing after waiting for a grasshopper to land on my confluence sign for a photograph. I saw no people, few birds, and no animals except for a few distant cattle.
I had visited the 38th parallel numerous times, in California, Utah, Colorado, Illinois, and North Carolina. I had stood on the 102nd meridian a few times before, in Nebraska. Here in Kansas, just one degree north of here, my visit to 39 North 102 West completed all the Kansas first-time confluence visits back in 2002. In addition, the 102nd Meridian was also the boundary between UTM zones 13 and 14.
Not wanting to take exactly the same route back to the vehicle, this time I hiked along the west side of the fence, where I spotted a beautiful turtle, far from any water source that I could see. It dawned on me when I navigated the low cables once more that this was actually a telephone pole that had snapped and was lying on its side. I supposed that as long as it was functional, people saw no need to set it back upright. I arrived at the vehicle after 1 hour and 15 minutes. This would prove to be my longest hike of the day and the second most scenic confluence. Next, on to 38 North 101 West to try to visit my 3rd confluence of the day....