11-Nov-2005 -- I had been in Mobile, Alabama, all week for the National Association for Interpretation (NAI) conference. As over 650 people at the conference were interpreters of flora, fauna, climate, landforms, human-environment interaction, archaeology, and other subjects in state and national parks, museums, and elsewhere, and as I would the next day co-teach a GPS-topographic mapping workshop with my USGS colleague, a confluence trek seemed particularly appropriate.
I left Mobile at 7:45 am on a bright autumn morning, driving east into Florida on Interstate Highway 10 to Milton. I had not realized how much the pine forests would completely dominate the terrain. Much to my dismay, I could not locate any of the maps or aerial photographs I had printed, but I thought I needed to drive north on Florida State Highway 191 until I was once again in Alabama. I then cut back west along a county road to Paradise Lane. A house at the end of the lane was 1.5 km northeast of the confluence, which I thought I could return to if needed. I drove to Dixonville and east down a road along the Alabama-Florida state line, parked, and walked up to two fellows sitting in chairs on the driveway.
Bo, Richard, and I had a pleasant chat about surveying, mapping, and other topics. Richard wore an Alabama Crimson Tide shirt and a New York Yankees cap. He asked me if I was a Colorado Buffaloes fan after I told him where I was from. After I remarked what a beautiful area this part of Florida and Alabama is, Richard replied with a grin that it was indeed a peaceful spot, "except for neighbors like Bo." Richard was a pea farmer here, and told me that I could follow Bo to his home and continue down the road to a hunting ground. This might bring me closer to the confluence. If that failed, I could come back here and walk the 3.3 km down his road along the state line. I would have loved to sit there for awhile longer and chat, but I thanked them kindly and followed Bo to his house, and then alone I plunged into the forest.
I drove until I realized that I was too far southeast, and doubled back to Road C1, and north for a few hundred meters to the junction of C1 and C2. The roads continued on in Four-Wheel Drive fashion, and therefore I parked and began my hike with the GPS reading 2.3 km to the confluence. One road led to the northeast, which I hiked for a few hundred meters, but it started curving too much to the east. My goal was to follow these roads as much as possible, because the thick forest growth would make for a very slow journey. Therefore, I hiked back to the vehicle and then down the road to the northwest. It too started bending too far off of true north, until I found "Road C3", which was becoming more like a trail. Road C3 led nearly due north, and I hiked merrily along until, with 1.2 km to go, C3 abruptly ended. I found a faint trail which was completely obscured in places by thick bushes and ringed by some magnificent spiders. It was slow going until the trail led up a low rise, and I could see a wide swath cut through the trees ahead. Richard had said that this was some of the highest elevations in Florida, and he was right, I verified later. The GPS was reading over 80 meters, a veritable mountain in this part of the country.
I emerged onto the swath at a structure that was damaged by one of the hurricanes that sweep so freqently through this part of the world. The swath was about 30 meters wide, cut right along the Alabama-Florida border. For a geographer, hiking right along a state line was a great thrill, and I had it all to myself, without another person in sight. Hence the photograph "confluence bliss." At regular intervals along the swath were small wooden lookout stations perched atop ladders about 5 meters high. I could not determine the purpose of these, except, perhaps, as wildlife lookout towers. I hiked until I was due north of the confluence, at which time it was a quick dash into the underbrush 40 meters south.
Therefore, this confluence is actually in Florida, not Alabama. This part of the forest was either logged or blown down in a hurricane, for the hectare in which I was standing was covered with low shrubs and thorns. I spent 20 minutes at the site in the bright sunshine and noted that a large stump lies just 5 meters northeast of the confluence. The temperature was 27 C (80 F) under clear skies and moderate breeze. Trees of pines, pecans, oaks, and magnolia live in this area, but here at the confluence, pines dominated.
This was my first visit to 31 North Latitude. I had visited 87 West only once before, last month, in northern Alabama. This is one of the most peaceful confluences I have ever visited. I knew there were a few houses less than 2 km to the north, but I heard no people or vehicles. To the south lay the hunting grounds, and all around me, pine forest. Every confluence is special, but especailly ones like this one that give a particular feeling. Plus, the added bonus here was the long path along a political boundary.
I hiked out exactly the way I had come in. I used the GPS to guide me, although I would have been fine just by following the trail. I arrived at the vehicle about 100 minutes after I had left it. Then, I drove west, stopping to photograph and touch one of the nearby cotton fields. I then drove north into Alabama and into a bright afternoon.