14-Jan-2001 -- I took advantage of a long-planned weekend
in Roanoke to attempt the western-most confluence in Virginia. For those who may not be
aware of some of the trivial facts about Virginia, it stretches out quite a bit farther west than
most people realize, and this longitude is actually west of both Cleveland, Ohio, and
Charleston, West Virginia.
Starting in the morning from Christiansburg, Street Atlas sent us down Interstate 81
almost to Abingdon, then north along Route 80, which crossed Clinch Mountain. I could
see that this road would be curvy, but I had no idea just how curvy! I spent a good deal
of my childhood on mountain roads in Virginia and West Virginia, but this was a new
experience. Signs prohibited trucks longer than 35 feet from using this road. Even that
would have been a stretch!
After deep icy valleys where "the sun don't shine," dozens of hairpin turns,
and some incredible snow covered mountain scenery, we emerged on the other side in the
small town of Honaker, Virginia.
Here we switched over to the topo map printout obtained from the link on the Confluence
Project web site, and proceeded through the town to Route 645.
From the topo map, I had suspected that this confluence was located in someone's
"back yard" as there was a building shown along the road directly in line to
the confluence. We drove by to assess the area. It is actually quite a bit more populated
than the topo map shows, with a couple dozen houses spread along Routes 645 and 651
in the general area. The one building between the road and the confluence was an
abandoned farm house, and my hunch was correct: the path to the confluence was
through the "back 40" behind this farm house, complete with a herd of cows
to keep guard!
The good news was there weren't any "No Trespassing" signs. The bad
news was that even though there weren't any signs, there was a locked gate, and I wasn't
really enthusiastic about risking a confrontation with some mean-spirited bull that might be
wandering around the cow pasture!
We needed more information.
On the second try, we found someone at home. A grandfatherly type gentleman named
"Mr. Musick" who lives just down Route 651 to the north of the confluence. He was
outside, dumping ashes from his coal stove in the garden. I chatted with him for several
minutes, opting for the "scavenger hunt" analogy. He told me about the owners,
local boys, who were very nice people. They also owned a local funeral home. He thought
certainly they would have no objections to us taking a short walk on the land. And he also
assured me that there were no dangerous cattle among the herd.
So we parked the car in the driveway to the farm house, climbed the gate and set off across
the field about 2/10 of a mile from the confluence. [Picture 2] We were careful to avoid
disturbing the cattle and to avoid stepping in cow pies along the way. We attracted a little
bit of attention, as I suppose the cows thought we had brought dinner! [Picture 3]
The topo map shows the confluence to be about half way up the rather steep hill at the
back of the pasture. In fact, my short talk with Mr. Musick was very enlightening, as he provided
the name "Tom's Stump Knob" for the location of the confluence. This name
somehow didn't make it on any of the maps I had, and unfortunately, Mr. Musick didn't know
who Tom was or how he may have lost a limb.
We covered the flat open part rather quickly, but then found the knob to be quite a bit
steeper than it looked! As with prior confluence hunts, the final few feet are the hardest,
as you circle around, waiting for the readings to settle out to all zeros. I can say that when
searching on the side of a steep hill, this can be rather irritating to discover you have climbed
higher than you had to!
We finally found the spot, [Picture 4] and set about to take pictures.
Here are Megan and myself standing on the confluence with the view to the east [Picture 5].
Another interesting discovery made on this trip was that when you are taking a picture of yourself
from 12 feet away, on the side of a steep hill with slippery leaves and dead trees all over the
ground, a ten second delay on the camera self-timer is barely enough time to get yourself into
the picture, and in fact, it may turn out looking like you are about to fall over! And rest assured,
this was indeed the case.
That done, I snapped a lovely view to the north [Picture 1] with Mr. Musick's house just barely
visible in the very center of the picture, and a last view to the west [Picture 6].
I would have taken a picture to the south, but trust me, it was a rather boring, close-up view
of leaves on the side of the hill.
So we packed up the gear, and sneaked out among the cattle and their pies, and made
our way back to civilization. Another confluence under the belt!