18-Nov-2017 -- As I was in the state of Florida wrapping up a series of workshops at two universities and one school, and as the workshops are focused on geo-technologies including GPS, GIS, remote sensing, and web mapping, a confluence visit seemed like the perfect capstone. I had been thinking when I visited 29 North 82 West the other day at the beginning of my trip that I had visited all of the easy confluences in Central Florida. But then when I was planning my route back from Miami to Orlando, I noticed that this one also seemed rather easy and doable . . . But would I have enough time on the way to the airport to visit it? It would be tight but I reasoned: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
And so, fresh from my first trip to The Everglades, and my first view of Lake Okeechobee about 45 minutes before, as well as the wonderfully named Yeehaw Junction, keeping an eye on the clock so I would not miss my flight, I drove north-northwest along US Highway 441. It was a mid-afternoon in mid-November. This part of Florida had not yet been completely paved and manicured; it largely, except for the highway, looked as though it could have been the year 1900, with swamps, clearings, and woodlands on both sides of the road. At Fontana Lane I stopped, gathered supplies and landowner letter, and set off down the lane to the east, on foot. This single lane travels in a straight line directly east from the highway, through some truly wild looking wetlands, small lakes, woods, and meadows. I fortunately saw no large creatures, and the weather could not have been more magnificent, with sun filtering through the leaves and the temperature about 67 degrees F. After 25 minutes, I reached the driveway leading north and marveled at the way the entire driveway as covered with perfectly mowed grass.
I approached the house and found the owner power-washing the windows surrounding her swimming pool. Knowing she couldn't hear my gentle calling given the equipment noise, I stood there awhile and waved in a friendly way. She stopped and I explained my mission; I was very grateful when she said I could go ahead and find the spot. I thought at first that it would be directly behind the pool to the east, but had to wander into the outbuildings. I then thought the point would be in the trees to the northwest, and after some hair-raising encounters with some massive spiders there, I was thankful that the point eventually ended up, at least on this day, just at the edge of the trees just about on top of a device I would later find out from the landowner that holds deer as they are butchered.
The confluence thus stands on level ground. Out of respect for the homeowner, I did not include any photographs of the house, although from the confluence point, the house is not really visible. I have stood on 28 North a few times in the past, from Texas on the west to this point and also 28 North 82 West here in Florida. I have stood on 81 West only once before - on a boat dock in Georgia on the north, to this point on the south. I have visited quite a few confluence points in Florida by now--about 5--all over the past 3 years or so, but admittedly they've all been the easy ones. I salute my colleagues for doing the more difficult ones, multi-hour treks in thorns and swamps and lakes, encountering pythons, insects, and alligators. Again, more power to them and I applaud their efforts! When I think about the terrain surrounding 28 North 81 West, it was indeed amazing that this one is so easy, and it is entirely due to human impact and settlement. Otherwise, 100 years ago or even less, this point would surely have been in a very difficult to reach wetland. Moreover, at this time of year, this landscape was mercifully free of insects; I did not even see a single mosquito.
As I was in a fair hurry, I was on the spot less than 10 minutes. I walked back to the homeowner, showed her my GPS and told her I was successful. After wishing her a good day and thanking her, I walked briskly back out the driveway and along the lane back to the vehicle, gazing at the terrain on this, my last day in Florida. The total hike and trip time came to about 80 minutes. This week had been a great trip to the University of Central Florida, the University of Miami, and one high school, i-Tech in Miami, all for the promotion and support of GIS for enhancing teaching and learning, citizen science, research, and facilities management. I wasted no time getting to the airport, reaching my gate with about 35 minutes to spare. It was an excellent way to end my trip to Florida. Get out there onto the landscape!