18-Mar-2008 -- As we were in New Orleans for the annual conference of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, speaking with the 10,000 educators who were attending about spatial thinking, GIS, and GPS, we wanted to practice what we preach, namely, to get out onto the landscape. Hence, a confluence visit seemed like the perfect capstone for the conference. In addition, Barbaree and I needed to discuss curriculum development and other plans for upcoming GIS and GPS training events for educators. Rather than holing ourselves up in the convention center, we thought it infinitely more fun to conduct our meeting out in the field. After reviewing all of the confluence points in the area, we decided that the easiest, though certainly not the closest, would be to visit 31 North 89 West in a national forest in southern Mississippi. Departing the convention center around 8am, we navigated through New Orleans, stopping for a hike on the levee to 30 North 90 West. By 10:30am, we were leaving the area by the enormous causeway to the northeast. This was another reminder that New Orleans is surrounded almost entirely by water, and I thought to myself that the causeway was not a place one would like to find oneself in the event of a hurricane. Highway construction crews were out laying giant pillars for an additional set of lanes across the water. Would these lanes be useful during the next evacuation?
We drove north on Interstate 59, stopping at the Mississippi state line's rest area. It was the first rest area I had seen with free soft drinks. What a great state! Before Barbaree took a few nerdy pictures of me next to the state line sign, she explained to the pleasant lady there our confluence mission. Afterward, we noticed many trees snapped off from past hurricanes while driving north, before turning east on State Highway 49. We drove through forests and meadows to the town of Wiggins, turning north on Highway 29 near a restaurant advertising fried green tomatoes. After a quiet journey through the trees, which seemed quite still on this cloudy day, we turned south on Patterson Road. We were surprised to find the unimproved state of the roadway—not one that would be wise to travel during or after a rainstorm. After a few minutes, we slowly passed the Patterson house and swimming pool, from which the road was named, across the street from a trailer home. These were the closest structures to the confluence. Further south, at Forest Service 388B Road, we turned east, overshot the confluence, parked, and hiked back a hundred meters or so.
If anyone could have looked down on us from above for the next 15 minutes, they doubtless would have been amused. They would have seen two people who seemed rather sensible at first glance, but who repeatedly tried to do something that looked remarkably like hugging a holly tree. Anyone who has been near a holly tree knows how thorny they are, and we would repeatedly get quite close to zeroing out our respective GPS units, when we would get poked or lose a few satellites due to the heavy timber cover, back up, and try again. We eventually got both of our receivers to zero out, and determined that the confluence was indeed in the holly tree just one meter northeast of the northern edge of the forest road. Considering the vegetated terrain we were in and the difficulty of hiking in it, it was extremely good fortune that we found the confluence so close to the road, making it one of the easiest confluences that either of us had visited.
I had been to 31 North twice before, in Alabama, and also twice before to 89 West, in Illinois. The temperature was 70 F (21 C) under cloudy skies and the ground cover was comprised of sandy soil, trees, grasses, and bushes. I doubt the place looks that much different in the winter than in the summer. The confluence lies on flat ground. We saw no animals, a few birds, and no people. Nobody passed us on the road, which was a good thing, since we were parked right in he middle of it, having nowhere to pull over. We spent nearly a half hour at the site, in large part due to our persistence in hugging the holly tree. I hated to leave; it was a peaceful place. Sighing, we drove out the way we came in. On our way out of the region, I took a photograph of an interesting abode that Barbaree had spotted on the way in. Here, someone had made a home by placing a camper shell on stilts and attaching a back porch. It’s a place that one wouldn't want to seek refuge in during a hurricane, but it seemed to suit the folks there and actually looked sort of cozy. An hour later, we held the remainder of our meeting at Barbaree’s office, where we uploaded our track using her new software. I have posted the image of this track on our 30 North 90 West visit.
Barbaree drove me to the New Orleans airport across a bridge I have always wanted to see—the longest bridge in the world—the one that crosses Lake Ponchartrain. We had accomplished quite a bit of GIS planning during the day, and had also managed to experience a sample of Gulf Coast terrain, climate, and vegetation. Geography at its best.