23-Nov-2013 -- After spending a week in Texas, visiting two Texas A&M University campuses for GIS Day teaching and meetings, today was my last day in the state. I had planned to camp in a state park on the evening before, but windy and sleeting conditions made me rethink that plan. I therefore took refuge at the Budget Inn in Mt Pleasant, Texas. At 6:00am, while it was still dark, I set out, hoping to reach 33 North 95 West on my way back to the Austin airport. In fact, since the region was in the midst of a multi-day storm, the dawn did not actually break, but the sky gradually became a leaden gray. The wind was blowing but as I drove south toward the railroad track on the road to the east of the confluence point, my spirits lifted because it was not pouring rain, as it had been the day before during my trek to the point one degree north of here. Perhaps I could visit this point successfully and be dry in the process.
I drove south to Pittsburg as the sky lightened a bit, driving around the town on its northeastern side on State Highway 179 and then south to an east-west highway. I continued south on Road 3102. My plan was to park near the railroad tracks and walk west along them to a point south of the confluence, then walk north to the confluence, and return the way I came. It would have been much shorter to travel to one of the houses north of the confluence, but I didn't want to disturb any landowners at this early hour. I parked, gathered supplies, and set out. As I walked south, and then walked west along the railroad, I couldn't help but think of the "Train!" scene in the movie Stand By Me. No trains passed, however, and I took care not to slip on the boards or embankment. The rain was falling lightly but was not too much of a problem, and the temperature was warmer than had been predicted, at least 44 F (6.6 degrees C). The sky, however, remained dark and gray. I walked until I reached the 95th Meridian, all the while eyeing the dense vegetation on either side of the tracks. I also heard dogs barking and hoped I would not encounter one. I wondered how I would penetrate such dense foliage. Knowing the types of foliage in Texas, it would not be easy.
At a few paces west of 95 West, there was nothing left to be done but plunge into the thorns and brambles. At this point, I realized why I very seldom invite anyone to accompany me on these treks. It took a good 10 minutes to progress the first 5 meters, as it was, true to my expectation, a thorny, dense jumble of vines, trees, shrubs, and even a large tree that had fallen over. Plus, there was the remains of a barbed wire fence, with strands winding every which way. Fortunately, there were no living animal or reptile creatures. The ten minutes seemed longer but eventually I made my way to the north, into a small clearing, where I hoped the confluence to be. Alas, the confluence was not here, but before plunging into the next thicket of trees and thorns, I veered to the west, and walked along the barbed wire fence marking the property line. It was still slow going but the small clearance for the fence gave some relief. There were plenty of very tough rope-like vines that tripped me up, however. Once through the vegetation, I emerged at the wide clearing and saw how things had changed from the latest satellite image and the previous visits. To the north in the distance was a large and newish looking home. I walked northeast and found the confluence in the clearing, but not before noting that I was walking through water, as the rain had been collecting here in this low spot.
I found the confluence, therefore, on flat ground. I was standing on saturated mid-length grass that in about 3 inches of water. It was raining and the temperature was about 44 F (6.6 C), not as cold as it had been the evening before, but under threatening skies. Indeed, it would begin pouring later that morning on my way to Austin. I had only been to 95 West a few times, in Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, and in Oklahoma. I had been to many Texas points south and west of here; indeed, this past March, I had a long lonely walk to the point just one degree west of here in a wildlife refuge. I had also visited 33 North many times, from California on the west to Georgia on the east. I had a very tidy sum of confluence points in Texas now, between 15 and 20; I have lost count as I have been doing these strange treks for 12 years.
After only 10 minutes or so due to the drizzle, and due to my flight out of the state later today, I exited the way I had arrived. Fortunately leaving the thorns was not as difficult as it had been to enter them, for some reason; perhaps I found a slightly better path. Still, I took great care and emerged with only a few scratches. I found the remains of an armadillo and the remains of what looked to be an enormous centipede along the railroad tracks this time. I made it back to the road and the vehicle without incident; the total hike time came to slightly over an hour.
I marveled that the last successful visit here was back in 2001. It was not easy but certainly not the most difficult of the treks I had made. I would like to return when the weather was nicer. But then again, this one has thorns... I now made haste to points southwest: Baylor University and then on to Austin. This trip was wonderful, taking me to towns I had not visited before, such as Winnsboro, Minneola, and Athens. As I mentioned, the rain poured down, but I was glad to have spent a little more time in the field on my last trip to Texas for the year. Get out there and explore the World!