28-Jun-2007 -- How many confluences could a person visit in a single day? I was on an intensive journey to find out. On my way to this confluence, from 38 North 101 West, I had originally intended to follow US Highway 50. However, upon closer examination of the map, I noticed that Kansas Highway 156 would bring me closer to the spot, and would most likely be less congested. Therefore, being on a mission with a tight time frame, I left US Highway 50 at Garden City, Kansas and set a course due east for the confluence.
Every confluence is special, but there is something numerically special about the 100th Meridian. In addition, there is a historical and environmental significance: 100 West is the historical "dividing line" between the humid east and the semiarid west in the USA. Did I see evidence of such a "dividing line?" Trees were still scarce here, and in fact, the confluence I had just left, at 101 West, would prove to be more "moist" than the one at 100 West. However, this was because 101 West was on irrigated farmland closer to the Arkansas River, while 100 West would be on a partly irrigated upland pastureland. It would not be until I reached 99 West that trees would become more abundant. Like other "lines", this was a gradual change, an "ecotone".
I had begun the day at 2:22am in Colorado, and had achieved only 2 confluences by 10am. I made up some time at 38 North 101 West, and hoped to make up more time here, as this promised to be close to a section line road. The sky was nearly clear, the day hot and windy by early afternoon. Highway 156 was almost as straight as an arrow, with little jogs to the north as I traveled east, a wonderful road with wide open vistas and no urban sprawl. I left Highway 156 at County Road 255, traveling due south on a gravel road through some hills and valleys before the road became flat again. On another gravel section line road, but still fine for a passenger car, I turned and drove due east. I was traveling just 20 meters north of the 38th parallel, and after a few miles, stopped on 100 West. After scooting under a barbed wire fence, in 5 minutes I was at the confluence.
The confluence lies on flat ground in the northern part of a field planted with grass. The temperature stood at 93 F (34 C), the skies fairly clear, but it was quite windy and a bit hazy. I saw no people during my confluence trek, no animals except for cows in the distant fields, and quite a few birds. A purple thistle grew a few centimeters from the confluence. It is so easy to visit that I marveled that nobody had logged a visit since 2001, and that I was only the 2nd visitor here.
Just north of the confluence and visible in the north view photograph was a particular artifact not unique to Kansas but probably more famous here than in other states: Limestone fence posts. In the distant past, much of present day Kansas was covered by a shallow sea. The sediments that were laid down in this sea eventually formed limestone. This layer of stone was used so extensively for fence posts in the region where trees were scarce that it became known as "fence post limestone" and the region, "land of the post rock."
I had been to the 38th parallel numerous times before, in California, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Illinois, and North Carolina. I had stood on the 100th Meridian West several times as well, here in Kansas, and in Texas, Nebraska, and South Dakota. One of my goals is eventually to make it to 40 North 100 West. I couldn't help but think of my last time on the 100th Meridian, this past February, at 41 North. My fingers were so cold I could barely operate the camera. Now in the hot sun and wind, I thought: What a difference a season makes!
I spent only 10 minutes at the confluence site, and as the total round trip time was only 20 minutes, I had made up some time in my Confluence Day. The dirt roads did slow me down, but I wanted to enjoy myself and not be in a race. I drove north a different way and found a wonderful pond that I hoped made a perfect swimming hole for the local kids. When I returned to Highway 156, I was surprised to find a large new suburban-looking home way out here. I turned east en route to the day's Confluence Number 5 at 38 North 99 West. It was already a memorable day, even if I didn't make it. What would the day's final confluence count be?