21-Apr-2007 -- Imagine the largest gathering of geographers ever assembled in one place, over 6,000, and not one of them visiting a confluence. The annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers had been taking place all week in San Francisco, and, determined to not let this occasion pass by without a confluence visit, I left San Francisco on the last day of the conference at 3:25am, picking up a rental car at the San Francisco International Airport. I visited 38 North 123 West as the sun rose, and debated whether to make a dash 1 degree north. Having never been to the Napa Valley area, I decided at least to get close to the spot. It was Earth Day, after all, and I considered it my duty to see the landscape.
I left Point Reyes and drove north on the coast highway, California Highway 1. I took some additional photographs for my Earthcache along the San Andreas Fault, then cut over to US Highway 101 at Santa Rosa. Once on the 101, I began to think I'd have to turn around in order not to miss my flight, as the traffic was heavy. However, I pressed on in the hopes that I would have confluence victory. At Hopland, I struck east along California Highway 175 through some beautiful vineyards. The sky, which had been darkening, now turned to rain, but fortunately, I did have my raincoat with me.
I crested the top of the pass, crossed the county line, and began to descend. I knew right away that I had overshot, but when I drove back to study the summit, all I saw in the mist was a private driveway. I retraced my route to the west a bit and saw the one lane road to the north. The sign marking the road was completely gone, but it had to be the correct lane. With the rain falling, I was not certain how far I would be able to drive up the road, and I did not want to get stuck in the rental car with my flight out of San Francisco a few hours away. I pressed onward, though, and came within a few hundred meters of the confluence, when I stopped. Another road led toward the summit of one of the area's high hills, but it was a bit too muddy and steep for a vehicle. I wrapped the camera underneath my raincoat and set out on a hike. I dislike driving to any confluence, preferring a bit of a hike for a challenge.
I hiked up the road and turned left on another trail to the summit, which was within 80 meters of the confluence. I slipped on the mud a bit and got into some thorny bushes but arrived at the confluence a few minutes later. The confluence lies on a slope of 15 degrees to the north, about 150 meters from the summit of one of the hills. A combination of coastal vegetation and bare ground was below me with misty evergreens and deciduous trees all around me. The visibility was poor and it would be a delight to return on a sunny day for the view. The temperature was a cool 11 degrees C (52 F) with moderate winds and steady rain in midafternoon. I saw no birds or animals and it was a rather lonely spot.
This was my second time to stand on the 123rd Meridian, having visited 38 North 123 West earlier that same day. I have been to the 39th Parallel more than any other parallel, perhaps 20 times, in such places as Maryland, Virginia, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, and in California. This was my 6th confluence in central California. It was amazing that this is such an easy confluence, because the road network is not that dense in this area, and the confluence could easily be hours from the nearest roadway.
Due to the rain and my impending flight, I only spent 10 minutes at the site. I hurriedly took the movie and photographs, having already damaged one camera in the rain at a confluence in Minnesota a few years back. I moved quickly back down the trail to the rental vehicle and drove cautiously back down to the highway, as it was becoming quite muddy. I drove east and then south, arriving in San Francisco in plenty of time for my flight. Truly a magnificent way to end my week of geography and geotechnologies in California!