12-Jun-2008 -- As I had been teaching GIS and GPS at Mid-Plains Community College in North Platte, a confluence visit seemed an appropriate capstone to finish this event. It was about this time in 2007 when I finally answered my longstanding question about how many confluences I could visit in one day. The answer totaled 7. Ever since, I had planned a similar excursion for 2008, but my summer schedule did not allow for it this year. Therefore, I had to settle for gathering a few points while driving to and from Nebrakska for the GIS/GPS institute.
I left North Platte at 6:30am, and by 9:00am, I had visited 40 North 100 West. I had a wonderful time driving from 40-100 to 40-101, keeping my eye out for a drier landscape now that I was west of the traditional moist-semiarid "boundary" at 100 West. Lacking a detailed map, I drove the landscape like a ship captain, tacking to the west wherever the roads would permit. I was only able to drive on the road closest to 40 North for about 5 miles, then was forced to drive north to Nebraska State Highway 89. The reason is that agribusiness and farm consolidation has forced the closure of many of the section line roads. I passed through the pleasant communities of Wilsonville, Lebanon, and Danbury before the road ended at US Highway 83. Here I was forced to make a decision. Should I take the easy way north to McCook, west on Highway 34, and South on Highway 25, or should I continue in my "ship captain" fashion?
Adventure won out, and I kept to the section-line roads. Just west of 83, I had my first sense that the landscape was changing. Some of the section line roads were forced by steep terrain to run diagonally, and it was in this manner that I zigzagged to Highway 17. I crossed 17 and continued in the same manner. The terrain flattened out a bit but I had to conclude that it was noticeably drier than 40 North 100 West, and also drier than 40 North 99 West, which I had visited last summer. I drove due south on a section line road, made my only jog to the east of the entire day, turned south into Kansas, and parked at the side of the road.
The sun was blazing under a cloudless sky as I walked back north along the road with GPS, camera, and sign in hand. I found the confluence very close to the roadcut, which was nearly 3 meters high, composed of fine-grained sediment. The confluence therefore lies on the east shoulder of the north-south road, about 50 meters south of the T intersection, which is the Kansas-Nebraska line. The confluence therefore sits in extreme northern Kansas. Every confluence is special, but I the ones along political boundaries have an added air of uniqueness. The time was near noon, with the temperature hovering over 40 C (over 100 F) but the view, especially to the south, was magnificent. I don't understand people who say that the Great Plains are boring. It was an amazing thing to think of the plains stretching for over a thousand kilometers from Texas into Saskatchewan. I had a bit of difficulty balancing my equipment in the wind, and ended up spending over 40 minutes at the site. I now have a string of visits along 40 North Latitude, all the way from 99 West on the Kansas-Nebraska border to 109 West on the Colorado-Utah border. This does include one attempted visit which I hoped to turn into a success someday, at 107 West. I have also stood on 40 North in Ohio, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. I have stood on the longitude line of 101 West several times, in Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota. In fact, my visit to 46 North 101 West north of here, in North Dakota, was one of the coldest visits I have ever experienced. What a difference the season makes, because now I was indeed quite hot.
I walked back to the vehicle and made certain I had truly "left no trace". I saw no animals, people, or birds on this visit. I suppose it was a bit lonely out there, but I couldn't help but think of the wagon trains and Native Americans that have trekked across this ground before me. I drove back into Nebraska for a mile and then turned around, thinking that I could see some different terrain if I returned to Colorado via Kansas. I made a U-turn and drove past the confluence point en route to US 36 Westbound. It seemed odd to drive through the confluence without stopping, but there was a special sense here at the site. I could barely see my own footprints now given the wind. I stopped for a wonderful local fast food lunch in St Francis Kansas. This visit was the perfect capstone to the GIS/GPS institute, and, sadly, would conclude my Great Plains visits for the year.