15-Jan-2007 -- As I was en route to co-teach a Geographic Information Systems course for Mining and Petroleum industry professionals at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colorado, a confluence visit seemed like the perfect way to begin the trip. I left snowbound Denver at 8am, and by 11:30am, I had exited Interstate Highway 70 at Rifle to follow Colorado State Highway 13 north. Immediately, the road became quite icy and I had to proceed with extreme caution. However, the sun was blazing over a clear blue sky, and the surroundings were quintessential Colorado beauty. This is Piceance Basin country, a land of mesas, buttes, and canyons. Under it all lies one of the world's largest reserves of natural gas and oil shale, and the area is booming with development. Fortunately, near the confluence site, things look just as they have for the past two generations. Let's hope it lasts.
Just before rounding the last curve into the town of Meeker, I turned west on Rio Blanco County Road 33. I overshot County Road 67 and doubled back, taking care not to get stuck in the snow. I proceeded south up a long slope, when suddenly, the plowed section of road ended with a fork to the left, uphill, and to the right, steeply downhill. The right fork looked too steep and hence I bore left. I realized it was a driveway but it was too late to turn back. After about 100 feet, the vehicle became mired in snow. I rocked back and forth to no avail. I opened the door and was dismayed to find that I was buried up to the bottom of the door in about 2 feet of winter wonderland. I needed to get to my workshop, and besides, I was blocking the driveway of whoever lived here. After what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only 5 minutes, I was able to move forward and reach the house about 600 feet ahead. The ranch house was patrolled by the three dogs described in the previous narrative, but I sent them my greetings, telling them I meant no harm. I knocked and there was nobody home. I was able to gingerly turn the vehicle around without becoming stuck again, and proceeded very cautiously back down the driveway to the plowed road. I parked after the cattle guard and decided to set out, with a distance of 1500 meters to the west southwest indicated on the GPS. After only a few feet, I slipped on the cattle guard and received a nasty bruise.
My trials were nothing like those experienced by other adventurers, confluence or otherwise, and therefore I counted my blessings. In all directions were postcard Colorado views, complete with snow, blue sky, and deer tracks. I hiked down the road, across a valley, to some ranch buildings. I crossed one fence and made a beeline for the confluence. It was fairly slow going in the deep snow, but I was heavily bundled against the cold. I crossed two gullies and one more fence; the snow becoming deeper as I approached the far line of hills. After nearly an hour, I was nearly up to my waist in the descent of the last gully, but soon after, wound steadily toward the confluence, as my tracks in the photo show.
I reached the confluence just after 2pm local time. The confluence lies on ground sloping about 5 degrees to the north-northeast. I saw no people during my entire trek. The view of the confluence is wonderful, with the greatest vista off to the north, toward a basin called Powell Park. The temperature was 10 F (-12 C). Toward the end of photographing the site, my feet started to freeze, and I made haste to depart. I had been to 40 North numerous times, in California, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. I had been to 108 West a few times as well, in Montana and here in Colorado, just 1 degree south of my present position.
My track back was clearly evident in the snow, and so I turned off my GPS receiver. It was a bit easier hiking back downhill. As I neared the outbuildings, I spotted a herd of about 8 deer. I took care this time crossing the cattle guard, reaching the vehicle at 3pm for a total hiking time of 2 hours, 15 minutes. I drove out the way I came in with no further incident, again taking extreme care not to become stuck in the snow. This was indeed a perfect way to begin the week of GIS and GPS training!