29-Jan-2007 -- As I was en route to teach GIS and GPS at Sinte Gleska University for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, a confluence visit seemed like the perfect way to begin the week. I had been eyeing this confluence for quite some time and it appeared to be an easy one to pick up. One never quite knows until one is near the site, but it indeed proved to be one of the easiest confluences I have ever visited. It also proved to be one of the most beautiful.
I left Denver, Colorado at 4:25am, and, owing to the Winter season, the skies were still dark when I reached Wyoming, northbound on Interstate Highway 25. I was beginning to think that I would have to wait to hike to the confluence until the sun came up. However, Wyoming is wonderfully large, and it required quite a bit of time to travel from the Wyoming border to Wheatland. The sun had just risen when I exited the highway. I traveled west on State Highway 34, north on Ferguson Road, and turned west on Reservoir Road. This area near Wheatland, as the name implies, is agricultural, with fields of wheat, alfalfa, and other crops occupying a wide valley in east-central Wyoming. These ranches are irrigated by the largest privately owned irrigation system in the country. Wheatland was incorporated in 1905 and is the county seat of Platte County. As the county name implies, the North Platte River comes out of the northwest and flows through the county towards Nebraska.
I parked on Ayers Road, facing south, and set off across a frozen field. One could clearly see the point where the unirrigated field ended and the curved line of the field from center irrigated from center pivot systems began. Stumps of corn from the previous autumn had been left, and one has to admire folks who are tough enough to make farming and ranching their livelihood. In less than 10 minutes, and without any fences to cross, I was standing on the confluence under numerous satellites. This made it a breeze to zero out the unit. Truly the skies are big in Wyoming.
The confluence lies on level ground in the northwest corner of the square mile section of field, planted in corn. One could clearly see the town of Wheatland to the northeast and the Laramie mountains to the west, lit up with the sunrise. The temperature was only 10 F (-12 C) under clear skies and moderate winds. I could see at least 4 farmhouses from the confluence. As my extremities were already starting to freeze, I only spent about 10 minutes at the site and 30 minutes in the area, including the hike in and out, making this one of the fastest of my confluence treks. I saw no people or animals during my hike.
I had been to 42 North Latitude in Nebraska, Illinois, and Connecticut. This was my 4th time to stand on 105 West Longitude, the meridian closest to my home meridian. I had been to 105 West in Colorado and New Mexico. This was my 3rd confluence in Wyoming. I was fortunate in that this confluence is in the more inhabited portion of Platte County. The whole county only has 8,807 people, most of whom live in the Wheatland area. The population density of the county is only 2 per square kilometer. In most areas of the county, I would be hiking for dozens of miles from the nearest road.
After breathing in some cold but clear Wyoming air, I drove east for one mile the way I had come in, but then north into Wheatland to explore the community. This was indeed the perfect way to begin the week of GIS and GIS training!