13-Oct-2012 -- As I was in the region for the 35th Annual Applied Geography conference, getting out into the field en route to the MSP (Minneapolis St Paul) airport seemed like the perfect captstone to the conference in downtown Minneapolis. Yes, I realize that this is ever so slightly out of the way from downtown Minneapolis to the MSP airport, but to those of us who preach regularly about the importance of fieldwork, it was time to practice what I had been speaking about at the Applied Geography Conference.
And so, by late morning, I was traveling east on Interstate Highway 94, skirting the north side of Eau Claire on Highway 29. The day was misty, turning to rain, and I was half hoping to stay dry during my upoming walk to the confluence point. But I had my raincoat and with the midwest having been so dry this year, I was certain that the rain would be welcomed and much needed here. I passed Chippewa Falls, Cadott, and Boyd, slowing past Boyd to turn north on County Highway G. At 110th Avenue, which was actually a dirt road, I turned west. As I neared 91 West longitude, a perfect Wisconsin scene was before me: A herd of cattle roamed in the middle and on both sides of the road, herded by a teenager and a man on two all-terrain vehicles. I got out of the vehicle and told them why I was there. I asked if the homeowner to the south of the road was at home, and they said if her vehicle was there, then yes. I thanked them and walked into the driveway and up to the door.
After a bit, the homeowner came to the door. I explained my mission and she granted me permission. Once I have permission, I don't like to tarry, in case the homeowner changed his or her mind. I struck out to the southwest, past some outbuildings, along a trail that soon petered out. I was quickly in some very tall plants. There were also many low plants. I had not thought of poison ivy. I was wearing my raincoat. The tall plants were about chest high. After a few hundred meters, these plants gave way to a marsh. Now I was in reeds taller than my head, and it was challenging to keep my footing. It was interesting. Fortunately, the ground underneath seemed solid and not too wet. I reached the confluence and after a bit of stepping gingerly to keep my footing, I was able to photograph the GPS receiver. It was about 45 F under a light rain. The clearest view was to the southwest, to the open field there, and the most closed view was to the woods to the east. I was glad that the confluence was not in these woods as the weather and the poor reception would have probably meant that the zero-zero point would not have been possible or able to be photographed. It was amazing that with a point as easy as this, that it had not been visited in so long. The only challenge was the marsh. In the snows of December 2000 was the one and only visit, until now. I was glad to have the chance of updating the site. This was my third confluence in Wisconsin. I saw no people on my trek, few birds, and no animals. It was quite gloomy for mid-morning but a beautiful spot.
After filming at the site, I exited a different way, crossing to the west to get firmer footing in the plowed field there. The view was sweeping to the west, but the low clouds prevented seeing more than a mile or two. I walked north along the field's edge, all the way to the road. The barbed wire fence here was lying horizontally and presented no difficulty. Thus, the confluence turned out to be possible without bothering the homeowner, by walking south along the field edge to the marsh. Still, I was glad I had permission. Now I walked east toward my vehicle. As I walked east on the road past the house upon which I had called, another homeowner came out, inquiring what I was doing. After I gave him my explanation, I could sense that he was understandably wary. I could be anyone, not merely a curious geographer. I thanked him after I gave my explanation and departed.
As I left the area, I paused to take photographs on the north-south road (Highway G) of the lovely hay bales and farm buildings in the October rain. I ended my time in Wisconsin with a wonderful hike about 15 miles west at Lake Wissota State Park, which I found on the way back to the Minneapolis airport. It was one of those rare moments of a spur-of-the-moment decision when I had time to get out into the field. The trails I took included views of the lake, the forest, and the prairie. I enjoyed this even more than the confluence treks. As I neared the vehicle after the hike, the rain really started coming down harder. Perfect timing. Perfect morning!