11-Apr-2011 -- As I was in the area for the annual Association of American Geographers conference, and as I had made a confluence pilgrimage every year since 2003 during the AAG conferences, and as our emphasis at the conference is always spatial analysis through geotechnologies, a confluence visit seemed like the perfect way to begin. Indeed, my visits during the AAG conference ranged from a foggy walk to the shipping canal near New Orleans, a few hikes in agricultural fields in Illinois and Indiana, seeing the Point Reyes National Seashore for the first time, bicycling to an apartment complex in Maryland, and driving on the playa in Nevada en route to the confluence on the Nevada-California border. These encompassed a wide variety of landscapes, ecoregions, and climates, and thus captured the essence of geography.
Thus, today, after I flew to Seattle and took the light rail into downtown, I rented a car and was soon heading north on Interstate Highway 5. I considered taking in the confluence near Olympia as well, but I had a feeling that one would be all that I had time for. In the end, I was right; after this confluence, the time was nigh for me to go to the conference site and get my bearings on the rooms in which I would be teaching. The day was not steady rain, which boded well for a visit, although it was a bit gloomy. At Everett, I exited the highway and drove east along US Highway 2, the northernmost east-west national highway in the lower 48 US states. In fact, this visit, if successful, would be my confluence farthest to the northwest of any confluence points I have visited. I continued due east after US 2 left me to Machias, a pleasant community nestled among the hills and river valley. I continued up Happy Hollow and OK Mill Road, passing a rail-to-trail that I made note of that I would like to visit someday. I turned left up the steep grade on Price Road, and then right on the lane that was 171st Ave Northeast. I parked a few hundred meters down this road, gathered supplies, donned my raincoat, and set out.
After a short walk, I was in confluence centered heaven. The confluence lies just off a driveway, in some heavy underbrush. The ground was level here but this was a very hilly area, in general. I saw birds but no animals. The longest view is to the west down the driveway. The trees obscure most of the other views, which is fitting for this marine west coast biome. I was very thankful that I was able to visit this confluence. For years, my northwest USA map was devoid of confluence points, and now I had three in this area, two in Washington and one in Oregon. I had stood on 48 North only once previously, in a boat on Devils Lake North Dakota at 48 North 99 West, eight years ago. I had stood on 122 West a few times before, once in southern Washington and a few times in California. A light rain was falling now, and the temperature was a pleasant 58 F. I made a few movies about the AAG conference once back on the road, and in the dense Washington-sized evergreens. On the road back to the west, a sign on the grocery store read "nightcrawlers for sale." This was indeed the Pacific Northwest! A magnificent place, and a magnificent way to begin the week of the AAG geography conference. In the end, 7,400 geographers would gather here to present over 4,000 papers about our changing and wonderful planet.