12-May-2001 -- Well, today is
the big fishing opener in Minnesota, and
since I'm unlucky enough not to own a boat, I decided to
participate in the outdoor spirit of the day anyway and
find a confluence. I've had my eye on 48°N 90°W for the past
couple of months. It's located the the northeastern corner
of Minnesota, in the Grand Portage State Forest. There are
two roads that come within a mile or so of the spot, but
the entire area is heavily forested and a long ways from the
It was about a 5-hour drive from my house to get near
the area. Once I got there, I scouted both of the nearby
roads to see which would yield the easiest approach
(easy being a relative term).
I chose the road that runs east-west on the south side of Otter
Lake, which put the confluence about 3/4 of a mile north of
where I parked. I just needed to follow the east edge of the lake
and strike north when I left the lake behind.
The main reason I chose the southward approach was the
prominent state forest sign saying "Trail" and leading north.
I had no guarantee the trail would lead me all the way, of
course, but the wise confluence hunter will keep bushwhacking
to a minimum.
I followed the trail about halfway to the confluence before it veered
off to the east. Although I couldn't see due to the thick
tree cover, the trail probably turned off close to the
northeastern edge of lake. The forest to the north was thick
with undergrowth and toppled, rotting pine trees, and... in
I went. The going was very slow; there were boulders mixed in
with the fallen trees, and I began a habit of walking on
the fallen tree trunks themselves in order to keep my
progress from being painfully slow. After about a fifth of
a mile I noticed an apparent thinning in the tree cover
ahead of me. From looking at the topo map, I knew I was
reaching the edge of an east-west ridge, rather than an
open area (which, in that terrain, means swamp.)
to the map, the slope drops about 200 vertical feet in
a tenth of a mile! I maneuvered down a ravine that was a little
more open than the rest of the area, but found this left
me east of the confluence. Rather than backtracking, I
decided to go partway down the slope and then follow it west.
The ground here was even more treacherous - there were many
more boulders, and little mossy hillocks that were not solid,
but hollow inside. I had to proceed very slowly to avoid a carelessly placed
step and a potential ankle injury. I finally reached the
confluence spot after descending (in my estimate) about
80-100 vertical feet. Not surprisingly, there was nothing to
distinguish it from the rest of the forest, so I chose a
prominently splintered tree nearby as the "confluence marker",
and took a photo of it.
The trip back wasn't much different. The forest was so
thick that I had to bushwhack to go anywhere, so I decided
to make use of the old adage about a straight line, and
return simply by following my GPS arrow. This path led me
almost straight up the slope, but that was possible because
all the boulders provided somewhat horizontal surfaces,
like steps on a staircase. After I reached the top of the
ridge, though, I still had another .15 mile or so through
fallen trees until I hit the trail. Walking back to the car
was quite a relief!
Although this was only my second confluence, I've spent
plenty of time doing both on and off-trail hiking. I can
definitely say that this excursion was challenging, but
a lot of fun at the same time. I'm looking forward to more
contributions to this site!