21-Dec-2008 -- I read about a recent adventure to a Bolivian volcano to find the highest degree confluence in the Western hemisphere in the June 2008 issue of Outside Magazine. That article sparked my interest and the thought of combining my first primary degree confluence visit with a geocaching adventure.
Matt and Scott's June 2000 visit included swamp slogging and mosquitoes. I thought their adventure was telling only part of the story of this site and I posted an event notice on the www.geocaching.com website (GC1JZ2N) for winter solstice 2008. Eleven hardy souls (Brian, Dave, Devin, Greg, Jessy, Leroy, Mike, Samantha, Tom, Tony, and Victoria) motored along the Parks Highway from Anchorage, Eagle River, and the Matanuska Valley and rendezvoused in the town of Willow. After doing a group search and find of a local geocache, we followed Matt and Scott's log notes and caravanned down the road toward the Gigglewood Lakeside Inn.
We were unsure whether the road would be open in winter and were delighted to find it had been recently plowed. The closest we could park was just shy of three tenths of a mile from the confluence. With laughter and anticipation and the need to keep moving to stay warm, we began our Solstice hike (snowshoe) in 11-degree below zero weather. We trekked through the leafless mixed forest. With Brian in the lead, we began to carefully pick our way across the mostly iced-over swamp below the beaver dam. With only forest between us and the confluence and 500 feet to go, we began to wonder if we had just passed the general location of Matt and Scott’s pictures.
Various group members began rotating through the point position and breaking trail, bringing us ever closer to our goal. In the final feet, we fanned out as everyone crisscrossed the area following their electronic guidance to the woodland spot that ten GPS systems (possibly with a greater level of accuracy than had been available in 2000) agreed was the confluence. The quiet solitude of the area in winter was now punctuated by animated shouts of success, the sounds of camera shutters clicking, and corks popping. This was the first time any of us had knowingly visited a degree confluence. Savoring the last hour of daylight on this shortest day of the year, we took a group picture, documentation pictures of the site and gps, and raised glasses in toast to the adventure of degree confluence hunting and the sport of geocaching that had brought us together. Soon it was time to follow our trail back to the warmth of our vehicles as the sun wended its way below the horizon.