26-Feb-2006 -- As I would be in the Corpus Christi area for the next few days for the purpose of GIS and GPS in education, a confluence adventure seemed like the perfect way to begin the trip. The next day I would meet with colleagues to advise Del Mar College on their program to integrate spatial analysis into the high school, community college, and university curricula. On a bright, clear Sunday in late February, I arrived at the Corpus Christi airport, and by 12:40pm, I and the rental car were heading west on Texas State Highway 44. This is the highway that would lead me all the way to the confluence.
Last year, Miguel Pavon and I were in the area for the same Del Mar GIS project, and were able to squeeze in a quick trip to a thorny 28 North 98 West. Therefore, today I made a beeline for the next available point, 28 North 99 West. This allowed me to explore South Texas towns I had never before seen: Alice, San Diego, and Freer.
I got off course a bit in Robstown, but used the opportunity to take some photographs of the Gulf Coastal Plain fields, distorted by magnificent mirages of the kind that I had never seen in my home state of Colorado. The tilled fields of the Coastal Plain gave way to gently rolling but harsh country. I had to admire the Native Americans, Spaniards, and Mexicans who lived here in the past, and the American settlers dragging wagons through the thorns, thick brush, and cactus, through the heat, with no water to be found. It was only February, but the temperature was already nearly 80 F (27 C). Hunting for this confluence any later in the season could be quite uncomfortable.
Freer is the closest town, about 30 miles (48 km) east of the confluence. In 1928, three years after its founding, one of the nation's largest oil reserves was discovered in Freer. The discovery of oil soon turned Freer into what Life magazine called "the last of the tough frontier oil towns." The Great Depression and the discovery of oil in East Texas in 1930 put an end to the first oil boom in Freer, but a second, larger boom followed a few years later. By 1933, Freer was the second-largest oilfield in the United States and had attracted a flood of settlers from Oklahoma, Kansas, and other midwestern states. Today, ranching and oil are still mainstays of the region, and over 3,000 people live in the community.
After photographing the rattlesnake mascot in Freer and an ominous sign indicating the distance to the next gas station just outside of town, I drove until I reached the Dipper Ranch gate. It was locked and posted with a sign, so I drove to the next ranch gate to the west. It too was locked. I backtracked to the only place that looked promising--a gate alongside some large hollow tubes of concrete. The fences on both sides of the road were very high, about 12 feet. I found ample evidence that a group of people had used this spot to park and drink beer, and I carefully parked next to the fence, careful not to block the gate. I applied lots of sunscreen, and gathered water, GPS, camera, sign, and the landowner letter. As I scaled the fence, I was hoping that the Christian symbols on the Dipper Ranch gate meant that they would ask questions first before shooting.
My goal had been to get on the trail by 3pm; it was 2:40 now as I struck out along the west boundary of the ranch, heading north-northeast. The GPS gave a straight line distance of just under 3 miles (4.8 km). My main hope was that the four-wheel drive trail I was on would continue, for I knew that hiking through the dense underbrush of prickly-pear and other thorny plants would be slow going, scratchy, and perhaps rattlesnake-prone. Fortunately, the trail led all the way to the end of the fence, about 2/3 of the way to the confluence, whereupon I began hiking on another trail to the northeast. I passed beneath a small observation tower, probably used for hunting, and spotted others in the distance. My good fortune held: With 400 meters to the confluence, I turned on another trail to the north, passed the water tank, and after taking a left at the next trail, located the confluence.
Again, fortunately for me, the confluence was located less than 20 meters to the northeast of this trail. It is on flat ground devoid of any vegetation, although magnificent stands of prickly pear abound nearby. It was 80 F (27 C) with moderate winds. I had been to 28 North just once before, at 98 West, but I had stood on 99 West twice before, in Texas and in North Dakota. I am pleased to report that this was my 6th confluence in Texas.
As the sun was sinking, I took a big drink of water and then wasted no time in retracing my steps. Somehow I was a bit apprehensive that my car would be there unharmed, as I was many miles from help. I arrived back at the gate at 4:15pm, 100 minutes after my start time. I scratched my palm on the fence on the way down, but was otherwise unharmed. My car was, likewise, thankfully, unharmed. I drove back to Corpus Christi, arriving just after sundown at 6:30pm. An excellent way to begin my days in South Texas!