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the Degree Confluence Project
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United States : Washington

2.5 miles (4.0 km) NE of Machias, Snohomish, WA, USA
Approx. altitude: 148 m (485 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest Multimap topo aerial world confnav)
Antipode: 48°S 58°E

Click on any of the images for the full-sized picture.

#2: Very near the location of our confluence! #3: A legal notice implies a boundary dispute near the confluence. #4: The best reading from my hand-held GPS. #5: The Porsche Navigation System thinks we're a bit too far west!

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  48°N 122°W (visit #1)  

#1: The confluence is in the thick blackberry bushes, behind Liz

(visited by Mike Blaszczak and Liz Elfendahl)

09-Oct-1999 -- I managed to talk Liz out of doing more housework and taking a drive into the country with me. It was an easy argument, so about fifteen minutes later I put some film in the camera and got some fresh batteries for my GPS receiver and we were on our way.

Even though my car has a navigation system, I didn't have an exact address for the point. So we stopped at the supermarket to buy the Thomas' Guide. The guide I had was not only aging, but didn't cover Snohomish County. From my hometown (Redmond, Washington), we drove north on WA-202 and connected with WA-9 in Woodinville. WA-9 goes straight up, past the west side of Lake Stevens.

Based on Liz' reading of the map, we'd connect to US-2 and circle around to find South Machias Road, which would take us toward the general vicinity of the confluence. Unfortunately, there was no exit ramp and we ended up back in Snohomish!

It was pretty easy to circle around through the town, though. We followed the map in the guidance system and the guide and found our way. Maple Avenue turns into Machias Road right at the start of the Centennial Trail, and parallels the Pilchuck River.

Where Machias road goes under US-2, there's a snappy facility for the area's model airplane club. It's complete with a fieldhouse and a paved runway! Just after the bridge, there's also a huge fieldhouse with a boldly painted "Snohomish County Sherrif's Posse". It was worth a good laugh, though I'd figure that the group would have some real history.

I noticed around this point that the latitude and longitude display on my car had stopped updating, even though the car's position on the displayed map was refreshing correctly. That made it a little difficult to feel confident in our navigation, as it's hard to read my hand-held GPS receiver in the car. The car provides more than enough shielding to prevent tracking more than a couple satellites.

Soon enough, we found the Machias Cutoff, and that led us to the oddly-named OK Mill Road. These country roads were just a joy, though there was plenty of slow traffic to prevent me from truly enjoying my car.

At a wide spot on OK Mill Road, we stopped and read the handheld GPS. After a few minutes, we were finally getting a stable reading, but began second-guessing the map we had obtained from the Maps-on-Us site. Liz confused me a little by insisting that the spot might be a little further north, on Utley Road. But I finally decided it would be worth at least checking the original point we picked.

We hooked around onto Price road, and within a couple hundred yards found the sign for 2nd Street NE. I parked the car and crossed Price Road again to take Photo #2. That picture is looking across Price Road at the sign for 2nd Street and the private 171st Avenue NE. You can see my Porsche parked in the bushes on 2nd, and Liz is following the GPS through the gate on 171st Avenue.

I was amused to find a Proposed Land Use Action sign on the gate to 171st Avenue. Apparently, one of the property owners is disputing the boundary line of their property. Maybe the surveyors were confused by the nice, round numbers in the area! I popped Picture #3 showing the sign announcing the action.

About 200 feet along 171st Avenue, the hand-held started stabilizing around 122 west and 48 North. We were really close! The status screen of the unit told us that the tall trees in the area were causing lots of problems with a good reading. After a few minutes of trial and error, and a few more minutes of triangluation, we figured that the exact convergence lies behind an impenetrable wall of blackberry bushes. In Photo #1, Liz is showing-off the GPS at our best reading. The exact convergence is over her left shoulder, probably about 35 feet into the thicket.

The underexposed clearing towards the left edge of Photo #1 looks back towards the location where I took Picture #2. We're not very far down 171st Avenue. The gravel-covered lane ends in a private residence. I hope we didn't disturb the residents; I didn't notice any signs (though, now that I look at the pictures, I see that 171st Avenue is marked as a private road!) and don't think we caused any concern. I was dreading the chance we might meet someone and have to explain our incredibly arbitrary, but really amusing, quest.

Before heading back to the car, I snapped a picture of our handheld showing 122 degrees, 0.007 minutes west, and 48 degrees, 0.009 minutes north. That's Picture #4.

Back at the car, I fired up the engine and let the navigation system reinitialize. (Somehow, that technique never occured to me back when I first noticed the system's failure to update.) In Picture #5, you can see the display. The car only found one satellite, but figures it's exactly at 48 degrees north and only one second west of our target! The car doesn't show a position because we're off the digitzed CD-ROM map.

And that's it! We drove home and had a late lunch. We're thrilled to have the first point in Washington State, and look forward to logging at least a few more.


 All pictures
#1: The confluence is in the thick blackberry bushes, behind Liz
#2: Very near the location of our confluence!
#3: A legal notice implies a boundary dispute near the confluence.
#4: The best reading from my hand-held GPS.
#5: The Porsche Navigation System thinks we're a bit too far west!
ALL: All pictures on one page (broadband access recommended)