11-Jun-2006 -- As we were about to teach a course entitled "Mapematical Thinking" all week at the Missouri Botanical Garden, specifically, at the Litzsinger Road Ecology Center, a confluence visit seemed like the perfect way to start such a geospatial event. The purpose of the course was to build linkages between mathematics, geography, and environmental science, showing the power of spatial analysis through hands-on digital mapping. Dr. Coulter picked me up at the St Louis airport at 12:15pm, and soon we were traveling east, crossing the Mississippi River into Illinois. The skies were gloomy but we had an excellent time discussing our upcoming workshop, as well as history, geography, politics, and the environment.
We drove east on Interstate Highway 270, angling northeast along Interstate Highway 55. We then traveled west on State Highway 140 and north on State Highway 159. After a left on Seiler Road, a right on Zimmerman, and a left on Loop Road, we pulled into the closest farm to the confluence. We were encouraged by the previous report of the kindness of the Hursts, the landowners, and were further encouraged by the humor of the "Attack Cow" sign on one of their fences.
Upon our approach, we noticed three medium-large dogs at the picnic table. I hoped they were friendly, and fortunately, they were. We parked, pet the dogs, and knocked on the front door of the house. Finding nobody at home, I left the landowner request letter and my business card on the picnic table in the backyard. I later received a call from the landowners and we chatted amiably about the significance of the spot and the project. Bob and I decided that we had made the effort to come all the way out here and needed to see it through. One of the dogs came up holding a miniature rubber tire in its mouth. I threw it for him a few times and we had a jolly time, being greeted also by an orange-tan cat. However, we didn't want to overtax the Hurst's hospitality, so we quickly set out.
We peered around the barn but as it was steep, fenced, and extremely muddy, owing to the previous day's thunderstorms. We trekked back on the road a few hundred meters to its right-angle bend. On the way, we crossed 90 West Longitude and speculated that it might actually cross through the house. I was concerned that the confluence would be too far down the steep slopes heading toward the East Fork of the Wood River. Not to worry, though: We headed through the grass to the north, skirted a field to the west, and struck northwest until we had reached the line halfway to the International Date Line!
The confluence lies on ground sloping gently to the southwest, on one of the ridges between the gullies leading down to the Wood River. It is covered by tall plants about 1.5 meters high. We noted several birds. The day threatened rain but none came; temperature a mild 73 F (24 C). Aside from the hunting observation tower, we saw no structures from the confluence. It was not far from the farm, but the site itself is fairly wild and the terrain looks close to what it could have been in the 19th Century. We reflected on how fortunate we had been in the fact that the confluence was located where it was. It was only a dozen meters from some steep, highly vegetated slopes, on which it would have been nearly impossible to zero out the GPS unit--and would have made for some extremely slippery footing. It was amazing that five years had passed since the previous visit.
I had been to 39 North many times before, in Maryland, Virginia, Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado. This was my second time at 90 West; the other visit had been in Louisiana. Bob and I had visited confluences together in Texas and Oklahoma. This marked a key confluence in my quest for filling a few large holes in my USA map: Now that this one was done, I now need to fill another large one in the northwest--Idaho, Washington, or Oregon.
After we had taken the video and photographs, I was rather startled to see the three dogs beside us--they had either silently followed us or sniffed us out. Wanting to experience a different route on the return, we followed the mowed path to the south. This skirted the small pond and placed us northeast of the barn, but on the other side of the fences and cows. From there, we walked back east, then south to the road, and west to the vehicle. Once there, we saw the six kittens and Dr. Bob, an expert at many things environmental and geotechnology-related, and also in felines, verified that we were also seeing the mother cat. We bid the dogs adieu and threw the tire ring for them one more time.
We drove out exactly the way we came in, but then took the spectacular Clark cable stayed bridge at Alton into Missouri. We drove on the small piece of land between the Missouri and Mississippi River, a land steeped in rich history. This confluence run was indeed the perfect start to our Mapematical Thinking workshop!