20-Feb-2007 -- International Confluence Day, a four point celebration in the American Midwest marking the 11th anniversary of the Degree Confluence Project. [Part I: “Is this heaven?” “No, it’s Iowa!”]
Since discovering this site in the summer of 2003, each year, on the project’s anniversary, I have journeyed to a different state to join in the observance: Alabama in 2004, Mississippi in 2005, and Georgia in 2006. In planning an appropriate way to take part in this year's worldwide holiday, I decided to again concentrate on American states where I had not yet visited a cp. I realized in 2007 I would have to go a little farther afield to continue this tradition.
So, about six months back, I went searching for a one day circuit visiting the most states in the fewest miles. Given the shortness of daylight in the northern hemisphere on February 20th, with the vernal equinox still a month away, reaching four points seemed to be a reasonable goal without the day becoming so hectic as to remove all pleasure from the undertaking. Although the “Four Corners” of the American southwest where AZ, UT, CO, and NM all share a common point is much more famous, I found near Omaha a “square” of confluences sits astride the Missouri River in four separate states: NE, KS, MO, and IA. All four had been documented, but at all four, previous visits had been limited to six warm weather months [March to August]. None had seen any activity since 2005. They sounded like an ideal target.
I excitedly contacted my buddy Brian who lived nearby, told him to set aside February 20th for a great adventure, and then assigned him the task over the next several months of reconnoitering the area. What a great start: I now had not only a local guide, but a cheap place to stay! Unfortunately in January, Brian moved to North Dakota, calling his sanity into question, and leaving me to fend for myself.
The preceding weekend brought snow and sub-zero temperatures to the Omaha region, and my expedition was not looking nearly as inviting as it had last August. I added several more layers of clothing to my suitcase. On Monday as I flew first to Chicago and then on to Omaha, the ground looked white as far as the eye could see…
I left my hotel 45 minutes before the 7:13am sunrise, crossed the Missouri River into Iowa heading east on I-80, then turned south on I-29. The Omaha area had seen showers at about 2:30am, with temperatures hovering just above freezing. As the darkness faded, I saw those clouds moving away rapidly to the east. For all of Omaha’s winter weather during the previous week, International Confluence Day was dawning as a perfect day to be outside.
I turned east on U.S. 34, made a quick pit stop at Red Oak, then turned north on road T just before the west branch of the Nodaway River. I stopped at the 41st North parallel at 7:58am. With the air temperature at 33F, my footing was still quite firm walking into the field. Reception was strong enough that by slowing my pace at the end of my brief hike, I was able to zero the GPS with no dance at all. The difference between ground and air temperatures produced a hint of mist that kept visibility from being perfect. To the east I could hear unseen traffic on U.S. Highway 71. The only other sound to break the stillness was my ringing cell phone, as a veteran confluence hunter from back home called to wish me a “Happy International Confluence Day!” I’d previously made a few phone calls from a cp, but this was a rare incoming call while watching the ten zeroes.
By 8:30 I was back at the car and heading 69 miles due south towards 40N 95W.