08-Dec-2007 -- I live in Salt Lake City, Utah and was asked by my daughter to come down and be a guest speaker in her 8th Grade geography classes at Johnston Middle School in North Las Vegas, Nevada. I correctly guessed that that would be a fun and interesting experience. I taught mathematics for 29 years, but never taught geography. However, I was already familiar with the Degree Confluence Project and decided to do a presentation related to that project and geography. A lot of geography can be learned just by looking at photographs of any particular location on earth.
As soon as I realized that there was a confluence located not too remotely from the Las Vegas area, I decided that I would be a more qualified expert guest speaker if I actually visited that confluence. As I traveled down I-15 through Utah with my GPS receiver hanging from the rear view mirror, I realized that I would be crossing four degree parallels (40, 39, 38 and 37 North) and four degree meridians (112, 113, 114 and 115 West). I also realized that in my lifetime, I have crossed these lines thousands of times, but that I have (probably) never been at the actual intersection of a degree parallel and degree meridian until I arrived at this confluence point. The excitement grew.
My wife and I picked up our daughter and we continued down to Henderson in search of this confluence. The best way to approach this confluence is to take I-515 to Henderson and exit at the East Horizon Drive Exit (#59), go 1 block west to East Horizon Ridge Parkway, then south about a mile to Mission Drive, then west about 1/3 mile to the end. From there you can see the CP (see photo #5) at the base of the vertical cliff.
The last 1/3 mile or so must be done on foot. From the parking area walk down the concrete drainage channel until you get to the small ravine that goes westward toward the CP. I recommend climbing up the right side of the small hill and approaching the CP from the east (see photo #7). It is not as steep. It took us about 15 minutes to get within 100 meters of the CP, but it took a few more minutes to zero in on it due to the rough terrain. It is very rocky with a lot of loose shale and gravel so one needs to walk carefully to keep from falling. Another 10 meters to the north and the CP would have been on a vertical cliff and impossible to reach without ropes. It’s not a dangerous hike, but take care to keep from slipping.
At the CP we found the geocache that is partly buried by rocks. We left a souvenir from Utah. After a short celebration, we got the required photographs, and left along the same path. It seemed more difficult to come down than it was to go up. Now that I have actually visited a confluence point, I can be a much more authoritative guest speaker for the middle school students.
I have this message for Ms. Whitaker’s geography students: Be good and study hard this year in your geography class because it is an important subject for everyone. You will actually be learning geography for the rest of your life. Every time you go any place on the earth, you will learn new place names, what these places are like, how people interact with the natural environment there, how people, things and ideas move about and how these places are different from and similar to other places. That IS geography!