20-Apr-2008 -- After undoubtedly the largest gathering of geographers on the planet, that of the Association of American Geographers, I felt duty bound to practice what I had been preaching--namely, to get out there on the landscape. Over 7,000 geography researchers, professors, students, and others had convened in Boston at the AAG's 104th Annual Meeting, not only from the USA, but from dozens of countries. I and my colleagues had been giving papers, serving on panels, and teaching workshops in GIS and GPS. Moreover, I have had a tradition for the past several years, starting with the 2003 AAG conference in Louisiana, moving to Philadelphia in 2004, Chicago in 2006, and San Francisco in 2007, of attempting a confluence visit each time. Therefore, I set off from Boston, the site of this year's conference.
The afternoon before, upon the close of the conference, I made two geographical excursions. First, I viewed the "New England From Above" exhibit of historical birds-eye view maps at the Boston Public Library, and then toured the spectacular 3-story high "Mapparium" at the Christian Science headquarters in Boston. On 20 April 2008, I took a shuttle at 7:00am to Boston's Logan Airport, and rented a car once there. This felt curiously deja-vu, as I had done the same thing three weeks earlier to the day, upon the conclusion of the National Science Teachers Convention in the same city. This time, I was determined to visit the confluence that I missed three weeks earlier--43 North 71 West. On that earlier trip, after missing the turn, I had a snowy woody hike to 44 North 70 West in Maine. Today's would not be as difficult nor as far. Would it be as lovely as the Maine trek?
I was determined to drive a different way to the confluence this time, to see some different sights. Therefore, I ambled up Interstate Highway 93 to New Hampshire, then east on State Highway 101. The elusive nature of this confluence once again was evident as I missed the turn to the road I had aimed for. I made a U-turn at Exeter, and back on the north frontage road (Epping Road). The land was quite marshy and a northerly attempt would clearly not be idea. I turned south on Pine Road through the woody but industrial landscape. Logging operations and other bulky warehousing predominated. I soon gave up hope of a western approach. All of the industrial complexes were fenced and a few trucks and people were in motion, even on a Sunday morning. I turned east on Middle Road that turned into Brentwood Road, and drove into quite a pleasant housing subdivision. Folks were in the neighborhood, but I left, drove past the wide marshy creek, and saw that heavy timber and water precluded an easy eastern approach.
That left the southerly approach starting at the housing development, so I returned and drove slowly through the neighborhood. It was a beautiful small development around a circular road (Louisburg Road), with springtime bursting forth everywhere, and most of the neighbors outside on this beautiful morning. Decisions, decisions--which door to knock on? I parked at the northeast part of the circular drive and chatted with a friendly fellow with the very first bulldog I have ever seen. He (the man, not the bulldog) directed me to the neighbor across the street. I then explained my mission to the neighbor, and he blessed the expedition, so I returned to the vehicle to gather supplies. While I was doing so, I watched the bulldog play soccer. With her short legs, she did an excellent job so low to the ground!
I walked to the neighbor and explained my mission with the bulldog's owner accompanying me. We discussed how wonderful it must be to live adjacent to beautiful open space such as this, and with his blessing, I set forth into the woods. I aimed to the northeast and then walked along the boggy low ground due north. I alternatively came across thicker woods and then more boggy ground, continuing for a longer distance than I had anticipated. I then entered a very long stretch of reeds with a 2-meter-wide stream traversing it, over which I had to jump a few times. My heart leapt because I recognized this area from the confluence photographs, and sure enough, on the north end of this marshy meadow, I found the confluence.
The temperature was a very pleasant 70 degrees F (21 C). This was my first time on 71 West, but I had been to 43 North several times before, in New Hampshire just 1 degree to the west, and also in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. I spent at least 25 minutes at the site, trying for the perfect photographs. I was proudly wearing my GeoGeek shirt for the first time, found for me by my colleague George Dailey at the ESRI Business Partner conference. This was my second New Hampshire confluence. I was compiling a nice little New England confluence collection. As I was leaving, I found a geocache tied to the bottom of a tree about 8 meters to the northwest. I didn't look inside, but it was the second time in a year that I have found a geocache at a degree confluence. I'd rather these confluences be kept free of geocaching, but I know a great number of fine geocachers who are getting out there on the landscape, and have done so myself on occasion.
I headed south more or less the way I had come, with a slightly different track. I veered too far to the west and realized upon sighting the houses that I was in the wrong backyard. Therefore, I skirted the neighborhood, keeping to the woods and trying not to alarm anyone by my thrashing. It was difficult to keep quiet, though, because the part of the woods near the houses is full of enormous boulders that must be clambered over.
Upon returning to the neighborhood via the correct back fence, I saw the closest landowner to the woods, and told him my tale. Then I walked across the street and around to the front yard of the bulldog and her owners. Lilly was the bulldog's name. Her owners chatted with me for quite awhile. One of them was an educator like myself and the other was extremely knowledgeable about surveying and GPS. They even offered me coffee and a ride in their new toy, a 1965 Mustang that they had found for an incredibly low price in Texas. This was one of the most pleasant neighborhoods, beautiful days, and friendliest people I have encountered on my confluence treks. I really did not want to leave, but as I had a busy day planned en route to the Delaware GIS conference and to stop in Connecticut along the way, I needed to be on my way. I bid them all adieu and slowly drove out the way I came in. Once at the highway, I drove east to Interstate Highway 95, paid the toll, and headed back to Boston. A beautiful morning, scenery, and new acquaintances!