21-Apr-2008 -- As I was en route to the 2008 Delaware GIS conference, and as I had always wanted to see the landscape of the Lower Hudson Valley, this confluence was the perfect field excursion. Furthermore, it was only a short way off of the required route from Connecticut to Delaware if one has an aim to avoid New York City. I left Connecticut at 5:15am, and by the breaking of dawn, I was traversing the glaciated terrain and fabulous outcrops in the northwestern part of the state. By 8:00am, I descended into the Hudson Valley, and despite the road construction, headed due south along Interstate Highway 87. I did enjoy the terrain, just as I expected I would, but would like to return when I have more time. I was expecting a traffic jam heading into the New York City area, and while traffic was heavy, I made good time and was heading southeast on Interstate Highway 287 by 9:00am.
At times like this, a co-pilot would come in handy. The traffic was too heavy for me to consult my printed maps, and although I took the correct turns on Highway 303, there was no way to turn west on Washington Street. I did not realize it for awhile. After I realized the problem, a mile down the road, I turned into a shopping center, doubled back to the north, and then headed southwest on Kings Highway. The going was very slow, about 10 miles per hour in places, but I was treated to snippets of local life--children being dropped at school and local construction workers arriving near the old town hall at Tappan. I continued west on Old Tappan Road through a pleasant series of neighborhoods, dotted with blooming hedges, flowers, and trees, as these were the first truly warm spring days of the year. After turning south on Country Squire Road, and winding my way down Birchwood and Walter Street, I drove to the west end of Forest Avenue. Finding nowhere to park that would not alarm the local residents, I settled on a half-circle in the road, one block east. Here was access to the forest beyond that would not require asking permission to cross someone’s yard. I gathered supplies, anticipation rising with each moment.
After reading a few of the previous visit accounts, the thing I remember most about this confluence, writing about it a few months later, is how easy it really was. I suppose that explains the frequency of visits. While I did encounter boggy places after entering the woods via a pipeline clearcut, I was able to walk almost directly to the site. While it would have been easier in the dead of winter when the ground would be frozen, at least the trees were not leafed out yet. As a result, I did not lose satellite signals. Less than 100 meters from the confluence, I found a substantial trail, but my excitement at its discovery caused me to overshoot the site. I circled back and found the spot about 30 meters west of a circular boggy area, on dry ground that was similar to the surrounding ground: Hummocky, covered with the previous autumn’s crunchy leaves, with trees of different ages spaced every few meters, on average. A ragged stump about 1.5 meters to the northwest and about 1.5 meters high serves as a good landmark for this confluence. I wonder what had caused the tree to snap off. High winds? I looked around at the other trees and found much evidence of other tree damage.
I saw no animals but several birds. The temperature was 66 F (19 C) under uniformly gray skies that made for sepia-toned photographs. This was my first time to a New Jersey confluence since my trek to 40 North 75 West during the National Conference on Geography Education back in 2002. I have been to 41 North many times before—in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and Wyoming. However, this was my first time on 74 West. Despite the fact that this confluence lies in one of the largest metropolitan areas on Earth, it is really quite pretty and serene. From the confluence, no houses are visible, and one can almost imagine what this area looked like hundreds of years ago. Even the surrounding neighborhoods are well maintained, and the trees are pretty, especially in spring.
I spent about 15 minutes at the site, having a difficult time capturing myself, the GPS, and my hokey sign all in the same photo frame. I was glad that I remembered to pack and wear my GeoGeek shirt, given to me by my colleague George Dailey of ESRI. I tried to do my favorite thing—return via a different path, and so I first walked down the trail a bit, ending up to the northeast of the confluence. However, this way was even boggier than the other way, and I soaked my feet a few times. I eventually tacked to the south so I could retrace my incoming steps. Too late: It would be a soggy ride in the car. Soon I popped out into the gas pipeline clearcut and returned to the vehicle. Another vehicle was driving around the neighborhood but passed me by as I reassembled my things. I drove out by cutting through neighborhoods to the west, enjoying more of the local life, before finding the New Jersey Turnpike, where I "counted the cars" as Simon and Garfunkel did so long ago. This was indeed a perfect beginning to the Delaware GIS conference!