06-Jun-2010 -- As I had just arrived in Oklahoma to teach a 3-day Web GIS and GPS class for educators from across the state at the University of Oklahoma, and as I would be putting in long hours in the next week, I decided to practice what I am always preaching: Get out in the field! Therefore, upon picking up my rental car at the Oklahoma City airport, I was soon traveling southwest along I-44 toward Chickasha (pronounced with a long "ay" at the end). I exited the highway at the first Chickasha exit and drove slowly west through the town on US Highway 62 under the late spring heat. Northwest of town, at South 29th Street, I turned south and encountered numerous stop signs en route to State Highway 92. No road signs told me that it was indeed Highway 92 once I reached it, but once it began to curve to the southwest, I knew it was the one that would take me to Norge. The community of Norge, as the name implies, was settled by Norwegians. I passed a few suburban style homes with nicely manicured lawns and large lots. Suddenly, I was out in the wide open country again. I nearly passed Mockingbird Road as it came up on me rather suddenly, and from there it was only a minute before I arrived at the gate of what I knew would be the start of my walking trek.
I gathered supplies, donned some sunblock, and set out to the west with just over 1 km to to confluence. Past the road gate was a gravel road that led down into a hollow lined with trees. As I did not have time to check the satellite image beforehand, the walking route would be a complete surprise to me. After a few hundred meters, the road climbed and crested a hill. The weather was hot but not unbearable. The views were magnificent in all directions, especially to the west and north. It was classic Oklahoma terrain--gently rolling, dotted with oil wells and cattle. The road was bordered by soil that was strikingly red. The road followed an east-west line that was only about 80 meters north of 35 North latitude. I descended the western side of the hill and into another, less dense, stand of trees and shrubs. As expected from my earlier examination of the maps, I saw that the road would make a sharp turn to ths south before reaching the confluence point.
I continued straight when the road turned south, crossing over the fence at a place where some wooden posts existed. It was a bit difficult, and thorny, but I made it over without mishap. About 30 meters ahead of me was an open field. I walked into the field, angling left, or south, but I could already see that the field would run out before I reached the confluence point. Before I left the open skies, I took a photograph of the GPS receiver in case I was not able to get a reading on the satellites once in the trees. As it turned out, however, I was able to zero out the unit after about 15 minutes.
After entering the trees, my heart sank, as I believed the confluence would lie beyond the next fence in some very dense and thorny shrubbery, and possibly in a swampy area to the southwest of the shrubbery. Fortunately, I found the confluence point just to the north of the fenceline and was even able to zero out the unit despite the tree canopy. The confluence is located on level ground with fairly obscured views in all directions, with the longest view being 30 meters or less to the east. The skies were clear although a bit hazy, with a temperature of approximately 30 C (87 F), not as hot as it could have been at this time of year, and the trees definitely helped cut the heat. I had been to 35 North a number of times, in California, New Mexico, and North Carolina. I had visited 98 West several times as well, in Texas. I was amassing a tidy sum of Oklahoma confluence points: This was my 4th Oklahoma confluence and my first since I was here for the Geography Education conference (http://www.ncge.org) in 2007. The area is still fairly rural but back along the road to Grady, some suburban dwellings existed. I saw no people on my journey--not even in the far distances. However, the sounds from my video indicate that many birds are alive and well in this area.
I took photographs and a video. The fence post provided a convenient place to set the camera. After about 20 minutes on site, I walked due east along the fenceline to where I thought would be a better point at which to go back over the fence that bordered the road. That proved to be a big mistake, as the tear in my pants would attest. I wonder how many clothing articles I have ruined on these confluence treks. Back on the road, I proceeded a short distance north, and then east the way I had come in, enjoying again the view from the top of the hill. I took a photograph of an oil pumping station in the distance. I filmed a video about the red soils of Oklahoma near the top, on YouTube. I made it back to the vehicle after just less than a 2-hour round trip hike and photograph time. It was a wonderful way to connect with the Oklahoma landscape.
Now I was confronted with a dilemma: Would I have enough time to attempt 34 North 98 West?