12-Jun-2010 -- As I had just arrived in southern California to co-teach the "Teachers Teaching Teachers GIS" (T3G) institute with some of my favorite colleagues in all the world, I thought a fitting first stop en route from LAX airport to Redlands, California, home of Esri, where the institute would be conducted, would be a visit to a confluence point. I had attempted this confluence exactly one day less than one year earlier, just before the first T3G institute, and so this could become a rite of passage before every T3G institute, so to speak. I had visited this confluence successfully in 2006. However, in 2009, the road was blocked off on the 2 blocks that were critical for reaching the confluence. The incredibly steep terrain makes it nearly impossible to reach it any other way. On the way there, I amused myself with thinking that would be interesting to contact the homeowner of the property "above" the confluence in elevation and walk down to it from the south-southwest and walk north-northwest to the point. It would undoubtedly involve some serious underbrush but all in all, avoid the steep and nasty slope that many have discussed here.
Today, however, I was pressed for time and needed to access it the standard way. As it turns out, the standard way may only be that way for a little while longer. Read on to find out why.
After landing at LAX, I was much smarter at finding the correct freeway out of that neighborhood than I was last year. I drove east on Interstate Highway 105, then north on the 605, and was able to get along fairly well--not too much traffic at the moment--before exiting the 605 at Whittier. This year, I did not have local maps with me, and aimed eastward in the hopes I would find the steep road leading out of the valley. Sure enough, I found it, named Turnbull Canyon Road, and was soon winding my way up a fantastic set of hills. As it was the weekend, mountain bicyclists and hikers were about, whom I passed en route to the very top. At the appropriately named Skyline Drive, I turned north, then northeast on Edgeridge Drive, then wound downward along Athel Drive. Two months later, flying into LAX, I flew right over this neighborhood, which was fascinating. This is definitely not the neighborhood where you want your brakes to give out. The landscape is absolutely amazing, and even more amazing were the face that houses were perched along hillsides here. I passed the place where the fences were erected the year before. Near the end of Athel Drive, I parked in the same lot I did in 2006, relieved to find the road open once again.
I quickly gathered supplies and set off. I have been up this slope before, and was reminded anew how particularly difficult it really is. It is incredibly steep, over 45 degrees, and full of loose soil and rocks, and thorns. Definitely not a place to be wearing nice clothing, which, fortunately, planning ahead, I was not. After a brief but flailing scramble, I was over the worst of it and, like last time I was here, came around the top of the hill with the broad view to the north. It was here where I located the confluence a few years ago, but it was not the case now. Today, the GPS kept me wandering to the south, through a few trees and around a few more thorny bushes to a partial clearing on about a 10 degree slope to the south. It was here that I located the confluence, in a thorny patch just a few meters east of a large tree. I was about 9 meters south of where I had located it before.
It was good to be back here feeling centered. I doubted I would be able to zero out the GPS unit but was successful there as well, but due to the heavy tree cover, only after about 10 minutes. While stumbling around in there, I found a geocache in the underbrush. I did not investigate it further. I marveled at how flat the slope was here when the more likely scenario for a confluence in this area would have been on the side of a cliff. I stayed only a short time due to the meeting I needed to attend and once again marveled at how these homes must have been constructed in here. The longest view is to the northeast down the Pomona Freeway. The shortest view is to the south-southwest, where again, it would be interesting to approach the confluence from ... someday. The temperature was a warm 85F (29C) under sunny skies, late afternoon in late spring about 9 days before the summer solstice. I should check on what species of plants live up here. It was a beautiful day.
To make things interesting, I exited via the slope immediately to the east. It wasn't any easier than the slope a bit further north, and I was soon slip-sliding away. It seems like every confluence I have visited this year has been thorny. When I reached the small valley below, I noticed something I had not seen on my way in: The lot was for sale. Yes, you could own 34 North 118 West! Act now! I do not know if the for sale portion includes the confluence itself, but the approach is definitely for sale. In the future, therefore, this confluence, at least the low approach, could look quite a bit different. There are no water or electrical hookups here, so at the moment, you are just purchasing the lot.
I walked to the vehicle and then walked over to the corner to the north to exmine the real estate information on the for sale lot. Sure enough, it was for sale and the price was listed. A short distance later, I passed a couple having a heated discussion outside of their car, and made sure nobody was getting hurt. Then, I made heavy use of the brakes while driving down the slope to Highway 60, the Pomona Freeway. It is a challenge to find an on-ramp, and once on, I crawled along at a snail's pace, even though it was a weekend late afternoon. Fortunately, the sun was behind me. I collected a track on the GPS for the whole afternoon's journey that I will be able to use in a Geographic Information Systems based lesson someday, where students could track my speed and direction on 2D and 3D maps. They would be able to determine where I had been driving, how heavy the traffic was, and where I was walking. I arrived in Redlands about an hour later safely for my meeting. And as it turned out, we had a wonderful T3G week with some very innovative university, community college, and K-12 GIS instructors from a wide variety of places. All in all, a centered and fitting beginning to the T3G GIS-GPS institute!