14-Aug-2010 -- I grew up in Northern Alberta, Canada, but as they say, your life is what actually happened to you while you were making other plans. I ended up spending the last 25 years living in California, eventually becoming a licensed surveyor. I started using GPS in its very infancy, when the US constellation was far from complete, and every field trip took a mission planning exercise to determine the chance of actually having GPS satellites overhead. Often we had to look as much as a week into the future to get acceptable coverage during daylight hours. From that first 6 channel receiver, I have now progressed to having Topcon’s latest survey grade GPS, the GR-3 with Glonass tracking, so I can also track the Russian satellites as well.
I only recently found out about the Confluence Project, but I knew immediately that it would be a lot of fun. I purchased my first handheld GPS, just a cheapie Garmin Oregon 450 (hey, my daily use survey GPS cost $40,000, plus a $10,000 handheld survey computer to run it) and started getting ready for my first Confluence hunt.
I had previously researched the Confluence website and knew that all that was left in CA were two offshore points, so I was loaded to go without a destination. When we decided as a family to make a trip north to my old stomping grounds with a stop in Montana to see some friends, I expanded my horizons. The map for Montana was all red as well, but when I checked Alberta, the primary confluence point nearest my old home was still to be located! The old guys used to cry "54° 40’ or Fight!", but my cry became "N55° W118° or Bust!"
I notified my extended family that we were coming, and off we went. Once on the ground in Crooked Creek, AB, I enlisted the help of my cousin A.T. (names have been abbreviated to protect the innocent). He was all game to go, so he, my son Morgan, my daughter Kellie, and I loaded onto 3 quads complete with survival gear, plenty of bottled water, a chain saw, and a large caliber rifle – you can’t forget it’s the wild west – and headed out under clear skies in perfect weather.
An hour’s riding from AT’s house got us to the end of the cultivated fields, and into the start of the wilderness area, which was mostly cattle pasture. We passed through countless gates, and finally got into some bush trails. By tracking both AT’s and my GPS, we knew we were headed in the right direction, but still had about 1500’ to go when we ran out of navigable ground at the edge of a pasture, so we headed out on foot from there. A convenient game and cow trail led us in the approximate direction until we were within 500’ or so, and from there we bushwacked our way the last distance.
Being the intrepid explorers that we were, we got our sustenance along the trail by picking wild raspberries, gooseberries, blueberries, and the occasional rose hip. It was obvious that bears were out picking too, because large amounts of bear scat were on every trail we traveled, but unfortunately we didn’t meet anything but a few squirrels and one timid mule deer. (There’s nothing like a good bear story to liven up one’s Confluence narrative)!
Now one view of boreal forest is about the same as the next, so the view from the actual site is just an ordinary forest view, about the same in all directions. Unfortunately, my attempt at doing a screen capture on my Oregon 450 failed, despite having worked perfectly in my trial runs, but the photos of the screen came out quite clear. I took an extra photo west focused on a plump red berry that was nearby, but the rest are all about the same. No drum roll was sounded, and no lightning fell from the sky, but 25 years and four days after I left the Peace River Country to move to California, I went back for my first successful confluence visit.
The rest of the day was spent trail riding deep in the bush, as the locals call it. We found trapper’s cabins, forded a river, crossed the river flat were I bagged my first moose as a teenager, and had a wonderful day. Who says you can’t go home again?!