03-Mar-2011 -- As I was in the area for the annual conference of the Utah Coalition for Educational Technology, and as my focus at the conference was GIS and GPS in education, a confluence visit seemed appropriate. The morning before, I had a pleasant sunrise hike through the sage to 40 North 112 West. Today would not be nearly as pleasant. I was not certain I could successfully visit 41 North 112 West, but it was the next closest point to the conference site. The point has thwarted many attempts, including my own in 2003, but I was ready to give it another try. I wore the oldest shoes I owned so I could throw them away afterwards, if need be, as I knew the hike in would not be pleasant. The reason why is because it entails trudging through the salt marsh.
I drove to the point up Interstate Highway 15 in the predawn darkness, aiming to start hiking when it became light enough to see. Unfortunately, it was raining during this particular morning, and I was uncertain whether an attempt could actually be made. I exited at 200 North in Kaysville, drove west, and then southeast on Angel Road. I turned right and drove southwest on South 1325 West Street and down a muddy lane to the national wildlife refuge there. A parking area lies at the end of the road. I was about 500 meters southeast of the site of the jumping off point to where I began with my colleague in 2003. As I sat there in the car in the drizzle, next to the lone tree in the area, I waited until it became light enough to see. Should I attempt it?
The rain let up a bit and I decided to make a quick attempt. Quick is not the correct word, because it was slow going from the time I climbed over the gate at the wildlife refuge into the muddy field. Cattle were there, and no fence existed on the west side of the field. The salt marsh was enough of a fence in that direction to keep them in the field. Humans were perhaps not quite so smart, I reflected as I traversed a particularly sticky and muddy patch of field. As unpleasant as this was, it was nothing compared to the terrain that followed. What followed was an alternating between 10-foot high (3 meters) thick reeds and sinking to the hips in waste high water overlain by about 3 inches of ice. The worst part was that with each step, the ice would break and I did not know how far I would sink. It was very slow going, but fortunately, the weather held for the time being and it was not too cold (about 50 F).
At times, I followed what were clearly vehicle tracks through the marsh, which had flattened the reeds, until the tracks no longer went in my desired direction to the southwest. At one point, I plunged into the water up to my shoulder, hand holding the GPS becoming completely immersed. Fortunately, I was using a watertight GPS 76 unit. I seemed to have left the tall reeds behind me and was on a very wet marshy area overlain by open water and a few low plants when I abruptly stopped. The sky to the north had turn an ominous black, and I could see what looked to be rain or snow encroaching on the Wasatch Mountains to the northeast. I decided with 1,368 meters to go that it would not be wise to be out here in a snowstorm. I hurriedly took a few photographs and then turned around and tried to make a hasty exit.
I angled a bit to the north to avoid some of the tall reeds and found a few more vehicle tracks. I had no idea how a vehicle could have made it out here. The average water depth was about 1 meter. At about 15 minutes into the trek back, I was about as miserable as I had ever been on a confluence trek. I should have filmed a movie hiking through the reeds and marsh but I had one solitary aim--to make it out of here before the snow. Keeping one eye on the overhead powerlines up ahead and the other on the encroaching snowstorm, I was extremely thankful to emerge back in the muddy field. It wasn't dry ground, but it wasn't a marsh, either. It was almost comical when I stepped completely out of one shoe, it sticking in the mud behind me. I went back and retrieved it as the light rain became quite a bit heavier. When I retrieved my shoe, I looked down and noticed that my left leg was bleeding. I then noticed that indeed, both of my legs were bleeding from the knees down to my feet. The water had been so cold, I had not noticed, and I still do not know whether it was the ice or the reeds that had been cutting me. I was in too much of a hurry and too wet to put the shoe back on, so I held it as I walked, then clambored over the gate, just wanting to get back into the vehicle and turn on the heat. Before I did so, I filmed a parting video as the rain was really falling in earnest and the sky darkening. The cattle had moved away to the north, perhaps wisely to find shelter under a tree.
As I drove away, a short time later, as my feet thawed, they felt like a blow torch was on them. About 15 minutes later, a terrific sleet storm pounded the roadway and visibility was about 100 feet. Indeed it was a good thing I had turned around on my hike. I still wonder where that dry salt pan surface might be. Maybe I was only a few hundred meters from it. Perhaps I should just concede this one to those better able to endure its challenges. But sure enough, that afternoon, as I was setting up for the conference, I plotted my GPS track on the satellite image in ArcGIS Explorer Online. According to my calculations, I was only 270 meters from what appeared to be dry ground. At least, the ground was a radically different and brighter color than what I had been sloshing through, and surely it must be the dry ground reported by the successful visitor to this confluence. It made me curious about another attempt, but was that thought the product of a twisted mind? It had been 8 years for me to make this attempt. Would it be 8 more before I attempted again, or would this always remain an attempted point for me? One thing was clear: Any other attempt would have to be in the Fall, when the water is warmer. For now, and maybe forever, I would have to leave this one as an attempt.