24-May-2011 -- As I had arrived in Texas to co-teach a class for higher education social studies faculty and K-12 teachers from throughout the state, and as the class would emphasize and focus on spatial analysis with GIS and GPS technologies, a confluence visit seemed like the perfect way to begin. I had long eyed this 33 North 98 West point during my many visits to Dallas over the years, and was looking for a block of time when I could accomplish it. This was the time. After landing at DFW, I was soon driving west around Fort Worth on I-820. I exited at Texas State Highway 199 and now was making more or less a beeline for the point. The day was hazy and humid and seemed like storms were brewing. Sure enough, like much of that spring along the Great Plains, violent weather would indeed ensue in a few hours. Would I make it?
The weather cleared a bit but was still hazy and humid. It seemed like the perfect ground for severe storms, and that very evening, 9 tornadoes would touch down in the Dallas area, along with large hailstones. This prompted the evacuation of the Texas Rangers baseball game and the guests in my own hotel to an interior hallway on the ground floor. The same series of storms north of us in Oklahoma killed several people. And this all came just two days after a devastating tornado in Joplin killed over 100 people and destroyed one third of the town. This spring has been the worst for tornado deaths in the USA in decades. It turned out to be the last day in a series of weeks of devastating and fatal tornadoes across the USA.
I turned off from State Highway 199 onto Farm to Market Road 2210, to the south. This curved to the west as East Hackley Road. I passed Whitt Road, and suspected I could have turned south to the confluence there, but continued on to the town of Perrin, south to Patton Road, and then east. At Whitt Road, I drove south to DPS Tower Road, and then east again, past fields grazed by cattle. Passing the 98th Meridian, I scanned the field to the south for some break in the fence. A few large ranches existed in the area, with some hills, and it was quite wooded where the land had not been cleared. I parked a few hundred meters to the east and hiked back in with the GPS showing a bit over 1000 meters to walk to the confluence. Hiking south along a four-wheel drive trail, I passed an abandoned and rusting truck bed, and turned southeast at the next fork. It was just a tad spooky. I passed an abandoned school bus and then what looked like a summer cottage that had its own small lake and diving platform, a true haven in the wilderness. After curving due south and climbing a slope, I abandoned the trail and began hiking along a field's edge. The part where I had to turn west was truly nasty, full of thorns and brambles, but after about 10 minutes more, I found the confluence at the edge of a small clearing. Realizing that it could have been in the middle of a thick thorny patch, I was filled with joy at being able to zero out the GPS receiver.
I now had about 14 confluence points in Texas. I had wanted this one for quite a few years. Along the 98th Meridian, I had visited points in Oklahoma and in Texas, and along the 33rd parallel, I had collected points from California on the west to Georgia on the east. The day was hazy but sunny at the moment with high humidity and temperature about 95 F, arriving just minutes before noon. I spent 20 to 25 minutes at the point. I saw a few buzzards flying overhead but no animals or people on the trek. Hiking out a bit differently, due north, to avoid the worst of the thorns, I came again to the four-wheel drive trail and hiked past the summer cottage. The round trip hike time was about 90 minutes. These treks always take longer than what it seems it will at the beginning, even the short distance ones.
I left the way I had come in, but spent about 30 minutes filming some agricultural movies beside the grazing cattle. It provided some peaceful moments. Then, instead of driving west, I drove south from Perrin to see some new scenery. Therefore, on the return trip I passed through Mineral Wells. A magnificent but abandoned hotel stood watch over downtown. I did some research on it later and found out that it was the Baker Hotel, which when opened in 1929 was one of the first skyscrapers outside a major city, where numerous presidents and media stars stayed over the decades. I took a photograph and then drove east on US Highway 180 to Weatherford and I-20, which I took all the way back to Arlington. As the next 3 days were full of spatial thinking and analysis through GIS and GPS, this confluence visit started things off perfectly.