06-Oct-2011 -- As I was in the area for the Geological Society of America conference, and as I would be co-teaching a short course on the application of Geographic Information System (GIS) to geology, a confluence visit seemed like the perfect beginning. In addition, knowing I would be working the next two weekends, getting in the fields for some fresh air and hiking seemed like good health sense. Therefore, after I arrived at the Minneapolis airport, traveled downtown, and stored my things behind the hotel desk, I walked around downtown to the rental car facility that I had identified a week earlier. Alas, Budget was anything but that and I declined; same with Avis, and I phoned a few others in the area while I wandered around downtown; all too expensive for a few hours of rental time. I had just about given up when I found via the map on my cell phone, a Thrifty that after calling, was affordable. Only a few blocks away, I reached it in about 10 minutes, and found it tucked away in the parking garage of a hotel. The sole employee was absent with a "returning at 1:30" sign, and I once again wondered if this confluence would remain only a dream.
However, the employee appeared at the appointed time and in fairly short order, after a bit of paperwork, I was driving out of downtown. I made one wrong turn and ended up driving east to St Paul before heading north on what eventually became Interstate Highway 35. Why this confluence? Several reasons: I had already visited the confluence in St Paul twice, most recently, just last month, at 45 North 93 West. The next closest confluence, 45 North 94 West I had visited last month as well. The next closest confluence, 45 North 92 West, in Wisconsin, was not as appealing as 46 North 93 West, because 46/93 had not been visited in many years, and its sole visit had occurred in the winter. I was determined to see what had changed and what the fields looked like in autumn. Fortunately, the confluence was fairly near the highway, and I could get there and back, I hoped, before the rental car facility closed.
The day was magnificently bright and breezy, with autumn leaves flying through the air. I arrived in the Hinckley area about 3:00 pm. I exited I-35 at Highway 23 and drove southwest to Wildwood Road, north to T-100, west to Fox Road. As I drove north along Fox Road, my heart sank to see the houses on the east side of the road. I was hoping this confluence would be a bit more remote. I crossed the 46th parallel and looked west. I made a U-turn and drove back south, a few hundred meters south of the 46th parallel. Fortunately, no houses were along the west side of the road, at least not here, and there were no fences either. I spent a few minutes getting a good reading on the GPS before plunging into the woods, because I knew the signal would degrade a bit. To my surprise, it did not degrade much, perhaps because most of the leaves had already fallen off of the deciduous trees. It proved to be very difficult hiking through the woods, because the young trees had many small twigs that tore at me and impeded progress. Still, it was better than making an obvious transit of the field to the north. I zigzagged as best I could to do the northwest, and eventually popped out in a cultivated field of alfalfa for grazing, with a cornfield at its northern end. According to my GPS receiver, the point was not going to be in this easy-to-navigate field. Onward then!
After crossing this field, I plunged once again into the woods. This patch of woods was even more difficult, but once again, it was a brief hike. In 10 minutes, after high stepping through some very tall grasses, I rejoiced to emerge onto what I hoped would be the final field. Sure enough, the confluence was about 85% of the way across it, so definitely toward the western edge of the field. I had to take care to avoid twisting an ankle on the large holes that dotted the field. This field was also planted in alfalfa grass, like the last field. The confluence therefore lies on flat ground, and was about a 30 minute hike in from the road to the east. I saw no animals except what must have been startled pheasants as I was thrashing through the woods, earlier, and then again on the way back to the vehicle. I saw no people, which was one of my goals, although I did read that the landowner here, during the previous visit, was quite amiable. It was a glorious day, about 75 F, almost hot. Despite this being the month of October, the next several days would set Minneapolis records with highs near 80 degrees F.
I had stoood on 46 North a few months earlier, in Oregon, and in previous years in a broken line from Oregon to a few points in Montana and into North Dakota. I had only stood on 93 West twice before in Iowa, and twice before here in Minnesota. I spent about 15 minutes at the confluence site, and filmed a few extra movies on the way back, including a stop at the corn stalks in the intermediate field. I took a few photographs lying on the ground next to some stalks, and it felt good to be right there on the Earth. Considering the many marshes and lakes in this glaciated region, it was amazing how easy of a trek and how easy it was to stand on this confluence. Yet the difficulty of the woods makes this confluence midway through 1 as easy and 10 as most difficult; so, I give it a 5. I would like to say, however, that most of the confluences I have visited are fairly easy, nothing like some of the adventures my colleagues have been on in Guatemala, Nepal, and elsewhere.
On the way out of the area, I filmed and photographed some lovely hay bales and still-golden trees swaying in the wind. I made it back to the rental car facility without mishap and it indeed proved to be a wonderful way to begin the weekend and the following week at the geology conference. This was one of the prettier confluence points I have visited and the late afternoon sun on the yellow leaves made it all the more beautiful.