15-Oct-2011 -- As I was in the area for the 40th annual conference of the North American Association of Environmental Education, a confluence visit seemed like the perfect capstone. Over 900 educators had gathered from the USA and other countries, discussing all aspects of teaching and learning about the environment. I wanted to practice what I was preaching at the conference about the importance of getting out into the field. Even so, I wondered what my environmental education colleagues would say about me burning a great amount of fossil fuel to reach my destination. Having a rental car from the evening before, for my visit to 35 North 79 West, I determined that if I woke up early enough, I could make 36 North 79 West before the day's events at the conference began. And therefore, 4:30am saw me driving east out of Raleigh into the darkness. I took US Highway 264 to Zebulon, and then east-northeast on US Highway 64, just about to Nashville. The trip was mostly in darkness but the skies lightened as I exited at Nashville, taking state highway 58 to the northwest for a few miles.
I parked on the north end of the field where I knew the confluence would be, on the east side of the road. I walked south along the roadway; I was wearing my work clothes, including a tie, and did not want to get too muddy, as I had a presentation at the conference to give on this day. Much to my dismay, as I began walking, I noticed a great amount of activity in the field to the east. Apparently it was harvest day, and the activity appeared to be very close to my destination. Perhaps this would not be a successful visit after all, but I was determined to give it a try. I first walked along the shoulder of the road, to the south, until I came to a narrow track that divided the fields. This provided an excellent way that led east-northeast, not quite straight toward the confluence, but toward it without tromping through the plants.
I descended the slope and came into view, I am sure, of everyone working to the east of me who happened to look west. I made haste. As I neared 78 West, I made a beeline to the southeast, and within a few minutes, had zeroed out the GPS unit and hastily taken a few photographs and video. I knew the photographs would be a bit blurry in the pre-dawn light but I did not want to take the time to make sure they were clear. I probably did not need to worry; I was causing no damage and there was no sign that anyone working in the field to the east cared what I was doing.
The confluence lies in one of the lowest places in the field. It was an enormous field, and the confluence is probably still to the northwest of the center of the field. It was about 55 F here in the middle of the autumn, under dawning clear skies and little wind. I saw no birds nor animals. I reflected on the last time I was here, on the same day as my colleague defended her dissertation. We journeyed here with the chairperson of her committee. What a glorious day that was! I marveled at the number of years that had elapsed since that day. Since then, I have visited at least 100 more confluence points. This particular one was interesting in its own way, as they all are. I had visited 36 north from here in North Carolina all the way to California on the west, and on 78 West I had also stood many times, from New York on the north to North Carolina on the south. I could see about 2 farmhouses from where I stood, but mostly beans. It was very likely my last visit here. So many other points to visit!
I needed to get to work and so I spent no more than a few minutes on the site, but took more photographs on the way out, as the sun rose and it was a beautiful morning. I was soon on my way back to Raleigh and the environmental education conference. Yes, I was a bit muddy. But: My presentation on teaching about the environment using Web GIS was full and the confluence visit was the perfect way to begin a day of spatial thinking and analysis.