13-Oct-2012 -- As I was in the region for the 35th Annual Applied Geography conference, getting out into the field en route to the MSP (Minneapolis St Paul) airport seemed like the perfect captstone to the conference in downtown Minneapolis. At the conference, I gave several presentations and hosted an exhibit about the use of GIS in education, and they, like the Degree Confluence Project, tied in nicely to geospatial technologies, inquiry, and investigating the Earth. Yes, I realize that this confluence point is ever so slightly out of the way from downtown Minneapolis to the MSP airport, but to those of us who preach regularly about the importance of fieldwork, it was time to practice what I had been speaking about at the Applied Geography Conference.
And so, 6:30am saw me traveling east on Interstate Highway 94 out of Minnesota and into Wisconsin. It was dark and the sun did not appear, even at its appointed hour, owing to the fact that the day was a rainy one. It was much appreciated here, however, as the summer and autumn had been dry throughout most of the midwest, so much so that many crops had failed in one of the worst droughts of recent years. I had my raincoat with me and eagerly anticipated my fieldwork. As the darkness turned to a gloomy dawn, I exited I-94 at County Road Q, descended a hill into the town of Knapp, and drove east along its main street. This is US Highway 12, and not many people were stirring yet. At State Highway 79, I turned north and proceeded slowly, wanting to pull off at the right spot that would avoid traipsing through people's yards and having to ring doorbells. I crossed the 92nd Meridian and kept going, to nearly 45 North, and couldn't believe my eyes. The mailbox just to the south of where I had pulled over displayed a large gold "G", indicating allegiance to the Green Bay Packers. Surely these were nice folks in the area and I was among friends.
I had pulled over just to the north of a bridge, and after gathering supplies, walked south over the bridge and to the small agricultural lane that bent off toward the north-northeast. This was the road I had been eying on the satellite image of the area, and I was glad to have found it. I did not want to block the road with the rental vehicle, and thus pulled over on the very small shoulder, hoping it would be far enough over. The rain was falling harder now, and I made haste, becoming quite wet in a short time, especially my shoes, through the tall grass. The road bent to the east through a cornfield, and then southeast over a small hill. I thought at first that I would have to bail out of the comfort of the road and go through the woods to the east, where I would surely lose signal, and become even wetter. However, the good luck of the Green Bay mailbox was with me, and the road bent to the south, down a small valley, and then, unbelievably, nearly straight southeast to the confluence point!
The confluence, as I found it that day, lies just on the northeast edge of the lane, barely at the edge of the corn planted there, on ground sloping about 10 degrees to the northwest. The temperature was a cool 48 F under gray rainy skies. I saw a few birds but no animals. The longest view was to the north, where I had just walked in from, and the knoll to the southeast which beheld the shortest view was topped with what looked to be a bird watching tower. After taking the photographs, I walked toward it but didn't delay, as I was in clear view from the house due west from there, down the hill. It was a pleasant location indeed, but I was becoming quite wet, so I spent only 15 minutes on the site. On the way back down the lane, I paused to film a movie in the rows of corn and to take a few more photographs. I walked back out the way I came in, and the total hike time was slightly less than one hour.
I could not believe that with such an easy walk, this confluence had not been visited in so many years. There have been two successful and one incomplete visits until now; the last visit was in 2006. I had been eyeing this confluence for quite some time. I have visited 45 North latitude numerous times from Oregon on the west to Vermont on the east, but have only stood on 92 West on a few occasions, here in Wisconsin, and in Iowa to the south. I now have 4 confluences in and around the Minneapolis area, including 3 on 45 North and 1 on 46 North. Earlier this week, I visited 2 confluences in Texas, so it had been a wonderful week! This was only my second confluence in the great state of Wisconsin. It was a peaceful and beautiful rainy morning and I was grateful for the opportunity to get into the field!