27-Feb-2013 -- As I had just arrived in the region to conduct presentations and to meet with educators about GIS in education at Kansas State University, Haskell Indian Nations University, and the University of Kansas, I thought a confluence visit would be the perfect start to such a geospatial few days. However, two major snowstorms in less than a week in eastern Kansas forced delays in my flight and forced me to “sleep” in the Los Angeles International Airport the night before. Now I arrived in Kansas City about 5 hours later than I had expected, and now it was midafternoon. As is often the case with my visits, however, the major question loomed: Would I have enough daylight to make the visit? And would the roads near the confluence be passable given the previous day’s blizzard?
I wasted no time departing the grounds of the Kansas City airport, driving south on I-435 and then west on I-70. I didn’t stop until I reached the landscape near the confluence point. I drove past Lawrence and Topeka and all signs were positive that the daylight would be enough for a visit, this being nearly March now and two months past the winter solstice, despite the wintry conditions outside. I exited I-70 at Keene Road, driving south on it for 3 miles. It was in fairly decent shape, snowy and muddy, but passable. The next road, Blazingstar Road, was in worse condition, and I gingerly drove east up and down some fairly steep hills to Sunnyside Road. I debated as to whether I should drive south on this road. Surprisingly, nearly all the roads in this area have been recorded on Google Street View, so you can investigate them yourself. Kansas winds had blown the snow across Sunnyside Road and encrusted it, making for some interesting passage. However, I was successful and admired the setting sun on the glistening ice to the southwest as I trekked slowly along. I parked partway down the slope leading to the creek at the bottom. I could have driven further, but always wanting a bit of a hike, I stopped here with about 1500 meters to the confluence. I got out supplies and also my hat and gloves, as the temperature was about 25 F with a breeze.
I first thought the confluence was in the riparian zone adjacent to the creek, which would make for a challenging walk as well as pose difficulty in receiving the GPS signal. However, as I hiked south along the road, it became clear that the confluence would be in the field to the south of the creek. I began hiking up the slope in this field to the crest, and then down the far side, encountering the confluence most of the way down this slope, toward the smaller creek on its eastern edge. The field was at the current time not under cultivation, but it was still a bit challenging to walk on given the snow. I saw a few birds but no animals and no people. It was a beautiful late afternoon and late winter day. I had been to 39 North probably more than any other single line of latitude in my confluence treks, from Maryland to California. Somehow, I had missed 39 North 96 in my previous treks across Kansas, and it was good to be here. I had stood on 96 West in Nebraska to the north of here and in Texas to the south of here. I spent about 15 minutes on site taking photographs and a video. Once again, I admired the Native Americans and the settlers who had traversed and settled these plains before me. It was not an easy landscape to live in. But it had a beauty all its own.
I exited the way I came in, filming one more video of the setting sun. I hiked back to the car and needed a bit more of a walk today since I had been sitting so long on airplanes and in airports over the past 24 hours, so I returned to the vehicle and re-bundled up once more for what I hoped would be a circumnavigation of the confluence point: A walk on the section line roads that bordered the confluence field. This 4.2 mile hike took about 1 hour and 20 minutes but I am glad I did it; even though muddy and windy, I saw an amazing sunset and the darkness did not fall until I was three-quarters of the way around the rectangle. Where else in the world can you hike in a perfect rectangle but on the Public Land Survey Systems of the US and Canada? Due south of the confluence, the landowner came out to the road and asked me if I was OK. Apparently this was a rather unusual place for a long hike and certainly the weather was not ideal. I assured him I was just out for a stroll and we had a brief, nice chat, and fortunately his dog was friendly. Upon the completion of my walk, I very carefully turned around on the snowy road. I drove out the way I came without incident, in other words, I didn't get stuck. I made my way that evening to my next stop, Kansas State University and the Department of Geography.