22-Mar-2013 -- As I was in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to plan a summer professional development institute for educators (T3G) in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), a confluence visit seemed like the perfect capstone to three days of fruitful meetings with my colleagues. And it was time to attempt 33 North 96 West.
I had long wanted to attempt this confluence, during one of my numerous trips to Dallas over the years. In part owing to the remoteness of the location and because I knew how thorny and nasty back-country hiking in Texas could be, and also given its proximity to a wetland and possibly wading through a lake, I had been a bit nervous about this point. In retrospect I had more or less been putting this one off. Was I wrong to be nervous about this point? I now would find out: I had a few hours before my airplane was due to take off at DFW airport, and it was now or never for this confluence. Furthermore, I had visited all of the other confluence points surrounding Dallas and even a few in southern Oklahoma. And so, I found myself driving northeast on Interstate Highway 30 on a very gray day that threatened rain. Would I make it to the point? Some maps placed it very close to a lake. Would it be underwater? Would I be all slimy when I boarded the plane with people avoiding sitting next to me?
At Greenville, Texas, I drove southeast along US Highway 69 to a road I nearly missed that ran south toward the wildlife refuge that was my destination. I wound around on several roads but made no wrong turns, eventually ending up due west of Lone Oak. I then drove north on a lonely lane in the woods and turned west. I parked at the parking area for the wildlife area, perhaps the only one that existed. Nobody else was there but I had reached the jumping off point that I had been eyeing on the maps. Thus far, all signs were pointing to success. But I had not done any hiking yet. I gathered supplies but as I had not anticipated these few hours to attempt a confluence trek, I in fact had very few supplies. In fact, all I had was a cell phone and it was not even fully charged. I still wanted to give it a try. I had nothing to lose.
I embarked on a wide meadow to the west, and then headed north along a grassy area that was perhaps used for vehicles in the past until the section that had been driven on ended. Unfortunately at this point I got so far off the beaten path that I was immersed in the thorny trees. Many places have thorn bushes but Texas has entire trees made up entirely of thorns, and it was pretty nasty for awhile. Beginning to lose heart with a long way to go, I then found a rough trail of sorts leading west, but actually too much west rather than northwest, and I was nervous that I would soon be in a lake or at least wading the river ahead of me. But recall that this was a wildlife area and perhaps limited hunting was allowed. And lo and behold, bless those hunters! Some kind soul had tied ribbons to branches to the northwest in the very direction I was heading! I got off the marked path a few times but made it through the thick trees and emerged at the wetland.
It had been a dry winter perhaps but for whatever reason, I was very pleased to discover that I was walking on dry ground. Moreover either there had been a wildfire here or a prescribed burn--I suspected the latter--which ensured firm footing and easy skirting of shrubbery. I soon reached the other side and things became a bit more difficult once more: Loss of GPS signal on smartphone, high grass, vines to trip one up, and many trees. Nevertheless I ended up making a very wide arc to the southwest, aiming for the wrong direction several times but finally arriving at an area in which the confluence lay.
The confluence lies on the east-west boundary between a marsh to the south and the forest to the north. I saw no people, wildlife, nor birds: A lonely but lovely spot. It felt good to finally be here after so many years of confluence hunting in north Texas--10 years. I had a very nice collection of confluences in this part of the state: Both points to the west of here, one southwest, one northwest in Oklahoma, and two points due south of here. I have stood on 33 north numerous times from coast to coast in the USA and also 96 west from north to south. But as all points, this was a truly unique spot. I was acutely aware that aside from previous confluence visitors, a few bird watchers, and a few hunters, perhaps only a few people have ever stood right here. I've visited numerous points in my 11 years of doing this where the trek proved much more difficult than anticipated, but this point was a bit easier than expected. Somewhat arduous to be sure, but I only had a few scratches, no bug bites, and I wasn't even wet; just a bit muddy. The temperature stood at 65 F under gloomy skies.
I exited the refuge in largely the same way--through the trees to the wetland, back through the marked forest to the grassy lanes. Here I tried to avoid the thorn trees. But even close to the vehicle, owing in part to the gloomy sky prohibiting me from determining which way north was, I got off course and relied completely on Motion X GPS on my phone to reach my vehicle. I arrived back after about 2 hours and about 3 miles round trip. A great morning and I'm so glad I finally made the attempt.