26-May-2014 -- On May 26th, 2014, Ian Simons and Ryan Shank visited the confluence of 51 degrees North, 94 degrees West near Red Lake, Ontario, Canada. It was Ian's first confluence visit, and was also the first visit to a confluence on the 51st parallel in Ontario. This was Ryan's third confluence visit, and his second original visit, having previously visited 40N 122E in China, and was his second successful continent on his quest to visit previously unvisited confluences on all continents.
We left from Omaha, Nebraska and stopped in northern Minnesota to do some fishing. From there, we drove to Red Lake and scouted out the area based on what we had seen on Google Earth and in our Northwestern Ontario Backroads Guidebook. We had an all-wheel-drive sedan, but found that the roads were really more like ATV and snowmobile trails, and our car was not able to get very far once we left Suffel Lake Road, the main gravel road in the area. We hiked to the end of the road and found we were still about 2 km from the confluence and determined that we had taken a wrong turn. We hiked back to the car and returned to the hotel to assess the situation, where we determined that we had turned on Eyeball Road instead of Bowman Road, which was the road that would lead us to the general area of the confluence. We had passed Bowman Road but did not turn on it because it looked more like a rocky stream than a road or trail, due to heavy rains in the area the previous day or so.
The next morning, we rented a 4x4 Toyota 4Runner from Red Lake Marine and returned to the confluence area, this time making the correct turn onto Bowman Road. We slowly made our way up the dirt road, which was washed out in places and was strewn with very large rocks, and continued until the trail became too narrow for the truck. We got about 3 km up the road with the truck, which was nice because it was over half the distance from the main gravel road to the confluence. From there, we set out on foot and found that the farther we got, the trail became harder and harder to traverse. We identified a lake we saw on Google Earth and knew we were on the right track, but found that the trail became difficult to find in places due to massive amounts of overgrowth and deadfall. Along the way, we saw dozens of piles of moose scat, as well as a few bear tracks, so we proceeded with caution so as to not have any unpleasant encounters with the native wildlife. We also found what appeared to be the ruins of an old shack, perhaps a prospector's cabin from Red Lake's early days as a gold mining boomtown.
Upon reaching the end of the trail after about 2 km of hiking, we were about 400 meters from the confluence, but at this point there was no trail at all and we were pressing forward through the bush. We encountered a small stream, which we were able to jump over, and then did some rock climbing as we ascended a hillside covered with trees, large boulders, and thick moss. We made the final approach to the confluence over some uneven, thickly wooded ground and were then able to get all zeros on two different GPS units after doing the confluence dance for a few minutes. After about 30 minutes at the confluence, we headed back to the truck, using waypoints we had marked along our path to make sure we did not get lost. In total, we spent between three and four hours hiking to the confluence and back after we left the truck.
We arrived back at the truck exhausted, bruised, and scraped, but triumphant, and then returned to Red Lake where we celebrated with some cold Canadian beers, a good meal, and an evening of fishing.