05-Sep-2015 -- I was in some serious confluence withdrawal with my last visited point in Wisconsin USA some four months before. I thus was looking forward to what has become my annual day or two out in the field solely to visit confluence points. This year, the only time available was Labor Day weekend, a holiday in the USA, and even though the traffic would be heavier in Colorado and New Mexico with people wanting to hike, camp, and fish one last time during the summer, the day had dawned to embark. The decision was: Which confluences to attempt? Having already visited most of the ones in Colorado, I decided to attempt additional ones in New Mexico. I had a few already but adding to the collection was a good excuse to see some new vistas, new roads, and new towns. But in order to reach New Mexico, I would pass by a few points in Colorado--so why not visit those, too?
Having some Geographic Information Systems (GIS) education work to do in the morning, I awoke early. After 3 hours, I started on my trek at 9:30am, and despite heavy traffic, an hour later I was in South Park, one of several high, fairly flat, and broad mountain valleys in Colorado. South Park was also one of the largest--probably half the size of Rhode Island--23 miles (37 km) wide by 50 miles (80 km) north-south. Anticipation mounted as I passed through the town of Fairplay, at 9,953 feet above sea level, driving south on US Highway 285. I turned west on county road 433 on a dirt road, past a private reservoir, and onto forest service land. The one lane road rose in elevation as I drove. I parked where the small stream there flowed across the road. Being in a rental car, I did not want to chance getting stuck on my very first point of the day.
Due to the traffic that had materialized as anticipated, it was now already after 11:00am, and so I wasted no time gathering supplies and walking at first due west but then hopped over a narrow part of the stream and took Forest Service Trail 168 to the northwest. The elevation was high and the trail went uphill, but I wasn't too out of breath, the day being fairly cool still with a surprising amount of cloud cover--about 78 F. My GPS gave 1.5 miles to the confluence point from the start. After entering a gate, shutting it behind me, and passing some cattle grazing there, I took a left at the first fork. When I was last here a decade ago, I made the mistake of taking the right fork and having to traverse the ridgeline ahead of me. It was quite pleasant walking anywhere around here, however, so it would not have mattered either way. Wanting to visit three additional points today, however, I kept as brisk a pace as I could manage. After 35 minutes from my starting point, I arrived at the confluence.
The confluence lies where I had found it last time--on land sloping gently to the south. It was in a meadow that was half in plants and have bare dirt and rocks. I arrived just before noon in late summer--early September--a magnificent time to be outside in Colorado. Some wildflowers were still growing and the aspens showed just a touch of yellow in their leaves. We had experienced a wet May and June but a dry August. I had visited 39 North numerous times in the past, from California on the west to Maryland on the east. My treks to 106 West had been fewer--from a foiled attempt in Wyoming on the north to just one degree south of here in Colorado, I had only stood on this meridian a half a dozen times. It was wonderful to be back at this point, which is one the most beautiful points I have ever visited in my 320+ point journeys spanning nearly 15 years. The mountains surround the point, particularly to the west, and the confluence terrain consisted of high grassy meadows, aspens, pines, junipers, and other vegetation, as well as a fair number of rocky outcrops. Given my goals of the day, I spent only 20 or so minutes at the site. I saw no people, no animals besides the cattle, but a few magnificent soaring birds.
I hiked back the way I had come in, but having looked at the satellite image as I have been writing this narrative, I now wished I would have hiked a bit west and then back along the two other roads, so I could have done a loop. A geographer like me relishes any chance to do a loop, so one can see new sights the whole way. Oh well--it was still a beautiful trek either way. The cattle were still there, watching me as I approached and passed. Upon reaching the vehicle, a camper passed me on the gravel road, having no trouble fording the stream that I had been nervous to drive over. He had the window down and I commented "good job fording the stream!" as he passed.
I drove east to US Highway 285, and then south to attempt the next point: 38 North 106 West. It was a great day and I had some great moments at this site. Get out there and explore the world!