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the Degree Confluence Project
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United States : California

4.3 miles (6.9 km) NNE of Femmons, Tuolumne, CA, USA
Approx. altitude: 1673 m (5488 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest Multimap topo aerial world confnav)
Antipode: 38°S 60°E

Click on any of the images for the full-sized picture.

#2: "All" Bungee Jumping Allowed. #3: Snow wall that forced us to continue on foot. #4: Photo of Confluence Point. #5: Looking East from Confluence Point. #6: Close-up of recorded track to confluence on GPS.

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  38°N 120°W (visit #1)  

#1: Looking UP from Confluence Point at 38N, 120W.

(visited by Paul Catura, Andrea Fori, Mike Etz, Christy Johnston and Phil Shirts)

21-Apr-2001 -- Our Group (Paul Catura, Andrea Fori, Mike Etz, Christy Johnston and Phil Shirts) assembled on Saturday, April 21 at 8:30 am in Sunnyvale, CA, and headed as a caravan of three cars towards the confluence point of 38N, 120W in the Sierras, west of Sonora, CA. We wondered if there would be snow on the ground at our chosen confluence, as there had been a fresh snowfall in the mountains during the preceding days.

After several hours of driving (and brunch at Lyons), we reached the town of Sonora. A helpful mini-mart clerk allowed us to leave one of our cars in their parking lot. We took off in our two 4WD vehicles with GPS and topographical maps in hand, to follow the route as planned out earlier.

The GPS was a marvel, and showed us each time that we left our plotted course (not that we paid much attention). The Forest Service roads that we followed were sometimes steep and rutted, but always scenic. Several times, we wished that we had gotten Forest Service maps from a ranger's station. One especially "exciting" moment was when the dirt road we followed turned into a stream.

Eventually we met some friendly locals who explained that "you can't get there from here", as we would have to go over a closed, private road. So, we pulled back, re-checked our maps, and found another (paved) road that led up the mountain. We left the maintained road, and started seeing a fair number of fallen rocks on the road. As we climbed higher, snow covered the road. However, another truck had been on the road earlier, -- so we followed in its tracks.

Later still, and higher up the mountain, we saw that that the preceding truck had given up and turned back. Only slightly deterred, our caravan pressed onward through the untrammeled snow.

We descended below the snow line again, stopped for a break, and also to take our first picture, -- atop a bridge across a narrow gorge (with a sign reading "XX Bungy Jumping Allowed" (The first word had been crossed out. We're presuming that it used to say "All").

Back into the 4WDs, we climbed back above the snow-line, and again ended up pushing through new snow. This time, however, the snow became too deep (exceeding 2 feet - see photo) and stopped our progress. While backing up, one vehicle entrenched itself in a ditch. After a sufficient period of armwaving and teeth gnashing, we managed to free it from the ditch. We checked the GPS, and found we were only 1.2 miles from the confluence point (as the crow flies). It was now 4:00 pm, and we decided to leave the vehicles behind and hike the remaining distance to: 38N 120W.

The climb started out steep and was slow-going through the 1-2 foot deep snow. Additionally, most of us weren't accustomed to the uphill climb and thinner air (Our elevation now being over 4000 feet). Phil, our team photographer, was unaccustomed to walking as well, and was forced to turn back 0.7 miles from the confluence point. Amongst us was a Registered Nurse (Christy). Out of graciousness and a sense of duty to the Hippocratic oath, she also turned back then to make sure that Phil didn't die going down the hill. (Fortunately, Phil later recovered to help write this account of our journey.)

Paul, Mike and Andrea forged ahead. We reached the confluence point at about 7:30 pm and started taking photos. The confluence point consisted of a dense conifer forest on a slight slope near the crest of the hill. The view from the confluence was the same in all directions; only the slope varied. The majority of our photos at the confluence point are dark and grainy due to the failing light and density of the trees. However, these give a fairly realistic impression of the dreariness of the site at this time. The photo of the sky through the trees was taken at the confluence point, looking directly overhead.

The return trek was considerably easier since we now had a trail of postholes to follow downhill. Total roundtrip was a bit more than 4 hours.

The photos of the GPS were taken after our return to the city, and show our recorded track as we hiked from our vehicles to the Confluence point "CONF".

It was a fun, cold, wet and tiring adventure. After dinner, at Denny's, in Sonora that night (about 9:30 pm) we concluded that the journey was well worth the effort.


 All pictures
#1: Looking UP from Confluence Point at 38N, 120W.
#2: "All" Bungee Jumping Allowed.
#3: Snow wall that forced us to continue on foot.
#4: Photo of Confluence Point.
#5: Looking East from Confluence Point.
#6: Close-up of recorded track to confluence on GPS.
ALL: All pictures on one page (broadband access recommended)