11-Aug-2001 -- After our unsuccessful attempt on
37°N 83°W (not yet up), we hobbled back to the car and headed north on a road that didn't have more than 100 yards of straight road in any given stretch. You could get enough metal from "S" curve signs in this area of Kentucky to rebuild the Titanic. The voice navigation system (Delorme Street Atlas, Road Warrior Edition running on a Compaq Armada 1700) that had served us so well in getting close to our first confluence failed us as we approached this confluence. The second to last road we were to turn on turned out to be a gravel path leading to several farmhouses and appeared to end well before the confluence point.
We studied the map on the screen a bit and found what seemed to be a mostly paved route around this gravel path. In the end, however, we did have to traverse about a quarter of a mile of gravel road. As we made our way down the road, I noticed the steep hill to our left... in the direction of the confluence... and began to worry. After our last attempt up an almost 100% grade hill, we were in no mood to go hill climbing again anytime soon.
Thankfully, the confluence was quite a bit closer to us this time.
At around 18:50, we stopped the car in front of a house 300 meters from the confluence site with two medium sized dogs in the front yard. An elderly woman came out of the house and onto the porch. I hopped out of the car and presented her with the letter from the Degree Confluence Project. She explained that she didn't own the land up the road and the owner had passed away. She said that there was someone living in a camper on the property. We got back in the car and inched up the road a little more.
The next house appeared empty and there was a large grave marker next to the house that had been recently adorned with flowers. The aforementioned camper came into view. We were getting close. The Etrex read 200 meters to go and dropping. Dave parked the car in a sandy clearing just past the camper, where several logs were piled up. The camper was empty for the time being. From the car, the Etrex said less than 130 meters.
Using a compass, we determined that the confluence lay west across a shallow stream that could be jumped easily, then up an even steeper hill than our last attempt. My legs were still complaining about the last hill. We climbed down a small embankment to the streambed and jumped over. The GPS said 97 meters! Success! This revelation put a little bit of wind back in our sails. It turned out to be a false wind. Being that we are two foolhardy geeks, we decided to try to get a little closer.
It took a bit of doing, including Dave giving me a hand up, but we managed to crest a 15-meter near cliff. Again, the recent rains had made the climb slippery and quite treacherous. We were now on a less steep (relatively) hill. Since we had to head a bit to the south to find a spot to climb, The Etrex read 116 meters. We decided to take a parallel course along the hill until we were closer.
Many rocks gave way under our feet as we made our way, fighting underbrush all the way. After bushwhacking our way for about 15 minutes, Dave allowed the Etrex to settle for a few minutes while we caught our breath. The GPS jumped around a bit, but was giving us readings around 80 meters. More success! Yippee! A hit! The long day of driving was not for naught.
The photo of the GPS shows our final coordinates. Using a DOS biased Great Circle distance calculator, we determined that we were 84 meters and change from the actual confluence point. Even with the 15 meters of accuracy, this was close enough to score a hit. Dave and I are disappointed that we couldn't get dead on the confluence point, but we learned a lot from our experience. Had we attempted this confluence first, we probably would have gone all the way, but we were just too beat up from our first failed attempt. Lesson learned.
With much pain that we knew would be worse tomorrow, we slunk back into the car, turned the air on high and drove home. We arrived back at my house at 23:30, a very long day indeed, having started around 09:15. We were tired, exhausted even, but it was the "good" kind of tired. :)