14-Jun-2003 -- I, Joseph Kerski, Geographer from Colorado USA and from the USGS, Anita Palmer, educational consultant with GIS Etc in Dallas, and Roger Palmer, science and GIS teacher from Bishop Dunne Catholic School in Dallas, pilgrimaged to Latitude 30 degrees North, Longitude 98 degrees West in South Central Texas. As we were teaching GPS and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for a group of 40 science and geography teachers at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, we considered a confluence visit to be the perfect addition to this teaching institute. Our adventure proved that excitement is always to be found when confluence hunting. Geography is Adventure!
We left San Marcos, Texas, at approximately 8:30am and drove north along Interstate Highway 35 to Kyle, a picturesque Texas town, where we turned west along State Highway 150. We searched for several entrances to the south before choosing the one with the wonderful towers of local limestone. This was quite fortunate, as the south accesses before this road were all very new to us. We drove through a labyrinth of twisting roads dotted with new houses and real estate signs. I parked near the end of the road that I deemed to be the closest we would be to the confluence. We considered speaking with the landowner at the end of the cul-de-sac, but after a look at their dogs, decided against it. As it turned out, we we would have been "barking up the wrong tree" at this home.
According to the GPS receivers, we needed to hike about 1.5 kilometers through the underbrush to the confluence. Hays County marks the eastern edge of the Texas Hill Country. We soon found out how hilly the Texas Hill Country really is. We meandered through a few fields of grass and prickly pear cactus, but largely crouched slowly through thick bushes and trees. Next, we descended the first steep gully and encounted a campsite at the top of the next hill, along with several wrought-iron chairs (see photograph) commanding a wonderful view of the Blanco River, a few hundred meters to our east. After spotting a sprinkler watering the ground in the middle of a dirt road, we dropped into, literally, into the second steep gully on all fours. Roger spotted the most amazing collection of several dozen daddy longlegs which won his science teacher's heart. We also spotted many turkey vultures and enormous spider webs.
I was the first to the top of the next ridge. We had been hiking for an hour and had barely traveled one mile. I shouted back to my companions, "You will not be happy when you see what is on the top of this ridge." It was a paved road! That meant that we could have driven nearly to the confluence point. "However," I asked my friends, "don't you feel better just knowing that we had a magnificent hiking experience instead of driving here?"
We walked along this paved road toward the east, crossing the 98th meridian in the process. This took us to an iron fence and a magnificent stone gate (see photo) marking the entrance to was no doubt an enormous and beautiful ranch. I was a bit puzzled at the previous visitor's narrative, as the confluence most definitely lies beyond a gate and large fence. As the entrance sported an electronic call box, I rang the owner of the ranch and explained our mission. Fortunately, he was home, and Rick appeared in his convertible Mercedes 15 minutes later. He accompanied us on our walk to the south on his private road, and after a 10 minute walk through level ground, we achieved our goal. We arrived at the confluence at approximately noon local time, 3 ½ hours after we left San Marcos.
The confluence lies in a wooded area on the private ranch, perhaps 100 meters from the front gate. The confluence sits on a flat piece of ground that gently rises toward the north, and is covered with live oak, other trees, and bushes. The weather was a fine 34 C, and we cooled off a bit under the trees. We took celebratory photographs but I was so nervous about Rick changing his mind that I neglected to record a digital movie at the site as per my usual custom. I needn't have worried: Rick was a magnificent human being, even taking our photo at the site (see visitors photo), and giving me a ride back to the car from the front gate. He told us that he had used GPS freqently on his boat. After spending 15 minutes at the confluence, we walked back to the front gate.
Finding the car proved a bit more difficult than I had imagined, and I was thankful for my first ride in Rick's Mercedes. I used the tracking function in the GPS for the first time and it did come in handy to locate the correct dead-end street. The car was waiting approximately 4 kilometers from the confluence. I drove back and picked up Roger and Anita. I had a bit of difficulty winding my way out of the housing subdivision, but with two other geographers in the car, I had plenty of geographic advice!