06-Sep-2003 -- I, Joseph Kerski, Geographer at the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver, embarked on a late summer Saturday on a two-confluence trek with my favorite confluence partners, Emily and Lilia Kerski. Our first goal was 39 North 104 West, on the high plains of Colorado. We left Lakewood, Colorado at 915am local time, driving through Castle Rock in Douglas County, and soon left suburbia and the pine trees behind. We dropped down onto the Great Plains on State Highway 86 to Elbert County Road 149, turning south and crossing US Highway 24 at Matheson. Fifteen miles later, driving due south just west of the 104th meridian, we found a remarkable "confluence sentry" at the exact spot we needed to stop the vehicle.
As the sentry, a peregrine falcon, sat atop the gate of the road we aimed to walk toward the confluence, we nicknamed the bird "Connie." As we were gathering up our supplies, Connie swooped to within three feet of us, letting us hear the twinkling of the bells attached to its feet. The tame nature of the bird and its bells made us think that perhaps it was being cared for by someone in the Rocky Mountain Raptor Association.
We left Connie behind at approximately 11:25am local time, choosing the vehicle trail west-northwest, rather than cut straight across fields. The road was free of cactus and other items needing our careful attention, allowing us to enjoy the day whose coolness reminded us that summer was nearing its end. Rain showers were visible to the west and south, but the clouds made for a pleasant journey. This
is high plains shortgrass prairie country, with cottonwood trees only in riparian areas. Most land was used for cattle ranching, sunflowers, corn, or left untouched.
When the road began to veer toward the southwest, we cut across the prairie to the edge of a cornfield, hugging the southern edge of it for its entire length. I thought for several minutes that the confluence might actually be in the cornfield, which would have made for an interesting hike, especially for the girls, who could not see over the top of the cornstalks. However, we passed the cornfield and picked up a faint trail, following it to a point west of 104 West. Next, we tacked north and northeast up a broad rise, encountering our first barbed-wire fence that we shimmied underneath. I realized at that point, after
hiking for 45 minutes, that I had left all of the water in the vehicle. I then reminded myself that my partners were tough Colorado girls. I was informed that a great cloud of gnats was following my head, which caused great amusement for the girls because they were gnat-free. A GPS sound alerted us that we were "nearing the waypoint" and at the top of the small rise, we were suddenly face to face with the confluence in all of its glory.
The confluence lies inside the southern "peninsula" of Elbert County, just three miles east of the El Paso County line. The confluence site lies atop an unplowed field, used for cattle grazing at some time in the past. Ground cover is sparse; most of the ground is bare dirt, but does include short grasses, thistle, an occasional yucca, and quite a few globe and prickly pear cactus. Despite the
flattish topography, the view from the confluence was interesting; Pikes Peak was faintly visible in a rainstorm to the west. Farm and ranch houses are sparse; the
closest was a mile to the southwest and a mile to the southeast. We saw no people during our entire hike. A few windmills that pump water for cattle were visible on the horizon. We arrived at the confluence at 1230pm after a hike of approximately 1.5 miles. We spent at least 35 minutes at the confluence, enjoying each other's company and the solitude of the Great Plains.
For variety, we took a different way back to the vehicle, starting toward the southeast and skirting the north end of the cornfield. The way back required crawling under two barbed-wire fences. After reaching a gully that is only
flowing after rainstorms, we hiked due south to avoid traversing another cornfield. Upon finding the original vehicle trail and completing our circle, the rain finally reached us. We hiked southeast and reached the vehicle at 2pm, two and one-half hours after our foot journey began. "Connie" was nowhere to be seen. After a mile, we saw our first people--two ranchers on horseback. We traveled south to Colorado State Highway 94, and then followed it west toward our next goal: Colorado Springs and Latitude 39 North, Longitude 105 West.