02-Jan-2004 -- This attempted confluence visit will likely go down as one of the more satisfying unsuccessful attempts. Satisfying not for what we saw, but for who we met along the way.
On December 30, 2003, during my visit to Manitoba, my family and I were very excited to learn that the February photo and passage for the
2004 Confluence Project Calendar was taken from our second confluence visit (50N 100W). Needless to say, it did not take long to generate excitement and ellicit participation for another confluence visit.
My brother-in-law Dustin joined my confluence crew again on this visit along with his father Henry Booy of Glenboro, Manitoba. He had expressed an interest in the project and wanted an opportunity to try out his new Garmin etrex GPS device. Also in the party was my father-in-law Greg Gowryluk of Holland, Manitoba and a close friend of ours, Jason Boychuk from Winnipeg, Manitoba.
A review of the website revealed that the closest unvisited confluence was 51N 98W. The distance to a target confluence any further away would have dictated an overnight stay. We still faced a two to three hour drive north in forecasted blizzard conditions. We arranged for Jason to secure three extra pairs of snowshoes and obtain some detailed NTS topographical maps of the area.
The plan was for Greg, Dustin, Henry and I to leave Holland, Manitoba at around 11:40 a.m. on the morning of January 2, 2004, and meet Jason at a diner/gas station called the "Havakeen Lunch and Tire" on Highway 6 in Eriksdale, Manitoba.
Greg, Dustin, Henry and I arrived in Eriksdale at about 2:20pm after driving over two and a half hours on partially snow covered roads. Since we were about twenty minutes ahead of Jason, we decided to check the Eriksdale municipal office for a municipal landowner’s map. These maps are helpful for showing any maintained roadways leading to a confluence destination that may not appear on a typical provincial highway map.
The fact that the municipal office was closed did not deter us. We stopped at a store called "Big Al’s" owned by a man whose name we didn’t know, but can only assume was "Al". "Al" was unable to provide us with a municipal map, but directed us to the local "Shop Easy" grocery store to look for a man named "Keith" who might be able to help us.
We made our way to the "Shop Easy" and found Keith. We identified ourselves and our intentions in the area and asked if he had an extra municipal map. Keith did not have one available. However, since he was a member of the Eriksdale fire department he knew that there were municipal maps on the dashboard of the fire trucks at the fire house. Sympathetic to our cause, he made a quick phone call and asked us to go to the fire house to meet a man named "Boner". Boner was evidently the fire chief of the Eriksdale fire department and was able to provide us with the municipal maps we needed.
We then picked up Jason who was eagerly awaiting our arrival at the "Lunch and Tire". We all piled into the 4x4 and began the drive north to Mulvihill. Henry’s GPS showed our location to be about 12 km WSW of the target confluence when we pulled off Highway 6.
We turned east on the south side of Mulvihill and north onto Pasture Road. Pasture Road, we were told by Boner, led to the area’s community pasture and eventually turned into a trail that led around the north side of Birch Lake and toward our targeted confluence point.
As we proceeded north on Pasture Road we noticed another 4x4 vehicle heading south. The snow was getting deep as we entered the gate of the community pasture, and we stopped on what had now become the Pasture Road Trail to decide whether or not it was safe to proceed. The vehicle we had noticed heading south five minutes earlier pulled up behind us.
As I rolled down my window, a man approached the driver side of the 4x4 and asked, "Are you Lost?" Then he laughed and asked us if we were looking for the Confluence Point! What an amazing experience it was to be in such a remote location involved in a task that has only been attempted once before (Lafluer & Jones--August 2002) to actually meet someone with the same goal! The coincidence was almost too amazing to be true.
After the initial shock wore off, I learned that the narrative for the 24-Dec-2003 successful visit of 52N 98W that I had just read earlier that morning was written by the man we had just met--Gerhard Vogel. He was now with this son (Erwin) and daughter-in-law (Maria) in search of 51N 98W. While we both had 4x4 trucks and snowshoes, Gerhard and his team had the additional advantage of a snowmobile.
After joking about Americans visiting Canadian Confluence points and taking a combined group picture of both confluence teams, we part our ways. "It’s only fair for you to go forward while we head back around…hopefully we will all meet at the Confluence," Gerhard exclaimed as we departed.
We traveled a few hundred meters before the snow depth on the trail became impassable by our 4x4—the snow had drifted onto the trail at a two-feet plus depth. We were about 5 miles from the point with the daylight quickly passing. It was about 3:15pm--sundown would be 4:38pm that evening. We were able to turn around and follow our tracks back to Birch Lake Road where we joined Gerhard’s 4x4 tracks and followed them to his truck where he and his son were unloading their snowmobile.
As they prepared their snowmobile for the confluence visit, Gerhard generously offered to take one of our team to the point after he and his team visited the point. With daylight at a premium the only successful visit that day would happen by snowmobile. We thanked Gerhard for his offer, but wished him well. At about 3:40pm we watched as the lone snowmobile with three passengers headed off toward the confluence point—which was now about four miles away.
Without a snowmobile, a visit to this confluence in the winter would probably be easiest when the ground is frozen with less snow cover. This would enable a 4x4 to drive closer to the point. We would have had to start out much earlier in the day to give ourselves enough time to snowshoe the four miles in and out.
The following morning we were gratified to see that Gerhard had registered a successful visit to 51N 98W on the website. While our crew was not successful, we feel like "adventurers in common" with Gerhard and his crew. Congratulations to Gerhard and team!
Jonathan Gray with Dustin Booy
Coordinator's Note: It turneds out that the visit by "Gerhard and his crew" had to be changed to Incomplete, due to issues with the photos.