25-Oct-2019 -- As I was finishing up a week of university visits to promote and support the use of geotechnologies throughout the curriculum, and concluding the Applied Geography Conference today, a confluence visit seemed like the perfect capstone. In addition, I had not visited South Carolina in 9 years, and since South Carolina is near the Charlotte airport, where I would be flying out in 3 hours, I thought that 35 North 81 West might be doable en route to the airport. Would I have enough time?
Having completed my duties at the Applied Geography Conference, I considered that I would need to complete the trek in 120 minutes at the most. I arrived in the area by exiting I-77 at Celanese Road. Again, as I have remarked on other visit narratives, it is amazing how just a few hundred meters from the wildness that the confluence was sure to be, that there existed a sea of commercial development. I drove west on Celanese, north on McGallant, and northeast on Highway 30 to my destination--Westminster Park. The park is unique in that it is open to the public but run by a local church. As I drove into the park, many people were putting up tape, obviously for a run and obstacle course and other activities. One of the workers told me that many youth would be in the park tomorrow for a large festival. It was a good thing my attempt was today instead of tomorrow, when surely I would have not been permitted to wander around.
When I stopped at the end of the park access road, I gathered supplies and set out to the south. Gazing upon the powerline right of way and faced with a very steep, thorny, and shrub laden trek to the south, I knew this was going to be a lot more difficult than I had expected. But then my dismay turned to joy: After a hundred meters on the powerline right of way, I spotted a park trail quietly heading off into the trees to the southeast, almost the exact direction I wanted to go. I hiked on this as far as I could, seeing that it hugged the north bank of a small but deeply incised creek. I finally abandoned the trail and hiked along the riverbed, which was muddy and submerged in places, but it wound to the southeast and just before it emptied into the very wide and deep Catawba River, I managed to climb out of its 25 foot banks and emerged in a thorny but flat area to the south. I located the confluence in a cleared area just west of the Catawba River. It was a mid-autumn day around noon, the temperature a somewhat humid and warm 79 degrees F. I saw no birds, animals, or people. Again, it was amazing how wild this point is, being so close to a major city (Charlotte) and to surrounding towns and commercial development. It is also amazing that this point is not a few hundred meters east, when it would surely be in the middle of the major river flowing there.
This was my first confluence in South Carolina, and in reflecting upon it, I believe I have visited a confluence in 49 of the 50 US states, only missing Alaska. I doubt I will ever get a point in Alaska, but who knows? It took me 17 years to cover 49 states in confluences. As I stood there, I reflected that I have stood on 35 North many times in the past, from California on the west to North Carolina on the east. I have stood on 81 West several times in the past, from Ohio on the north to Florida on the south. This was my first time on 35 North 81 West. Despite its proximity to nearby towns and streets, it is a short but thorny and wet challenging point. The approach from the park may not be the driest, but it works. It was amazing that 15 years had elapsed since the last visit. This point may be slightly easier in winter, but I'm not sure--it surely is thorny no matter what the season.
I hiked out largely the way I had come in, but when I emerged out of the creek ravine's riverbed, I found a trail leading north. As I suspected, it ended in one of the park's large grassy fields, where I made a beeline back to the vehicle. I wound my way through the park, where it was busier than ever with people setting up for the next day's events. I drove out the way I came in, and made it back to the airport with 90 minutes to spare. Success and though I was muddy and a bit scratched, it was totally worth doing: Get out there and explore!