05-Sep-2015 -- I was in a state of serious confluence withdrawal with my last visited point some four months before, and was looking forward to what has become my annual day or two out in the field solely to visit confluence points. This year, the only time available was Labor Day weekend, a holiday in the USA, and even though the traffic would be heavier, the day had dawned to embark. Having some Geographic Information Systems work to do in the morning, I did not get started on my trek until 9:30am. But, by noon I had visited 39 North 106 West, by 2:30pm, 38 North, by 4:30pm, 37 North. Would I make it to 36 North before sundown? Read on.
I enjoyed my drive through northern New Mexico from 37 North 106 West, as I had not been on that segment road (US 285) for many years. It is a beautiful road through the pines, pinons, and junipers, through some canyons and up on plateaus. Some rain was falling to the west as I neared Espanola...would I be rained on? The whole time I was driving, with the day becoming quite gloomy, I actually had my doubts on making this last point of the day at 36 North 106 West. In addition, it took me at least 20 minutes to drive through Espanola. But, forging on east on Highway 76, I crossed over the 106th Meridian. It was still light out, and wasting no time gathering supplies, I set off briskly straight north up the ravine that I had identified earlier on the satellite image. In retrospect, I need not have worried--I still had plenty of sunlight, but was not sure the exact time of sunset here.
My GPS gave 2700 feet, or 822 meters, to the confluence point from the start, but that was a straight line distance. This was rugged terrain of steep canyon slopes. I walked up the ravine, which was dry and a world apart from the irrigated fields I had just left behind. After about 20 minutes, I began hiking up the slope to the west. The ground was studded with large boulders and yucca, so I made slow slippery progress, but emerged on the ridgetop about 10 to 15 minutes later. From there, I crossed back to the east and located the confluence point on the east side of a large juniper shrub and on top of a prickly pear cactus.
The confluence lies on land sloping moderately to the east-southeast. It was just around 6:00pm in late summer--early September--a magnificent time to be outside in New Mexico. Standing on the exact spot is tricky--you have to part the juniper branches, avoid stepping on the prickly pear at your feet, and also not slip on the rocks. As I was standing there, the weather cleared and lightened toward the setting sun, casting beautiful sunshine on the hills to the east. As I was driving east about 45 minutes later, a magnificent double rainbow appeared. I had visited 36 North numerous times in the past, from California on the west to North Carolina on the east. My treks to 106 West had been fewer--from a foiled attempt in Wyoming on the north to just one degree north of here in Colorado, I had only stood on this meridian perhaps 7 times. It was wonderful to be at this point, which is one the most beautiful points I have ever visited in my 300+ point journeys spanning nearly 15 years. The mountains surround the point, particularly to the south and west. The view from the ridge just west of the confluence is spectacular, one of the best I've seen from any confluence point. Given my goals of the day, I spent 25 minutes at the site as I needed to find a camping spot for the evening. I saw no people and few birds. Some desert plants and flowers were blooming orange and were lovely.
I hiked back the way I had come in, down the slope. Upon reaching the canyon below, I spotted a four wheel drive trail that probably ascends the ridge, which would have made for an easier trek. But I had enjoyed the ridge and canyon walks; it was very peaceful and my favorite time of day and year. The sun was showing now and the aforementioned rainbow was appearing. I reached the vehicle and drove past the artsy shops and small roadside stands to the east, to the magnificent El Santuario de Chimayo, of which I posted some videos on my video site Geographyuberalles.
After visiting the Santuario, I drove over the mesa to the south, enjoying more magnificent sunset views. I was energized despite the day of hikes to four confluence points, so continued on to Moriarty, where I camped at a Pilot truck stop about 5 miles from 35 North 106 West, ready to attempt it the next morning. It was a great day and I had some great moments at this site. Get out there and explore the world!