13-May-2021 -- As the COVID situation precluded travel for so many months, and as a geographer I was longing to get into the field, I was glad when the opportunity finally arose. I trekked into the field in May 2021 to visit confluences, back roads, state lines, grain bins, railroad depots, city parks with metal slides, road signs, state parks, and other out of the way places that a geographer would love. Earlier on this same day, I left Colorado to visit 38 North 98 West in Kansas, and then due south to 37 North 98 West on the Kansas-Oklahoma border. Could I make 38 North 97 West, making for a three-confluence day, before the sun set? Time was of the essence because after the planned third visit, I also needed to get to my destination campground that evening before sundown so I would not be choosing a campsite in the dark.
Thus, at around 2:45pm local time, I made haste beginning at 37 North 98 West just north of the Oklahoma-Kansas border to make a beeline to the northeast, with 38 N 97 W as my goal. This took me through Anthony, Harper, Viola, and around the west side of Wichita, then east to Benton. My first time in Wichita and I was not able to stop, alas, but I hoped to return here on work travel and visit Wichita State University. Near Towanda, I turned north and east on a series of section line roads, some paved, some gravel. The sun was sinking, but as it was about a month before the summer solstice, I was fairly confident that I would make it before sundown. Sure enough, at just after 5:00pm local time, I turned east onto the gravel road leading to the south end of the property where the confluence lay.
I knew from my research that I would need to chat with the homeowner of the house that lies on the north side of the field where the confluence lay. As I drove up the driveway to do so, I could see two men getting into their vehicles and one very large dog. Fortunately the dog and the men were all friendly; we ended up even talking about GIS and GPS! That warmed my heartstrings. I assured them that I would not trample on the waist-high wheat stalks. Once I had talked with and received permission from the landowners, they then drove out. I waved and drove out as well, but parked at the road to the south, at the driveway entrance. I gathered GPS, hat, and camera. After a hike of only 8 minutes, I arrived at the spot. I made sure that I skirted the field as long as possible to minimize tramping on the stalks. The temperature stood at about 82 F under moderate breezes. The sun was gloriously out in full in the west, lighting up the entire wheat field and surrounding trees. What a great time to be here.
As I stood here in south central Kansas, I reflected on the bison, the Native Americans, and the 19th Century settlers that had traversed these plains. The land was ever so gently rolling here, with the rivers studded with cottonwoods and other trees, and most of the land in ranches and farms. Was this field always in wheat, or did they rotate it with other crops and with grasses from year to year? I had not stood on this confluence before, although I had over the years stood on this 38th Parallel from California on the west to Virginia on the east. Next to 39 North, it was probably my most visited parallel in the world. I had also stood on this 97th meridian, numerous times, from the north in a bitterly cold field in South Dakota, to a thrilling motorboat ride with a university researcher off the Texas coast on the south. I now have a nice assortment of at least 3/4 of all the points in the great state of Kansas. Rock Chalk! It had been 15 years since this confluence was last visited and I was glad of the opportunity to be the third visitor in total.
After spending only 10 minutes on site, again due to my time constraints, I filmed a video, which is here: 38 North 97 West, on my Our Earth channel . I took photos in all directions and was proud to be wearing the Map This shirt given to me by some wonderful mapping colleagues of mine from GeoJobe GIS.
I then made my departure, though in a bit of a hurry as it was over 2 hours to my destination at Elk City State Park, over the Flint Hills to the east-southeast. Still, I made sure to be careful with the wheat stalks. I knew I would probably never be back here to this spot and so departing is always bittersweet.
I drove through El Dorado past an amazing cemetery--what a juxtaposition--the cemetery was ringed with enormous natural gas tanks. Then I drove south and east out on US Highway 400, a number that bothers me because it is not in sequence with other US highways. The number should be US 52 or 54, or even US 48, but not US 400. But, I had to admit it was a beautiful road, driving east, especially with the sun behind me lighting up the beautiful Flint Hills. Fortunately I had some food that I brought from home, and thus only needed to stop once for gas. After Fredonia, I traveled south again, and I made my Elk City State Park destination before dark. Moreover, I found a gorgeous spot overlooking the reservoir there and had time for a short hike. Plus, the sunset was one of the best I have ever seen, setting over the water.
Get out there and explore the world!