28-Jun-2007 -- This, the final stop in my quest for the maximum number of confluence visits in a single day, was perhaps the most beautiful. How many confluences could a person visit in a single day? My journey had begun at 2:22am in Colorado, and I had achieved 6 confluences by 6:30pm, starting at 38 North 103 West. I then proceeded east along 38 North, turning north at 99 West, and visiting 39 North 99 West a few hours before. The sun was already low at the last confluence but I was curious whether I could squeeze in one more, just one degree north of the previous one. Could I reach 40 North 99 West before sundown?
I can now say that I have been to Paradise...Paradise, Kansas, that is. Paradise was a lovely town that was bathed in the evening sunlight as I departed 39 North 99 West, but being in too much of a hurry, I did not stop nor take photographs. From Paradise, I traveled east on Kansas Highway 18, and then north on US Highway 281 through Luray, Osborne, and Smith Center. In each, I caught glimpses of what folks were up to on a summer's evening. I had never been on this highway on its Kansas stretch before, and I greatly enjoyed it. However, the slow speed limits through the towns meant that it was after 8:00 pm by the time I drove west on US Highway 36 and north on Kansas State Highway 8 to the confluence. The sun was really sinking low. Would I make it in time?
One mile south of the Kansas-Nebraska state line, I drove west on an unnamed dirt road for three miles. Sandy road was a more apt description than dirt, and its hills were steep, making me a bit wary about getting stuck. In addition, pieces of a telephone or other cable lay all over the roadway and had to be negotiated. When I turned north one mile to the Nebraska state line, the road worsened and I considered stopping and jogging to the confluence. I thought that I'd surely become mired if I stopped, so I pressed on, turning west again and driving along the state line. I topped the crest of another hill, descended the other side, and stopped. Grabbing the camera, GPS, and sign, I slithered under the fence as fast as I could and ran up the slope to the south-southeast. I crested this hill and arrived at the confluence with about 20 minutes of sunlight to spare. Finally, the answer to the question that has long followed me: I had been able to visit 7 confluences in one day.
The confluence lies on ground sloping 15 degrees to the south, with wonderful views of large cottonwoods and grassy hills. The north view was the only one blocked by a steepish slope. However, to the northeast, I could still see very clearly into Nebraska. The confluence lies in a field that has been grazed in the recent past. The temperature, after a high of 95 F (35 C) today, was by now down to about 82 F, still hot, but right at my favorite time of day and season--summer evenings. I saw no people during my confluence trek, no animals, but quite a few birds, including a sighting of what looked to be a small bird playing tag with a golden eagle on my way out. I stood for some moments and reflected on the day. This was my 7th and last confluence, it being nearly 8:30pm. I could see no houses from the confluence. The entire region had an abandoned and had a bit of a creepy air to it. I couldn't tell if it was because the population density had been declining for decades as more farms turned into agribusiness, or because I was a bit tired after my day of confluencing.
I had been to the 40th parallel many times before, from Lake Tahoe on the west to Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey on the east. I had also stood on the 99th Meridian West several times as well, in Kansas, Texas, and North Dakota. After about 15 minutes at the confluence, I started back toward the vehicle, but before I had gone a meter, I stared with amazement at my GPS. I was receiving signal from 12 satellites, a very rare event for me, indeed, and a wonderful capstone to the day.
Not wanting to drive on the sandy roads in the dark, I retraced my vehicle track, and emerged on the pavement about 15 minutes later. I was treated to a magnificent Great Plains sunset. Then the real misery began. I was a very long way from home; 6 degrees of longitude, to be exact. It was a long struggle to stay awake for another 7 hours, nearly all of it along US Highway 36, with many miles of darkness between the high plains towns. I did not arrive at home in Colorado until 3:30am, making the trip a 25-hour, 1,100 mile (1,770 km) journey.
Later, I found out that Rainer Mautz visited 10 confluences in Europe in
one day, heading west for maximum daylight, beginning at 50 North
11 East. While I enjoyed my maximum confluences in one day investigation, upon reflection, I can say that I prefer to visit these points more slowly, savoring the out of the way places. But however you do it, the important thing is to get out there and explore the Earth, and then be an advocate to protecting this great planet of ours.