03-Apr-2022 -- As I was in the state for a series of university and tribal college visits to support the use of geotechnologies in education, and as it had been 11 months since my last confluence visit and I was missing these field excursions so much, and as the focus of the confluence project is geotechnologies (mapping, GPS, and the land), I thought a fitting beginning to my Minnesota work this week was to visit 46 North 95 West. Owing to the time of the year, I deemed a visit to the points closer to tonight’s destination (Duluth), that of 47 North 93 and 94 West, just too potentially wet. They were in wetlands. It would not do to get my work clothes soaked before teaching and conducting meetings this week, so 46 North 95 West it had to be, as I had already visited all of the points south, southwest, and southeast of Duluth, on previous work trips since 2002. Twenty years of visiting these points!
Not long after I had flown into the Minneapolis St. Paul airport, I was exiting I 94 at Sauk Centre and heading north on Highway 11. This was after my first stop, however, which was at Kwik Trip, a convenience store chain out of Wisconsin that I truly love. With hazelnut coffee now in the vehicle and traveling north on the 2 lane road, I was loving every moment. When I turned to the northwest along Highway 38, I stopped the car, got out the GPS, put my sweater on, and made sure I had all of my supplies. In retrospect, I should have gotten out my coat, hat, and gloves, too. It had been partly cloudy since I had landed, but now the weather had become decidedly colder and gloomier. I drove a few minutes northwest on 38, turned left or south on 181st, and then turned right, west on 256th. The roads were wet, snowy, and muddy but fortunately not completely covered with snow. There was plenty of snow in the surrounding fields, however.
I could not determine from my previous reconnaissance of the satellite imagery whether there would be a house on the south side of the road. I was set to visit the house on the north side of the road and then ask permission to walk into the woods and fields to the south. However upon my approach I saw that there was indeed a house and a driveway on the south side of the road. Nevertheless I parked on the road and decided to walk in. I always think it is friendlier that way. I walked south for about three minutes along the driveway and knocked on the side door of the house there. Fortunately I heard no dogs. A while later the landowner came out and we had a friendly and nice chat. He remembers the previous visitors and said it had been a while. Indeed, I later checked the website and it had been since 2001 when the visitor was here--21 years and exactly 2 days ago! It was amazing to me that a point that was relatively easy to find had only been visited once before.
After we chatted, I invited the landowners to accompany me to the point. We found it at first on the southwest side of the barn to the northeast of the house, and then on the southeast side. The southeast side is where I actually zeroed out the GPS unit. The confluence therefore lies on fairly flat ground on land that was in grass, but surrounded by some piles of wood and tilled fields. The longest view was to the south, which was was uphill. The temperature stood at about 38° F now (3 C) with a modest wind blowing in from the east. It was early afternoon in early April but it seemed like wintertime, and I had enormous respect for those tough folks out here living out all four seasons, even if summer is relatively short. I saw no birds or animals on this visit.
I promised I wouldn’t take any pictures of the house but I was able to capture in a short time the remainder of the photos as well as that of the GPS unit. I noticed the temperature was dropping, the clouds were lowering, and a light snow had begun to fall. I was embarrassed to say that my fingers were getting numb already. I declined to say anything to my new companions--today’s cold weather was nothing compared to what they and their neighbors had already gone through this past winter! The landowners told me that the snow had been up to past their waists and only now was the ground finally emerging.
I walked back north of the driveway and back to the vehicle where I filmed a video which I posted here and took some more photos. I had stood on 46 North many times before, from Oregon on the west to New Brunswick in the forests of Canada on the east. I had also stood on 95 West even more times, from on the north end here in Minnesota down south into Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and on down to Texas. I now have visited about 8 points in Minnesota thus far. It felt so good to be out on the landscape, even though my fingers were still thawing.
I drove back out the way I came in but when I reached the northwest road, I turned northwest and proceeded to the north. Not long after this, the snow really started in earnest and soon the visibility was very short--only a few car lengths in distance. April in Minnesota! I loved it. Get out there and explore the world.