01-Oct-2006 -- With infinite affection
And infiniter care,
Her golden finger on her lip,
Wills silence everywhere.
So wrote New England poet Emily Dickinson in Nature, The Gentlest Mother. It seems to fit this confluence and I like to think that Ms. Dickinson would have liked this spot very much.
I was in New England for a summit on the integration of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) into the curriculum of liberal arts colleges throughout the world. This was part of the National Institute in Technology in Liberal Education project, and a confluence visit seemed like the perfect complement to the summit. This was our third summit on the project, and I had visited confluences in Georgia and Maryland during our previous two visits. I had visited four confluences already in Vermont and Connecticut, and thought I might have time to pick up a fifth--and my first in New Hampshire--on my way to the Burlington Vermont airport.
I had met Degree Confluence Project founder Alex Jarrett on the previous day. Therefore, it seemed only fitting to visit 43 North 72 West in New Hampshire. This was the very first confluence that Alex visited back in 1996 that started the whole Degree Confluence Project. Thanks Alex! You've started us all on a series of memory-making adventures. I was ready for one more adventure.
Therefore, I left my friend Mick Miller's home in Connecticut at 5:00am, and by 7:00am, I had crossed a corner of Vermont and entered New Hampshire. Skirting around Keene on New Hampshire State Highway 9, I turned southeast along State Highway 123. The sky was quite cloudy and it was beautiful, winding my way through the forest. I crossed the 43rd Parallel but continued to Norway Pond, turning north on Depot Road.
The road was a wonderful mix of century-old and brand-new houses with, fortunately, stretches of rural landscape in between. The road became dirt and finally ended at a large glacial erratic at an enormous new house. A sign read "Please respect this private property by turning around." I did so. Backtracking to the first trail that led to the west, about 200 meters south of the road's end, I began my hike.
I had unwittingly stumbled on the best trail to the confluence, though I did not know it at the time. The trail was one of the loveliest I had ever encountered, through the hardwood forest. It was wide enough for a small vehicle and is barely visible on the satellite image. I saw no people and it was an incredibly peaceful hour. The trail began descending in elevation, and with 350 meters to to the confluence, I left the trail and climbed the hill to the north. As expected, the heavy tree cover hindered my progress and made me lose GPS signal numerous times. My track, had I downloaded it later, must have surely taken a zigzag route, but I eventually found myself hiking southwest toward a beautiful marsh and pond. On the side of the hill, I took photographs and video at what I thought would be my closest approach to the spot. After awhile, I picked up signal again and to my surprise was able to zero out the unit about 30 meters away from this initial spot. I spent at least 20 minutes pacing back and forth across this ground before finding The Spot.
The confluence lies on hilly, tree-covered and rock-covered ground, about 50 meters east of the pond. The morning temperature stood at 49 F (9 C) under conditions that were becoming quite cloudy and dark. I made a note to myself after the visit that I need to find out how to set my camera to always flash, because the photographs turned out a bit dark. I saw no animals and a few birds. The area is hilly and rocky--some of the most beautiful terrain in New England. Some clearings existed for towns, farms, and livestock, but much was forested. I was glad that I could not see any homes from the confluence site, and I would like to think that this spot, at least, looks very much like in the days when New England poets such as Robert Frost and Emily Dickenson trod these grounds. It is my hope that nobody will build a house here from which to look out over the lovely pond.
I had been to 43 North previously in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. This was my third time to stand on 72 West, having accomplished it three days earlier in Vermont and just yesterday in Connecticut. This was my first New Hampshire confluence and my fifth in New England.
I hiked out in a southeasterly direction, reaching the trail at nearly the exact same spot where I had left it. About halfway along the trail, the rain began to fall. Total round trip hike distance was about 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles). It was pouring by the time I reached the vehicle, and rained all the way back to Vermont and Burlington. The timing of the confluence hike could not have been better. The drive back to Burlington was absolutely beautiful--raindrops, small villages, and forests. In short, it was everything New England landscapes are famed to be.