01-Oct-2019 -- As we were en route to the annual Minnesota GIS/LIS conference, and as the conference was focused on the use of geotechnology, and as our workshops, meetings, and presentations for the past 2 days at the university and at the tribal and community college had all been focused on education, and as the confluence project would not be possible without geotechnology (GPS, mapping, geographic information systems, remote sensing), it was only fitting that we visit a confluence point. Indeed, for several weeks, we have been planning to visit 46 North 94 West. Today was the day! Would we have success?
And thus, after departing the amazing Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College campus, and meeting some wonderful faculty and students doing inspirational work with GIS technology and spatial thinking, we drove southwest on I-35. We were chatting about all things education and geography, truly some great times. We then traveled west on Minnesota State Highway 18, where we stopped at a store that I was amazed to discover sold live tiny fish as bait. Apparently that is commonplace around here! Rain was lightly falling. Would we get wet at the confluence? Soon, I spotted my first view of Mille Lacs Lake, which I have always wanted to see. We then drove around the southeast part of the lake on Highway 27 to Onamia, then west on this same highway to a section line road, 330th Road, south on this road to 163rd Street, another section line road, and then west to the intersection of this road and 320th Avenue. All of these roads were gravel; the land was gently rolling and in sorghum, corn, and pasture. Parking here at the intersection, we set out to the north, after donning some layers, as it was early fall in Minnesota.
I usually embark on these treks alone, as there is usually an element of the unexpected in them, and not wanting to subject others to whatever might lie ahead. But these dear friends and colleagues were very enthused about their first confluence expedition, and naturally I agreed to be host. Even so, I was a bit nervous as we were walking north along the road. We were all, over the next three days, going to teach numerous workshops at the Minnesota GIS/LIS conference, a gathering of 550 mapping sciences professionals from across the state, and so twisting an ankle or getting scratched up would not be a good beginning. But we were all geographers and environmental sciences people, so a landscape adventure was part of our DNA, so to speak.
Earlier, I had spotted the faintest of cleared paths on the satellite image, proceeding west from the road, and sure enough, when we just about reached 46 North, we spotted a one lane track into the trees, covered with mowed grass. We took this as far as it would go, and then took some pictures here in case we could not zero out the GPS receiver once we were in the trees. We were already within 100 meters of the point but wanted to see if we could zero out the unit and actually stand ON the point. We therefore plunged ahead. As we were thrashing around in the underbrush and forest, I scraped the side of my eye, but otherwise we suffered no mishaps. I wondered for awhile whether we would have to stand in the bog that appeared to the west, making this a very wet confluence. But, the GPS sent us arcing in a large circle to the northwest, then southwest, and finally, amazingly given the dense tree cover, we were able to zero out the GPS receiver. We might have walked for about 10 minutes in the trees, before zeroing out the receiver. The point lies on nearly level ground, covered with fallen tree limbs, grasses, flowers, and shrubs, and the entire area was forested. It was mid-afternoon in early Fall, about 55 F (13 C). The sky was overcast but thinly so, thus the sun still shone through in a obscured way. We saw no birds or animals, and fortunately no ticks or snakes. We had to step carefully to avoid twisting any of our own limbs. The trees were beginning to change color. It felt glorious to be standing here with such good colleagues.
This was my first confluence in Minnesota in five years, since lying in a snowy field near Pipestone in the southwest corner of the state, about 5 years ago. I now have a tidy collection of 6 points in the state. I have stood on 46 North several times in the past, from Oregon on the west to New Brunswick in Canada on the east. I have also stood on 94 West many times, from Minnesota just 1 degree south of here, in a field at 45 North, to a very wet forest in eastern Texas at 31 North. This was my first time on 46 North 94 West. After only 5 minutes on the point, we departed, this time walking due east, and emerged on the grassy trail within just a few minutes. We made it back to the road a few minutes after that.
Hence, I needn't have worried. The trek was much easier than I had suspected, and we walked back down the gravel road in glad spirits. We reached the vehicle, feeling centered, and then had a lovely drive through some interesting towns and fields where the sun was lowering in the west, discussing all things geospatial. This would be a great memory, out here in central Minnesota. We arrived in St Cloud with plenty of time to prepare for our work over the next three days. Get out there and explore the world!