the Degree Confluence Project

United States : Washington

1.7 miles (2.7 km) NE of Delphi, Thurston, WA, USA
Approx. altitude: 71 m (232 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest OpenStreetMap topo aerial ConfluenceNavigator)
Antipode: 47°S 57°E

Quality: good

Click on any of the images for the full-sized picture.

#2: Looking south on Delphi Road. #3: The entrance to the McLane Creek nature trail and demonstration forest. #4: The steep, overgrown uphill trail towards the confluence. #5: My GPS at the confluence.

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  47°N 123°W (visit #1)  

#1: The confluence! Note GPS on treestump in the foreground and photographer's knee.

(visited by Mike Blaszczak)

30-Oct-1999 -- Liz wanted to make Halloween decorations, so I figured I'd go do a couple of confluences. I'd studied the maps for 47N 123W and 47N 124W for a little while, now, and decided that I wouldn't need to do much off-roading; that I'd be able to take the Porsche without any problem.

I set off for Olympia, the capital of Washington. I drove west on WA-520, then hooked I-405 south. Then, I hooked-up with I-5 south to go the rest of the way down towards Olympia. The navagation system in the car had Delphi Road in Olympia, so I knew I'd not have trouble at least finding the start of the road that went near the confluence. Indeed, the car guided me off the highway onto US-101 just south of Olympia and I cut west for one exit before hitting the north end of Delphi Road.

Delphi wiggled its way south. It's your basic narrow two-laner with very little traffic. There's not really much farming around here, it seems. But there are plenty of modest houses with lots of land. Many people kept horses in big pens, while a few had cows. You can see a typical stretch of the little road in Photo #2. Aside from the track, it's little rural roads like this why I bought my car. Even in the drippy rain, my pet monster straightens out the turns and assures me of the apexes.

I guess I went south on Delphi road for about three miles before coming to the first of the two roads that would offer me a crack at my confluence. With the sprawling super-rural estates here, I was afraid I'd have to confront a property owner about walking through their field to find an arbitrary point for no good reason. I'm not sure why I'm adventurous enough to go hunting confluences, but too shy to approach property owners for permission to hike around for a picture or two.

Anyway, I was in luck: the first road bore a sign (in Photo #3) for the McLane Creek Centennial Demonstrantion Forest and Nature Trail. Wow! This should make finding the confluence pretty easy!

I drove a bit of the way into the forest and noticed a couple of pedestrian crossing signs that designated spots where the nature trail crossed the roadway. A piece of cake!

There was even a wide spot in the road where I could park my car. There, a deck overlooked part of the forest and there were several interpretive signs describing the trees and wildlife. (I'd later find out that the McLane Creek area is a favorite of birdwatchers.) I scanned the maps and tried to guess where the confluence would be. Again, I forgot to bring a compass and would have to wander back and forth with the GPS to find my goal.

Even though my GPS was indicating a 3D fix, it was still showing an elevation at (or just below!) sea level. I vowed to check the manual when I got home to see if I had dorked some setting to give the reading a bad offset, or if there was some other wierdness going on.

I hiked up some wooden stairs to start on the trail, towards the south side of the entrance road. I knew that the confluence would be between my entrance road and some other road about 100 yards into the woods, so there should be little problem finding my way. I hiked through the overgrown trail, stopping occasionally at the posts. Unfortunately, they were made of some plastic that obviously deteriorated sharply in sunlight. The plaques were almost opaque, making the cards underneath almost invisible! Most of them described the way the forest regrew after being harvested, and discussed the types of trees that grew there.

Though not quite as thick as the real rain-forests out on the other side of the Olympic Penninsula, this forest was thick and damp. There were pine trees and maples and oaks. The maples were dropping leaves that were more than 18 inches high; it's really breathtaking. The air is fresh and clean.

And my ass is fat and heavy. With my camera and two lenses, and my GPS, I hiked up into the woods. Photo #4 shows the typical trail I followed; they were set, but not groomed. And easy to loose—it seemed as though there were lots of trails off into the woods that had become overgrown and neglected.

I went straight south and found that I passed the confluence, but I decided to keep hiking to find another way to loop towards the east and find my spot. There was no such luck: I emerged on a gravel-paved forest road. I cut to the east on that road to find another way to dive into the forest, and got confused: in my head, without a compass, I flipped east and west and was walking the wrong way. Nothing but stubborn, I kept going--feeling sure that I would turn back onto another trail that would take me right to the point I wanted. In my heart, though, I fretted: there was such deep growth here that I'd never find my way and be lost forever.

Plus, last weekend, Liz and I rented The Blair Witch Project. It was a real stupid movie; I might get disoriented, but my stupidity would never actually kill me.

I followed the logging road back downhill all the way to Delphi Road. It ended there, and was barricaded by a huge mound of dirt and a "No Tresspassing: Patrolled Land" area. What the heck is "Patrolled Land"? Well, anyway, I hopped back onto Delphi Road and headed North. It was here that I realized that I'd crossed my directions and had to walk back around through the entrance of the park and find the trail again.

Easy enough, except I was working up quite a sweat. A bit of hiking is no challenge, but the elevation changes were wearing me. The first trail entrance#0151; the one I had driven past— didn't have stairs and seemed a bit more level than the other one I took. I wandered around and read the signs about how trees grow differently in the same forest. Some filter light for others, and the lower trees adopt to that. I started whistling that Rush song.

Now that I was one with my confusion, I hiked back up the trail I first passed. The hill was a monster; the trail had to feature an grade of at least fifteen percent. It looks deceptively shallow, though, in Photo #4.

At the top, I hit the logging road again before getting south enough to be near 47-degress, flat. I followed the logging road the other way into the woods, and was surprised to see it veer towards the southwest. Exactly the way I needed to hike to find the confluence!

By wandering back and forth, I realized I would need to climb into the woods to find my mark. It was tough going: there was no running water or chiggers, but there was deep, deep growth. Limbs and small trees had fallen and created a nursing groundswell of underbrush. I had to lift my feet to my knees and wade through brush that was sometimes chest high, but usually pretty passable. My big fear became the disturbance of a snake or a nest of scorpions or a bottomless pit or a badly decomposed body.

But, after zigging and zagging, I found a treestump. It was old, maybe 20 inches in diameter. And it was cut down a long time ago. But right there, I netted the reading of 47 degrees, zero minutes south by 123 degrees, 0.009 minutes west. You can see it in Photo #5. (Since I forgot to bring my polarizing filter, there's terrible glare on the face of the GPS.) The confluence was only 30-something feet away, but the hill fell sharply in that direction. I had already lost sight of my gravel road home, and wasn't too familiar with the tracking and heading features of my GPS, though it looked like I had a decent line to follow to get out. I'd call this "good enough"!

I used my 15mm fisheye lens to capture the area of the confluence. The fisheye bows the tall trees, and you can see the GPS on the log near the bottom. The light-coloured sliver at the bottom edge is my own knee!

It took 20 more minutes to hike back out, even following the tracking feature on my GPS. I was afraid of slipping off the logs and tripping on the deep underbrush. If I badly twisted my ankle back here, it would be years before someone would find me.

Hiking downhill is lots easier. Unfortunately, the rest of the pictures I snapped were unacceptable. Between my sweating and the supersaturated air in the forest, the glass in my camera was badly fogging. I thought the problem was with just the viewfinder window, but it was too late before I realized the problem was actually fogging on the camera-side elements of my lenses.

I dusted off my shoes and climbed back into my race car. Off to the next confluence!

You can get more information on the McLane Creek recreation area by calling the State of Washington's Deparment of Natural Resources information line for the Central Region at (360)-753-2400.

 All pictures
#1: The confluence! Note GPS on treestump in the foreground and photographer's knee.
#2: Looking south on Delphi Road.
#3: The entrance to the McLane Creek nature trail and demonstration forest.
#4: The steep, overgrown uphill trail towards the confluence.
#5: My GPS at the confluence.
ALL: All pictures on one page