11-Feb-2001 -- (This was the second of three confluences that John and I hit in a single day. The first was 41°N 77°W and the third was 42°N 79°W)
We got to within 2 miles of 42°N 78°W right around 12pm, so we were quite a bit ahead of schedule and feeling a bit cocky. The drive to the site had been very pleasant; cruising up route 15 with NO other cars on the road and R.E.M. blasting on the stereo, combined with beautiful views on a brilliant winter day made for an almost epic drive. The "back" roads we needed to take to get to this site were also interesting in their own way; we stopped at a gas station to use the restroom and were told, "We don't have running water." Now, to city boys like John and me, *that's rural*.
There are two ways to get at this site, since there is a dirt road that travels in essentially a loop that passes within 100 meters of the confluence. We could come from the north, through NY, or from the south, via PA. We decided to come from the south, which may have been a mistake. The access road off of the local road was a rutted, dirt passage near the south end of a gas field. Our maps had it labeled as "not maintained" which should have worried John more than it did, because (this being extreme northern PA in the middle of winter), it was an icy, deeply rutted dirt road. John, having perhaps more confidence that he should have, was driving at a good clip (say, 25-30 mph) when, too late!, we saw pits in the road which had been frozen over and we broke through the frozen crust of a long mud puddle getting the car stuck, front and rear, all the way up to the lower A-arms. Doh!
We decided to hoof it the rest of the way to the confluence. I had been looking forward to seeing great big derricks extracting natural gas from deep inside Appalachian forest, but the "wells" marked on the map were these tiny, embarrassing rusted pipes sticking about 2-3 feet out of the earth.
Finding the confluence was possibly easier then it would have been in the summer, since it was a ways into the forest, and the canopy would have made receiving reliable GPS data difficult. We watched the laptop display as we walked, but also kept a close eye at our feet, for the going was very treaturous (see photo of frozen road surface). We walked on the edge of the roadway where feasible, but often brush forced us to walk on the ice itself. A few dozen meters after crossing into New York (no signs, but the private property signs ended abruptly) we saw the first of the gas wells, and a dozen meters or so after that we were at 42° 00.00xx', so we stuck out to the west, trying to take a nearly straight line through the forest. After about 100 meters of not too difficult meandering around fallen trees and the like, we found the confluence. It was just another bit of unassuming forest, as you can see from the pictures. We did discover an interesting undocumented feature of the GPS software we were using, though. As you can see in the picture, we are at 42° 0.0005' N, 77° 60.0000' W!
Then, after the trek back to the car, we had to start the ordeal of getting mobile again. Getting the confluence pictures first made sense from the point of view that we had achieved our goal, but it didn't make sense from a thermodynamic point of view. The whole time we were walking, the heat from the car was melting the ice and letting the car sink deeper in. Again, doh! After just under 2 hours of jack work and wedging fallen tree limbs under the tires to get the car high enough that the wheels didn't spin, we were free and we decided we had just enough daylight to make it to the third confluence on our trip. So, we continued on to 42°N 79°W