19-Nov-2004 -- I, Joseph Kerski, had been in Grand Rapids all week for the
National Association for Interpretation (NAI) conference. As over 850 people at the conference were interpreters of flora, fauna, climate, landforms, human-environment interaction, archaeology, and other subjects in such places as parks and museums, and as I had been co-teaching GPS-topographic mapping workshops all week, a confluence trek seemed particularly appropriate. I drove west on Michigan State Highway 21 until I reached a spot between the communities of Muir and Ionia. This highway runs largely east-west, and about 90 minutes earlier, I used the same road to visit 43 North 84 West. I parked west of Stage Road near a row of newer homes on the north side of Highway 21 that clearly were not farmhouses. I considered turning around to park closer to the confluence, but the north side of the road offered a wider shoulder. I had overshot the confluence by one kilometer, but I looked forward to a decent walk in the field to stretch my legs.
I crossed the road and began heading toward the southeast. I was trekking across a plowed field of corn, but nearly all of the plant remains had been removed. The result was a nearly bare field made muddy by the rain the area had been receiving all day and most of the week. I spied a fence ahead of me to the east as I neared the end of the plowed field, but this proved to only exist for a few meters. I crossed the field boundary and then tacked north northeast, crossing trampled grasses that I first thought was evidence of a previous confluence visit. However, the trampled portion was too widespread for a single person to make. I reached the spot with a minimal confluence dance to zero out the unit.
I arrived at the confluence at 4:20pm local time under dark, cloudy skies (my GPS unit is set for mountain time, two hours earlier). However, the weather was surprisingly mild for mid-November (11C, 52F), under a darkening gray sky that had been filled with rain all day. Fortunately, at this moment, only a light rain was falling. The confluence lies on a grassy, currently uncultivated, field that slopes to the east about 20 degrees. From the confluence, which was near one of the highest points in the immediate vicinity, I had a clear view especially to the south and east. The land slopes in this direction to the Grand River. I could see about 5 farmhouses from the confluence, including the closest one about 80 meters to the north, and what appeared to be a prominent set of farm buildings 250 meters to the northeast. I saw a few birds but no animals. It was a peaceful, dark, late afternoon in late autumn, and once a dog in the distance stopped barking, nothing disturbed me, nor did I disturb anyone. Confluence bliss.
I had been to 43 North several times, in Michigan and South Dakota, but this was my first visit to 85 West. After taking photographs and a movie during my 15-minute visit, I hiked out the way I came in. Total round trip hiking and confluence time totaled one hour. Although my shoes and trousers had become quite muddy, the trip was well worthwhile, once again showing me a part of the world that I would not have visited without the Degree Confluence Project.