09-Jun-2010 -- As I was in Oklahoma to teach a 3-day Web GIS class for educators from across the state at the University of Oklahoma, and given the spatial nature of this institute, and as tomorrow marked the end of the institute and the need to fly back home, I considered that a confluence visit would be the perfect capstone. Besides, I was due to fly to California to co-teach another institute on Saturday, and this might be my last time in the field for quite awhile.
Therefore, after teaching class and visiting briefly with one of my favorite geography professors at the University, Dr Yuan, I set off from Norman. After encountering heavy traffic near the airport, the sun was sinking low as I drove west on Interstate Highway 40. It had been very hot and windy during the time I had been teaching in Oklahoma, but little did I know that a few days later, rains would cause flooding here in Oklahoma City. These folks are definitely in Weather Hazard Central.
I had just entered the John Kilpatrick Turnpike where I encountered my first problem. Nobody was in the toll booth, and I had no change. I backed up and tried the change machine without success. Someone drove up behind me and tried it as well. In the end, I had to drive through the station without paying. I heard the click of a camera as I drove through. Later, I contacted the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority and they said to mail in the fee. Hoping that nobody from the Turnpike Authority was following me, I pressed on. How different were my problems from the settlers here 100 years ago.
I then drove northwest along a road I have long wanted to travel: On a map, it is one of the straightest roads anywhere, Highway 3. I then drove north through the town of Kingfisher where I purchased fuel and a coffee, making continued haste given the state of daylight. My entire journey hinged a long twilight here just two weeks before the summer solstice. I would need it in order to reach the confluence point. At the town of Dover, I drove west on County E0715, and then due north along N2830. I realized I must have passed E0690, backed up, but did not see a road sign. This must be it... the coordinates on the GPS seemed to indicate it be so. I made a hasty decision, deciding to drive west along this road, which ended a few miles later. It was here where I encountered my second problem. After reading the previous visit narrative, I thought I would be able to drive southwest along the dirt road for at least a bit further, but a large gate blocked my passage. I quickly gathered supplies with just under 2 miles to walk.
Stepping carefully across the metal bars in the cattle guard so as not to twist an ankle, I made slow progress afterward as well given the sandy soil. Numerous forks in the road forced me to make constant decisions about which way to turn for the maximum speed and likelihood that I would reach my goal. At the last junction before leaving the road, I decided to turn west. I should have turned south, but did not know it at the time. Now things became even more interesting.
When the road to the west began bending northwest, I abandoned it and cut across country. The sun was really getting low. Cross country was difficult as I ascended a ridge with deep underbrush, skirting a stand of trees, and then descended a few more ridges to arrive at a beautiful view at the north end of a large wheat field. Lacking a trail through it, I had to step gingerly through it. It was as tall as my chest and made for slow going, as I tried not to damage any plants. I would have liked to take a video or photographs but wanted to reach my goal before the sun set. After what seemed like a long time, but what was probably only 15 minutes, I reached the southwest corner of the field and passed more underbrush, and then a grazed field, passing under some magnificent cottonwood trees before finding the confluence.
I found the confluence point along the southern edge of the field southwest of the wheat field. This was one of the most beautiful confluence points I have visited, and I hope others will agree. I thoroughly enjoyed the large cottonwood trees, and the golden landscape from the setting sun. The ground was flat here and if I had more time, I would have made the short walk to the Cimarron River, just to the south of me. Due to the time of day, I only lingered for 15 minutes at the confluence point. I had visited 98 West several times in Oklahoma and in Texas already, and was no stranger to 36 North, having stood on it from California to North Carolina. I saw several birds but no animals and no people on my journey to this point. Unlike the previous visitors, no cattle came to greet me. It was amazing that I was only the second visitor to this point, although surely the local ranch owners passed by here occasionally. I thought about the Native American tribes who for centuries surely loved this area along the river.
As I love to do whenever possible, I took a different way out. I walked due east and skirted the wheat field on its south side. I found a wide access dirt road through it and was happy not to have to step on any stalks. I even paused to take a few sunset-through-the-wheat photographs which I greatly enjoyed. The track continued onward past the field and I had a feeling where it would lead. I left the floodplain of the Cimarron just as the sun set. Still with plenty of twilight, but with interesting changes in colors, I found myself on a sandy road and eventually, sure enough, met my previous track after awhile. If I had continued this way, I would have been able to spend more time at the confluence, not have to cut cross country, and maybe even seen the river. It did not matter in the end--it was still a wonderful journey even though I had been pressed for time. I made it back to the vehicle just as the darkness fell. To cap it off, for old times sake, I visited a Braum's in Kingfisher for dinner. Then I called my sister. I drove due east from Kingfisher to I-35, even though it was dark, for some change in scenery, and arrived back in Norman later. It was an excellent final evening in Oklahoma. I hoped to return someday.