18-Feb-2014 -- As I had just arrived in northern Illinois for a series of meetings and focused work at Elmhurst College on geotechnologies in education, it was only fitting that the week would begin with a stop at 42 North 89 West. Why this confluence? I chose it because about a decade ago, I had made an attempt here, but ran out of daylight, and secondly, I was anxious to get out onto the frozen Earth that not only Illinois but much of the central and eastern USA had become this winter, the coldest in decades. Getting out into the landscape at this time of year and in this type of winter I am sure is something not everyone would relish, but for a geographer, it was a special treat.
And so, fresh from the O'Hare airport, I was soon driving west on Interstate Highway 90 on a February afternoon. It took me quite awhile to reach Rockford, longer than I remembered, and I wondered if one again I would run out of daylight. Once on I-39, heading south, however, I made better time. The snow was from horizon to horizon but fortunately none had fallen in the past day, and so the roadways were clear. I exited the highway at State Highway 64, traveled east for just over a mile, and then south on Mulford Road to just about the 42nd Parallel. I scaled an enormous berm of snow from the winter's many plowings, over 2 meters (6.5 feet) high. Once over that, it was a snowy and muddy walk, but a short one, due east a few dozen meters to the confluence point. I encountered no fences.
I arrived at the confluence with about 45 minutes of good daylight to spare. The temperature was just about freezing (0 degrees C, 32 degrees F) with a moderate wind. Indeed, it could have been quite a bit colder and thus I did not really need my hat or gloves for such a short trek. However, after taking photographs, my hands started to freeze and therefore I only spent about 10 minutes at the site. It was fairly flat here, with just a bit of hill off to the west. I have a nice tidy sum of Illinois confluence points, two in the north, one in the central part of the state, and three or so in the southern part. It would be good to finally see this attempt at 42 North 89 West on my map turn to a successful visit.
After I arrived back at the vehicle, I then turned on my fitness app on my phone and took a long walk. As I did a few times last year in Kansas, Minnesota, and South Dakota, I made a complete circuit of the surrounding section line roads near the confluence. This time, instead of circumnavigating the roads surrounding the confluence field, I chose the next section line roads to the west. In this way, I could walk over Interstate Highway 39 twice, and see some terrain I had not seen on my approach to the confluence.
I walked south on the road on which I was parked; encountering a friendly couple who asked if I was ok. At this point, as has happened numerous times on my confluence treks, the sky cleared where the sun was located, and the photographs, taken then, would have been much better. Oh, well! I crossed a lovely creek, which is actually on the map as well, and took some photographs. Next, along a gravel road, a bit icy and muddy, I walked west for 1.5 miles, into a beautiful sunset. Then it was north back to State Highway 64 along a road with a serious number of icy patches, requiring much diligence. I then walked east to the north-south road on which I had parked. This was highly enjoyable and I even was able to conduct a few conference calls, including to one of my favorite GIS and geo-instructors from Bismarck State College in North Dakota. The walk east however was in the pitch darkness and I had to be very careful to walk in the snow and thus give a wide berth to the cars hurtling along who probably were not expecting pedestrians way out here. Their headlights blinded me a bit but I took cautious steps. I returned to the vehicle 1.5 hours later after just over 6 miles walking. Yet, I had kept moving so only had a bit of coldness on my extremities. Then, being very glad to see my vehicle again, I drove west and then south to Rochelle, where I bought a sandwich and a drink, which I ate along Interstate Highway 88 back to Chicago, where I got some work done. It was a great day to get out into the field.