07-Jul-2002 -- On a rainy, gray Sunday morning in July of 2002, I headed North from Hackensack, Minnesota, with 49°N 96°W as my destination. The heavy rain I encountered just North of Bemidji eventually gave way to drizzle, then stopped altogether. I arrived in Roseau and refueled before heading Northwest. Upon turning a corner on one road which appeared to lead to the Confluence, a large "No Trespassing" sign caught my eye. I doubled back -- no easy task on a narrow dirt track after a heavy rain -- and found another road which appeared to head in the general direction of the Confluence. A sign at the beginning of the road warned "Minimum Maintenance Road: Travel At Own Risk." Without four-wheel drive, there was no way Taurus and I would make it down the"road", if you could call it that. It was quickly becoming apparent to me that I would not be able reach the Confluence from the U.S.
The sun came out as I headed across the border, then found a road which went towards the Confluence. After a short time the road changed to a dirt path with high grass growing in the middle of it. There was a field on the right side of the North-South road, and woods on the left. I was eventually forced to park and continue on foot, as the path all but ended and became impassible by car. I grabbed my digital camera and GPS and got out of the car, prepared to travel the remaining 600 or so feet on foot.
Upon exiting the vehicle, I was immediately greeted by hundreds of Canadian Mosquitoes, every bit as ferocious as their counterparts to the South. With every step I took through the dense weeds, I stirred up more and more of the savage beasts. To say that there were a lot of them would be the understatement of the century. The cumulative flapping of their little wings created a buzzing that rivaled the sound of a 1972 Oldsmobile 98 with no muffler. I was forced to continually move my hand across my face in a futile effort to keep them off of me. At some point I realized that it was useless trying to keep my feet dry, and so plodded through some of the numerous puddles and low areas instead of trying to find a way around them. I came to an East-West clearing which must have been a road long ago, but which was now an area of ground only slightly higher than the surrounding land, and which had a dense growth of grass, weeds and small trees. I had reached the 49th parallel, which defines much of the U.S./Canada border. When my great-grandfather Don Alonzo Gribble worked for the U.S. Customs Service in the 1910s, one of his responsibilities was "Walking The Line". He patrolled the border from Warroad to Noyes, Minnesota, a distance of 90 miles, often on foot. As I approached the Confluence, I contemplated that fact that this may very well have been the road along which he traveled. I also wondered if there were as many mosquitoes then as there are now...
The inherent uncertainties of the GPS’ measurement coupled with the difficulties of getting a clear view of the sky caused me to change directions several times. When I got as close as I could to the Confluence, I stopped and took out my camera. Sensing my vulnerability to their attacks, dozens of mosquitoes from both sides of the border immediately went in for the kill. I took pictures of the GPS, the Confluence and the cardinal directions, then, with one picture remaining, turned the camera towards myself and snapped a self-portrait.
I quickly made my way back to the car and jumped in, and was very disappointed to see that quite a few mosquitoes had found their way into the car with me. I spent the next several minutes disposing of them, and was then finally able to download my GPS tracks to my laptop and check out my digital pictures. Unfortunately, the shots of the GPS - taken with camera in one hand and GPS in the other - did not turn out, but the others looked good. A quick look in the rear-view mirror revealed that I had large mosquito bites on my neck, chin, lips, and under my right eye. I drove back to the border, prepared for a lengthy Q&A session with the U.S. Immigration Officer, whom I reasoned would undoubtedly have questions about my reasons for being in Canada, not to mention my disheveled appearance and numerous mosquito bites. Instead, after posing a few questions to which I politely replied, he waved me through. As the vehicle got up to cruising speed on the all but deserted road that leads to Pinecreek, MN, I rolled down the windows, cranked up the stereo, and drove back to Roseau in triumph.