20-Nov-2004 -- My interest in geography extends as far back as my childhood. It was, therefore, an extra special day when I could visit a confluence with two friends I have had since childhood, Brian and Michael Lehmkuhle. Although we now live in three separate states, Brian in Texas, I in Colorado, and Michael in Michigan, we grew up together in Colorado, and had an excellent experience seeking and finding 43 North 86 West in western Michigan USA. We left Grand Rapids at 8:35am, arriving in Allendale at 9:15am. Allendale is the home of Grand Valley State University and is undergoing rapid urban sprawl. Fortunately, the confluence lies in one of the remaining tracts of open country. After driving north on 68th Avenue, we turned west on Warner Street, and north into River Pines, the location of the campground that would serve as our on-foot starting point. The campground was quiet at this hour of a Saturday morning, but quite full, with some camp vehicles clearly parked here for the long term. One of the campers even had inflated a giant Wolverine, the University of Michigan mascot. We parked near the north end of the campground, while a campground employee drove near us on a golf cart. Despite the unusual hats that Michael had brought along for the occasion, we must have been judged as uninteresting, as the employee glanced in our direction and left. We gathered our supplies, including Michael's pepper spray in the event we
encountered "Con-rad," the confluence dog. We began hiking north on a dirt track, muddy with the recent autumn rains.
After clearing the north end of the campground, we walked west through pine trees and Michigan hardwood deciduous trees. We also encountered an occasional extremely thorny bush and a few wet spots. We passed signs indicating that this was a public hunting area. After about ten minutes, we encountered the wetland that I suspected we would traverse. The wetland adjoins the area where the Bass River from the southwest joins the Grand River flowing from the northwest. The wetland hike was quite slippery and uneven, sinking in water nearly to our knees in places. For late November, the morning was unusually mild at 52 F (11 C); otherwise, the wet hike would have also been very cold and uncomfortable. Unfortunately, I did not take any of what I am sure would have been amusing photographs of our wetland adventure, as I was too concerned about dropping the camera into the water. After 15 minutes of slogging through the wetland, we hiked once more in a stand of trees for 5 minutes, and then emerged into an open area that was about half cultivated with peas. As I picked burrs off of my sweater, we talked about velcro, spirituality, geography, and history. These are two of my favorite people, and the hike was highly enjoyable. We hiked just about the entire way across the field to 86 West, and then north about 100 meters to the confluence.
We arrived at the confluence at 9:50 am local time (the GPS photograph displays mountain time, 2 hours earlier). We experienced a very light mist, but little wind. The confluence lies on flat ground on the edge of the wetland bordering the Grand River, to the north. The confluence lies on the northwest part of the cleared area where the field is located. Despite being "cleared," the confluence was marked by several species of tall grasses and thistles. The dark spot in the middle of the cleared area on the aerial photograph is a woodland that begins 15 meters to the east of the confluence. It was a wonderfully peaceful spot and we all wished we could have remained longer.
I had been to 43 North several times, including twice in Michigan at 84 West and 85 West, and twice on the South Dakota-Nebraska border at 101 West and 103 West. This was my first time to 86 West. After a 20 minute visit, an amusing movie and photographs, we set off for the campground. This time, we selected a more southerly route, which placed us back at the campground much more quickly by avoiding the wetland. We arrived at the campground with a
round trip hiking and confluence time of 90 minutes with a distance of just over 2.5 kilometers. We had timed the hike just right, as the wind and rain were beginning to pick up. I changed my wet pants, socks, and shoes so that
I would have something dry for my airline flight that afternoon to Colorado. We parted ways, thankful for our time together and hoping we could reunite at a latitude-longitude confluence again someday.