07-Nov-2015 -- As I had just completed several days of promoting Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in education and society at the combined conference of the Applied Geography Specialty Group and the Southwest Division of the American Association of Geographers (AAG), a confluence visit seemed like an appropriate way to end the week. I woke at 4:45am on a Saturday morning and took a shuttle to the airport. Then I drove to a "sleepy little town down around San Antone" and visited China Grove! It had been around 10 years since I've been there last and it was great to be back, posing by the side of the road at the city limits sign. After a stop at Pilot Travel Center to get some hazelnut coffee, I was soon driving east on I 10. I had sort of forgotten how big Texas is and it took me quite a while to get to Houston. Once there though, I did not stop, but drove out of the city on Interstate 69 / US Highway 59. The whole way, it was raining - a big Texas sized rain. I was starting to wonder about the viability of doing a confluence run in such weather. Pressing on though, I arrived at Livingston and turned to the east on US Highway 190.
My doubts returned as I crossed the reservoir on the east side of Woodville--the water was just a few feet below the road level. There was a major accident as well that I saw the aftermath of. I reached the town of Jasper--still raining. I turned north. Almost out of town, I found the road to the northwest that would lead to the confluence. This was Hi-Truitt Road, and things became a lot more interesting, very quickly. A few of the confluences I have visited over the years have been easier than I expected, but most have been more difficult than I expected. This one fell into the latter category. As I was driving along, I knew it would be a wet walk, but until I turned onto Hi-Truitt Road, I thought the hike would be a short one. To my dismay, the road was barely paved, and the pavement soon gave out. No drainage system of curbs and gutters existed and indeed, the road WAS the drainage: Great braided streams ran down the center of it, and when I left the few residential units dotting it behind, I found myself driving along -- actually--through -- a sandy river. After driving through one particularly large standing pond, I arrived at a lonely dirt road junction that was dotted with junked bed mattresses and other debris. The correct fork ahead wound up a hill and the conditions worsened. I tried it for all of one minute, when I realized I could not continue and not risk getting stuck in the mud, sand, and water. Gingerly turning around, I drove back to the junction and pondered for a quick minute my options. I was about 2 miles from the point as the crow flies. I had driven far too long to give up on this point. In fair weather conditions, it would have been moderately easy to walk, or drive part way in with a four wheel drive, but it had been raining steadily, sometimes torrentially, for 24 hours now, and had also rained during the previous week, making the conditions today far from ideal. I needed to at least make an attempt, I decided. Thus I gathered raincoat, GPS, phone, camera, batteries, and paper for confluence sign, and set off up the road.
As I walked along I was very thankful I hadn't tried to drive up the slope. I could barely walk on it, it was so slippery. It was a little easier walking when I reached the top of the hill, but there were still a few major stream is running across the road and I was glad I was on foot. I was wearing my raincoat but my trousers who are now completely soaked. I took great care in only looking at my phone at rare intervals.
After about 45 minutes, but which seemed longer, I turned northeast along one of the paths that I had seen on the satellite image. It led down the slope to the north east almost directly to the point. It most likely was a hunting trail. As the land became lower and lower, the trail became wetter and wetter until it was about under 2 feet of water at one point. Here I was, sloshing through in the middle of nowhere. The only positive thing was that it was not cold--about 60 F. I took a different trail after a while that led deeper into the forest. The rain was falling steadily. Just about when I neared the confluence, I saw a small hunters blind. It was a prefabricated model and was quite sturdy. Amazingly, it was unlocked; I went inside to have a small break from the rain. After quickly writing a sign indicating the latitude longitude, I set out from the small structure, and found the confluence about 25 meters away. It was just off the trail to the south in the trees. I took the photos from the side of the trail so because of the difficulty in getting a GPS signal in the trees. I had stood on this line of latitude several times from Texas on the west to Alabama on the east; I had stood on the same line of longitude only a few times, from Minnesota on the north to Missouri on the south, and now in Texas. I by now had a nice tidy collection of compliments points in Texas maybe more than a dozen by now. This was the first time I had stood at this point, and given the difficulty of getting here, even, I surmised, in dry conditions, I probably would not return. It took me a long time to get to this point and it was by now early afternoon. It was worth doing and I was glad to be here at last. But given the weather conditions, I only spent about 10 minutes on the site. I was very thankful for the hunters: Without their trail it would've been very difficult to reach this point given the thick forest and shrubbery all around. Not to mention Texas critters and thorns.
I contemplated a short rest in the hunters blind again, but I had nothing to dry off on. I hiked back out the way I had come in, wanting to do a loop but just needing to get out of the rain. I encountered no people, birds, or animals, the entire way in or out. After descending the slope where I had turned around, I spotted the vehicle ahead. There have been several times when I was very glad to be done with the confluence trek: This was one of those times. I spied the vehicle just after seeing my turn-around tracks on the slippery slope leading back down the hill. All was well, and the hike came in at just about 1 hour and 35 minutes, with over 5 miles covered--about the fastest I could walk in the mud. It sure seemed like longer out in the field than this--it felt like about 3 hours.
I was able to drive out with only a few nervous moments about getting stuck. Whew! After arriving in Jasper, I drove back to the west and contemplated 31 North 95 West, just 1° west of here. It was late Fall and the sky was already a bit dark. Could I make it before nightfall?