01-Oct-2010 -- Every year since 2002, at the largest gathering of geography educators held in North America, that of the National Council for Geographic Education, I have successfully visited a confluence point. These events have taken me to a golf course in New Jersey, on a boat in Lake Tahoe, to a salt marsh in Utah, and to a backyard in Puerto Rico, and to other varied places. And with outdoor education, geotechnologies, landscape study, and human-environment interaction as important themes of geography, it is the perfect springboard for doing just that, out in the field. This year, I was hopeful that my schedule would permit me to break away to visit a ridiculously close confluence point, 32 North 81 West. However, after 5 days in Savannah, Georgia, site of this year's conference, I still had not been outside of 1 km from the hotel. Finally, on Friday afternoon, I had a small window of opportunity. Would I be successful?
I left the hotel at about 4:00pm local time, having secured a bus schedule. I walked along the historic waterfront and then south to the bus stop. There I realized that the bus to my destination, Wilmington Island, only ran every 2.5 hours or so, and it would be over an hour before it stopped here. I considered walking at least part way to the confluence point, but as I walked east out of the historic downtown, it was clear that the roads to the island would be full of fast-moving cars and absolutely no sidewalks or pedestrians. Therefore, I decided that the wisest course of action would be to walk back to the hotel and take a taxi. As I stood outside the hotel, I talked with the staff there about where to find my body should I not return. Actually, this visit seemed fairly straightforward, but the interesting thing about confluence visits is that one never knows exactly what to expect.
The taxi came, a van, and while it was the absolute dirtiest van I have ever ridden in, the driver was very kind and told me her story of having kicked a drug habit. I congratulated and encouraged her as we crossed the bayous and estuaries on the way to the island. Earlier in the week, a tropical depression had been moving slowly up the east coast of the USA, dropping much rain under murky skies. Today, by contrast, was bright and sunny, and a bit cooler. We crossed to Wilmington Island, where I had thought about being dropped off at the structure next to the marina, but now, as it turns out, was wise to decide against it because it turned out to be gated. The taxi dropped me off on the right side of the road, past the marina, that I had been examining via Google Street View for several weeks as I had been contemplating this visit.
I walked to the south until the distance to the point was as short as it could be from the road. I was now in front of a house that was for sale. If the reader has read any of my confluence narratives in the past, he or she will note that it is at this point I usually state, "it proved to be more difficult than it appeared at the outset." I followed a car that was proceeding toward the house. They stopped ahead of me, rounded the circular planter, and then drove toward me. I asked the driver if she was the owner, but she said she was just looking at the property. I knocked on the front door but could plainly see that no furniture was inside. A lock box was on the door as is the custom when a home is being shown to prospective buyers. I decided to walk around to the back.
As I rounded the south side of the house, I kept expecting for something to happen that would make this particular visit difficult. I reached the backyard and saw the boat dock beyond, and glancing at the GPS, found that this was indeed the correct boat dock. This is what I thought would be difficult about this visit--choosing the correct backyard. I watched the "distance to waypoint" decrease as I walked the length of the wooden walkway to its end. Only partway down, I was well within the 100 meters required for a successful confluence visit. I was glad to see some stairs leading to a platform above, which would afford a clear view of the sky and enable me to decide what to do next. The back dock was a bit rickety, but I climbed the stairs to the platform above. I was almost as close as I could be but definitely had a better view here than at my final destination, and therefore, I took several photographs and videos. A portion of the railing was out and I took caution. Next, I descended the stairs and proceeded through the dock below to a smaller boat dock near the waterline. I was only 3 meters from the confluence at this point. There was no reason to take a swim!
The confluence lies just west of this low boat dock in the water. The temperature was a pleasant 72 F (22 C) with good views over the water to the north and south, and a bit less to the west where the sun was sinking. To the east lay the row of houses, included the one for sale and just to the south of it, a much larger and well maintained home. This was my first confluence in Georgia in several years and good to capture to fill a hole I had on the southeast coast. Twice before had I visited 32 North, in Texas, but this was my first visit to 81 North. It was a magnificent evening and a beautiful spot. I did not delay my departure and probably spent 10 minutes on the back dock in total. I walked back the way I came, the only way back, marveling at the marsh grasses, and back around the house, down the lane, to the road. This was not the first confluence I had found that was for sale. Earlier this year, I found one in California, and had also stumbled across one for sale in Virginia four years ago.
I enjoyed my walk beside the golf course, back to the marina, where I took some photographs and called the same cab driver. She came about 20 minutes later and while I waited, I called my sister. The driver stopped at a food store at my request for dinner items, and I was back at the hotel and was able to get some work done as this entire trip had taken less than three hours. Another successful NCGE conference, and another successful confluence visit! As I knew it may have been my last one for 2010, I reflected on the California desert, North Dakota prairie, and Colorado mountain treks I had been on in 2010, a year that included my 200th confluence point. I can state that I have thoroughly enjoyed each and every one.