As I was in the area for GeoTech, an annual conference that focuses on GPS, GIS, digital photography, Web 2.0, probeware, and other technologies in education, I thought a confluence visit would be the perfect way to begin. It would be my only opportunity to explore the landscape in the next few days, something we are always advocating that teachers and students do. I have a tradition of visiting a confluence during the annual GeoTech conferences that dates back to January 2004, when I made a trek to Grapevine at 33 North 97 West, visiting it again in 2005, and continuing to 2007, when I visited 32 North 96 West in a lonely field. The only confluence near Dallas that I had not yet visited was 32 North 97 West. It is not far from the city, yet incredibly, had been visited only once before, nearly a decade earlier. Such a place begged to be visited.
I was on a short time frame, needing to be at the high school setting up for the conference soon, and so as soon as I landed at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, I rented a car, and by 10:00am was off bounding west toward Fort Worth, and then south on Interstate Highway 35W toward Hillsboro. I had never been on this stretch of highway before, and enjoyed climbing up in elevation as I left the metroplex behind. At Hillsboro, I exited the highway, drove east on Texas State Highway 22, and drove to County Road 3136N. Excitement mounted as I slowed down on the dirt road, driving southeast. As I neared Grove Creek, excitement entered new levels as I realized that not only was the bridge out, but that the road on the other side was impassable. Time for Plan B! I drove east-northeast on Road 3138N to the paved road, driving in a clockwise motion around the confluence. Fifteen minutes later, I was once again on 3136N, this time, approaching from the south. I saw the large home to the northeast that I had noticed on the satellite image, but did not see a driveway. Backing up, I headed south again, stopped, and headed north. I am sure these actions must have looked strange to anyone watching. I drove back to the original place where I had turned around. This must be the place. However, the driveway was quite rutted and stony. I decided to walk. The GPS gave a distance of 1.3 miles to the confluence.
Gathering supplies and donning sunblock, I walked east-northeast on the lane. Immediately, the sound of five large white dogs greeted me but were fortunately behind a fence. They looked to be some sort of cross between a husky and something else and made me a bit nervous. I walked briskly for 10 minutes to the large gate marking the entrance of the driveway to the house to the north. Nobody looked to be at home, so I continued on with my landowner permission letter in hand. I walked along the fence line, leaving the road and walking on the side of an enormous alfalfa field. After 5 minutes more, I neared the edge of the field and entered an uncultivated field to the east. It was lower in elevation and crisscrossed with cattle trails, and I kept an eye out for snakes as I walked through the underbrush. Incredibly, one of the trails eventually led to the confluence!
The confluence therefore lies on relatively level ground, in the uncultivated field east of the alfalfa field, west of Grove Creek. The temperature was a mild 71 F (22 C) under very windy conditions and partly cloudy skies. I saw several birds but no people. I had stood on 32 North only once before, in Texas, but had stood on 97 West six times before, in Texas, Oklahoma, and in Nebraska. The local terrain was gently rolling, with thin vegetation except for the river valleys. The homes alternated between some well-to-do sprawlers and smaller homes and trailers. I spent 15 minutes at the site filming, which was a challenge in the wind. Then, needing to get to work, I made a hasty exit, the way I had come in.
As I neared the road, I found a pen I had dropped, a personal favorite--a Varsity fountain pen. As I walked along, I saw a herd of goats to the south, but still no people. Nearing the county road, the dogs were once again heard, and as I came to the vehicle, one was approaching me. I tried to issue some reassuring words as I wondered once again why I don't carry anything such as a dog deterrent whistle for these sorts of situations. Once safely in the vehicle, I felt completely windblown, but was glad to have had success here in north Texas ranch and farm country. Having nowhere to turn around, I drove in reverse for awhile until I found a driveway. I then drove northeast to Brandon and Martens. Nearing Milford, the terrain flattened out, and I stopped to take a few photographs of the magnificent country church at the edge of town. I then hopped on I-35E and drove to the GeoTech Conference. The next three days were filled with GPS, GIS, and other technologies, and was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, starting with my trip to 32 North 97 West!