09-Oct-2018 -- As I was in the region conducting workshops, a keynote address, and presentations all designed on promoting and supporting the use of geotechnologies in education, and as the Degree Confluence Project is all about geotechnologies, and as this confluence happened to be in the same city as the one I was staying in, I would be remiss in my duties as a geographer if I did not attempt to visit 34 North 86 West.
After a wonderful day of teaching geography and Geographic Information Systems in Susan Moore High School in north central Alabama, and then meeting with one of my favorite educators in Guntersville Alabama, discussing all things history, STEM, geography, and GIS in education, I found myself on the very busy US 431 on the way back to Gadsden. The season was mid-Autumn and the sun was sinking to the west. The traffic was proceeding slowly. Would I have enough daylight to make it to the point? In addition, unfortunately I did not have my confluence sign nor GPS with me, so I had to make a quick stop at my hotel to pick them up. Afterwards, I took I-759 due east, crossed the Coosa River and drove north on a busy street to the entrance to the apartment complex where the jumping-of point to the confluence was. Fortunately I was able to make a left-hand turn. My colleague had warned me about the crime rate in Gadsden, and upon parking, I saw a police vehicle parked nearby. Taking this as a good sign that the area was protected, I gathered supplies and walked through the apartment complex to the lawn that lay adjacent to the river to the west.
Lacking the time to rent a canoe somewhere in the area and paddling to the point, I took videos and photos at the two points that can be considered the closest approach reasonable without getting entangled in the undergrowth or getting wet in the river. These are at the southwest corner of the lawn near the river, and also at the southwest corner of the lawn right on the river. The latter was particularly lovely, with the sun setting, some low clouds lit up in orange and pinks, and a heron on the water. The temperature was about 76 F (24 C) with only a light breeze; really a beautiful Fall evening in Alabama. Nobody was on the lawn although a few people watched me from the apartment balconies.
It was good to be back at my first Alabama point in over a decade; I believe I have 3 points now in the state. I had stood on 34 North numerous times in the past, from coast to coast in the USA - California on the west to North Carolina on the east. I had also stood on 86 West several times in the past - from Michigan on the north to Kentucky on the south. This was my first time at 34 North 86 West and it was one of the most beautiful scenes I had ever seen at any confluence, looking over the river. It was in stark contrast to the events unfolding several hundred miles to the south, where a hurricane (Hurricane Michael) was unfortunately bearing down on the panhandle of Florida.
After about 30 minutes on the lawn, I made my way back to the vehicle. I then took a different way back to the hotel, through the center of Gadsden, since I had never been there before, uncovering a wonderful old "Ritz" theatre there. I did some work once back at my lodgings in preparation for my presentations and workshops the following day at Samford University. Get out there and explore the world!