28-Jun-2007 -- The question has been on my mind for two years: How many confluences could a person visit in a single day? No doubt that with a small plane and available places to land, the number might approach a dozen. However, as I was confined to ground-based transportation, to conduct such an experiment, several conditions would have to be met. The confluence trip would have to be (1) conducted on or near the summer solstice, for maximum hours of daylight, (2) conducted on flat or gently rolling terrain to minimize difficulty in reaching each point, and (3) conducted in a region of the world where the road network is fairly dense.
And thus, awakening at 2:22am during the middle of the night just one week after the 2007 summer solstice in the northern hemisphere, I was filled with anticipation of a trek as I set out into the darkness. I had some wonderful food to last me through the day, including some taco salad and burritos that my daughter had made, cherries, nuts, and some ice, as my vehicle has no air conditioning. My goal was flat or rolling Colorado and Kansas confluences near roadways, making a backwards "C", eastbound along the 38th parallel, turning north along the 99th meridian, and back west along the 40th parallel.
Construction slowed me a bit as I drove south from Denver to Pueblo Colorado along Interstate Highway 25, but fortunately, I wasn't sleepy driving through the darkness. As I turned east along US Highway 50 down the Arkansas River drainage, dawn broke. The sun rose while I was still an hour west of the confluence, making me think that I should have awakened one hour earlier and that just perhaps I could have squeezed one more confluence. As it turned out, 26 hours later, it was a struggle to make it home, and I was thankful the day turned out as it did.
The Arkansas River valley is a wonderful place. "Valley" isn't really the most appropriate term, as the entire region is fairly flat, but the valley is irrigated and grows some of the most wonderful cantaloupe in the world near Rocky Ford. Unfortunately, some of these communities have been selling their precious water rights to the sprawling cities of the Colorado Front Range. My spouse's grandparents homesteaded here during the tough Dust Bowl years of the 1930s, and I thought of them visiting town to do their shopping in Las Animas as I rolled through at about 6:20am. I turned south on Highway 101 and out of the river bottomlands, then due east on County Road BB. When it ended at County Road 21, I drove north for a hundred meters along this road, found a spot just north of the 38th parallel where I didn't think I would get stuck in the sandy soil, and parked.
I gathered my few supplies and set off, first under the fence and then to the east-southeast. The sky had been rather murky back in Las Animas, and although the cloud ceiling had lifted a bit, the ground here indicated that it had recently rained. Before long, my shoes and pants below the knees were completely soaked. Note to Self: Take spare shoes and pants during the next confluence trip. The field had been grazed and I could see cows straight ahead. As I walked the grass became lower, due to grazing, most likely, and fortunately, the one cow that was near the confluence gave me nothing more than a stare. After 25 minutes of hiking, and one more fence, I arrived at the confluence.
The confluence lies on land sloping 5 degrees to the north, toward the Arkansas River. It is on a field of grass that is irrigated from time to time and is grazed. Some wildflowers were growing and the grass was surprisingly green for a part of Colorado that is typically the hottest part of the state, with summertime highs usually around 37 C (100 F). I saw no people, a few birds, and could see only one ranch house in the distance. Most views from the confluence are fairly large, or would have been if the skies had not been so murky, and especially toward the river to the north. I took photographs and a video, but spent only 10 minutes at the site due to my lofty goals of the day. The temperature was 70 F (21 C) and it was starkly beautiful out there on the High Plains.
I had been to 38 North numerous times, in California, Utah, Colorado, Illinois, and North Carolina, and have stood on 103 West in Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota. I was inching closer to visiting all of the confluences in Colorado, slowly but surely. I was last in the area just 1 degree west of here about 11 months ago.
I walked out just north of the way I had come in, as I couldn't resist the temptation to see a bit different terrain. As often happens, the sky brightened after I had visited the confluence, but I didn't have time to revisit and re-take the photographs. Total round trip hiking time was just under an hour. Considering how easy it is to hike here, I marveled that nobody had been here since 2001. Now the time of day was close to 7:30am and I really needed to get moving. However, I spent some pleasant moments driving near John Martin Reservoir to the north of the confluence, before arriving in Lamar, back on US Highway 50.
And how many confluences did I finally visit on this day? Read the narrative of the last confluence of the day to find out! But first, on to Kansas at 38 North 102 West....
This one was for Grandma and Grandpa Pete!