01-Oct-2005 -- I was in the Washington DC area for an GIS advisory board meeting for the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education , an initiative to bring spatial thinking to 93 liberal arts colleges around the country. A confluence visit seemed like the perfect complement to this meeeting. I drove south on I-95 from Washington DC to Fredericksburg. I had been given a rental car with an in-vehicle GPS with voice, and it was highly enjoyable to try its features. Even so, I had a bit of difficulty extricating myself from Fredericksburg. What we always tell the students came to life--the technology does not solve our problems; we need to be able to use technology effectively to make wiser decisions.
I drove east-southeast along US 17 through an area called The Tidewater, as the rivers are wide, and partly salty. This is because of tides along the enormous Chesapeake Bay, one of the world's largest estuaries. The area is also rich in history, with Native Americans living here, and also having been one of the first areas in North America settled by Europeans, back in the the first decade of the 1600s. After nearly an hour, I slowed when I reached the tiny community of Champlain, but missed the turn for Lloyds Road, which I had been looking for. I drove at least 5 kilometers past the community before finding a road to the southwest. I parked and turned on the unit, with a reading of 3.3 km to the confluence. A friendly fellow drove up and asked me if I needed any help. I drove slowly north along Essex Road until I found an unmarked vehicle track leading to the east with 880 meters to the confluence. I then drove along Lloyds Road but the houses along it would make for a more complicated trek, and in addition, it would be longer. I decided to return to the vehicle track, parked, gathered supplies, and began walking down the sandy track.
Confluence hunting always takes longer than I anticipate, and so I was running behind schedule; the time being already past 1 pm. I did not see the abandoned farmhouses that the previous visitor had encountered, but then realized that the pile of rubble at the end of the first leg of the trail must have been what became of them. The confluence project is therefore doing an admirable job documenting landscape change, as I mentioned in my post-wildfire trek to 40 North 120 West. The receiver was pointing straight ahead to the confluence, into the thick woods, but with 650 meters still to go, I followed the trail to the south under a black walnut tree and then southeast into a planted field. The trail ran down nearly the center of the field, and I followed it until I reached the 77 West meridian. I could have fairly easily driven to this point. However, in my opinion, it is one thing to be gingerly walking through someone's property, and quite another to be driving through it. The field was planted in some sort of bean, and as I stepped off the trail, I took special care not to trample the stalks. Each stalk was drying as autumn advanced, stood about 1 meter high, and bore dozens of fuzzy pods, each containing about 3 beans. I could not determine what type of bean they were; possibly soybeans or pinto beans. I assumed it was about to be harvested. I'd have to consult with some of my colleagues at the Natural Resources Conservation Service about the type of bean and the harvesting practices. After 10 minutes of walking due north, I arrived at the confluence, just 40 meters shy of the forest.
The confluence of 38 North 77 West lies on the northern side of a planted field of beans, on level ground. Interestingly, one of the widest furrows between the plants occurred right on 38 North. Due to my time
constraints, I only spent 10 minutes there, filming. I could see the house on Essex Church Road, 1 km west, but no other houses. A few hawks were circling but I saw no ground animals nor standing water. I had arrived at 1:30 pm local time (my GPS time is set to Mountain Time). It was a beautiful early autumn afternoon; summer reluctant to loosen its hold: The thermometer on my GPS bag showed 29 C (85 F). I was wearing my 45 North Latitude--Halfway to the Pole shirt, given to me by the Rigoni family after we trekked to 46 North 88 West in Michigan. The area is dotted with older farmhouses as well as with newer homes of those may have been farming part time but have recently opted to live in the country. The countryside is gently rolling to the tidewater area of the lower Chesapeake Bay.
I have visited 38 North before, in Colorado and in Utah. I have also visited 77 West before, in Pennsylvania, and just this morning in Maryland. This was my first Virginia confluence since I had visited 37 North 77 West, just one degree south of here, in 2003 with my able and trusty confluence hunters. I was reluctant to leave, for this is a beautiful area, but I hastened back to the vehicle. I drove out the way I had intended to come in--northwest on Essex Church Road, and then northeast along Lloyds Road, back to US Highway 17. I then drove north on US Highway 301 into Maryland. Twas a beautiful day for visiting two confluences!