01-Apr-2012 -- As I had participated for the last several days in the National Science Teachers Association convention in Indianapolis, and as I had a string of confluence visits from several NSTA conventions in the past, and as our presence at the NSTA convention included an exhibit and workshops on the integration of GIS and GPS in science education, a confluence visit seemed the perfect capstone. However, the conference turned out to be so busy, with 8,000 educators present, that the only time to visit would prove to be on the way to the airport. It was for these reasons why I was now in south central Indiana.
This visit was short but not without its challenges.
Challenge #1: The entire day had been rainy. I was still wet from a brisk walk to 39 North 87 West a few hours before, and as I neared this confluence of 39 North 86 West, the rain was pouring down. I had, over the past decade, so many pleasant weather days that the thought of bad weather interfering with a visit was almost unheard of. Yes, I had been rained on and snowed on in the past, but never what I was about to experience. I passed a sign about 2 miles west of the confluence that read: Flood Area. Not a good sign to read as I was about ready to dive out of the vehicle! I passed the creek that drains this area, knowing from my prior assessment of the satellite imagery that it would have been too deep to traverse, especially now, and hence my chosen route from the north and east. As I passed over it, the creek was overtopping its banks and was the color of sand. I stopped at a pull-off patch of dirt, now turned mud, on the north end of the field, on the south side of the east-west road, and parked.
The sky conditions were worsening, if that were possible, and it looked like any delay here on my part could result in hours of waiting before the latest round of storms let up. Therefore, I quickly gathered supplies and set off at a trot to the south. I kept to the east side of the field, under the trees that bordered the field as much as possible. I had not gone 25 soggy steps when an enormous rolling thunder sounded, lasting at least 20 seconds. I trotted a bit faster and was soon splashing through puddles. The low ground at the eastern border of the field had turned into a river. I was eyeing the treeline to the south, wondering what would lie ahead. Was there another lake at this end of the field? Soon I would find out...
Challenge #2: There was indeed a ditch at the south edge of the field, which was now a river. I was able to leap across it without falling in and scrambled up the embankment on the other side where I would get my first glimpse of the confluence field.
Challenge #3: Between me and the confluence field lay a deeper ditch, filled with water, followed by a long electrical fence. First, the ditch. I found a place to leap across but landed in the water up to my ankles. Now, the fence. Fortunately, the kind owners had taken milk jugs and other easy-to-spot objects and placed them on some of the fence's poles, perhaps to warn people about the fence. I could see that it was not of uniform height; the wires were anywhere from four or so to five feet high. I could not squeeze under it on the wet ground. Probably too dangerous. The thunder was booming now and the rain fell more strongly. The challenge lay in finding a low enough place to climb over the fence. I found a place a short distance away that was only about three and a half feet high, but in retrospect, I do not recommend climbing over an electrical fence in the midst of a thunderstorm. Just sayin'...!
I thought the final part of the journey would be a bit easier, it was farther to the confluence than I thought it would be, and the field was very marshy, full of ditches and holes, and filling with water. I was in an all out run now and getting soaked. I found the confluence in the northwest part of the field, fortunately not under the trees. I was in a big hurry but made several attempts to zero out the GPS receiver, and was surprised to at last achieve success here on my last attempt before bailing out. I didn't want to get my camera wet, having ruined a camera in a downpour at 45 North 93 West in Minnesota many years ago. Now at the confluence, I reflected for a moment: I had stood on 39 North many times before: It was my most visited line of latitude, from California on the west to Maryland on the east. I had only stood on 86 West once before, in Michigan. The groundcover was comprised of long grass, about 1 meter high most likely under normal conditions, but now lying partly down under the rain that was falling. I suppose it goes without saying that I saw no birds nor animals, who were wise to seek shelter right now.
Needless to say, I spent less than 8 minutes at the confluence point, and as soon as I had zeroed out the unit, I ran straight back to where I hoped the low point in the electrical fence was. Now was not the time to avoid puddles--just make a beeline and get out. I found the spot, leaped over the ditch and the wider stream, getting even more thoroughly soaked, and running through the first field, which was now submerged along its entire eastern end. I could see the vehicle straight ahead and I reached it about five minutes later. This was my third confluence in Indiana. This was a beautiful spot, but at this particular moment, the trek proved to be a bit challenging! I would like to return someday under better conditions. Now back in the vehicle, the storm seemed to be abating somewhat. But I knew that if I had waited, the water in the ditches would have been even higher. Get out there and explore the world!