21-Mar-2010 -- As I had been in the region for the annual convention of the National Science Teachers Association where we operated a "geospatial zone" in the exhibit hall and 4 workshops focused on GIS and GPS, and as it had taken me nearly 8 years to achieve the goal of visiting 200 confluences, this seemed like the perfect opportunity and, as it turned out, the perfect day to do so. I had already visited the nearest confluence, 40 North 75 West, so it was time to get out a bit further into the wilds of New Jersey.
I left the hotel at 6:00am in downtown Philadelphia, walking due west to the magnificent train station at 30th and Market Street. Once there, I waited for the Hertz counter to open and retrieved a car from a subterranean lot. I was then out on the streets of downtown, but early on Sunday morning, traffic was light. I proceeded north on Broad Street, having mapped out my path the night before. Broad Street was Pennsylvania State Highway 611, and although the route took me almost due north toward the confluence, maneuvering through all of those traffic lights, none of which were synchronized even early on Sunday morning, seemed to take forever. An hour later, I was still on the outskirts of Philadelphia. However, I could not complain, as I had some wonderful music with me, including the Delfonics, a group out of Philadelphia during the 1960s and 1970s, some very early Bee Gees, and even Sergio Mendes and Brazil '66.
After I crossed I-78, the terrain got even more interesting. I followed the Delaware River for a stretch, and it was so beautiful that I allowed myself a quick photo and stretch break. Martins Creek and Portland were picturesque towns, and crossing into New Jersey, I spotted the Delaware Water Gap to the west, something I have always wanted to see given its historical and geographic signficance. I stopped in Blairstown at a food store, where ahead of me in line was a mom buying a birthday cake and balloons, a heartwarming sight. Upon re-entering the vehicle, I realized that the food store was nearly on the 75th Meridian, and therefore I doubled back on Buchanan Road. On Mt Vernon Road, I was nearly struck by a vehicle who was giving a bicyclist a wide berth. After that close call, I turned onto Stony Brook Road. My plan was, after spotting the power-line clear cut on the satellite image, to hike along the clear cut from Stony Brook, and avoid pestering the homeowners much closer to the confluence so early in the day.
In retrospect, this was a sound plan, although the first 100 meters from the vehicle made me doubt it for awhile. The reason is because after traversing a small creek, I encountered some of the nastiest 6-foot long thorny vines that I have ever felt. They tore at my clothes but I was already committed to this route. Fortunately, as I left the creek behind, I could pick a pathway through them, and the terrain soon rose, affording me a very nice view of the valley behind me and nearly to the Delaware Water Gap. At the vehicle, the confluence was listed as about 1,100 meters away. I rounded the crest of the hill and viewed the "confluence valley," hoping that the point would not be in the very muddy valley bottom. As I neared the point, I came close to the trees, and lost most of the satellites. I started walking into the trees, but fortunately not far, as they were littered with a plethora of No Trespassing signs. Confused for a bit, I wandered back to the clear cut, and came so close to zeroing out the GPS receiver, that I took the required photographs as well as a video. I decided to stay awhile and my efforts were rewarded by finally zeroing out the unit. It was only then when I noticed that 5 meters from the confluence sits a structure of some sort, perhaps a water storage tank.
The confluence is therefore on ground covered with shrubs and trees, on the north edge of the clear-cut. The weather had been unseasonably warm during this week, and the temperature stood at a warm 70F with clear skies and a moderate breeze. I had been to 41 North many times in the past, from Wyoming at the west to New Jersey, even one degree east of here in New York City a few years before. I had also been to 75 West once before, at 40 North 75 West, several years ago during a geography education conference. I spent about 40 minutes at the confluence, and then regrettably hiked out the way I came in, preferring to do a circle route, but that was impossible here.
The point was a personal milestone: After 8 years of confluence trekking, this was my 200th attempted confluence. It took me 4 years to reach 100, and another 4 years to reach 200. I have met some wonderful people on those treks and journeyed with friends and on my own. I have seen some beautiful and out of the way places, such as this one here in New Jersey, but also in England, New Zealand, Turkey, Germany, Tunisia, Taiwan, Canada, Costa Rica, and the USA. I have enjoyed each and every one. I doubted I would see 300 points, but anything was possible.
As is typical of these treks, I discovered an easier way out: As I neared the dreaded thorns, I noticed that the four-wheel drive road that served to access the power poles veered off of the clearcut to the north. I followed it, and although muddy with one set of thorns, I was able to emerge relatively unscathed on Stony Brook Road once more. This adventure had taken me a few hours longer than I had planned, and needing to get some work done, I drove back to Philadelphia along I-80, I-476, and I-76. I then picked up my colleague and we had an enjoyable visit to the SS United States, docked in Philadelphia behind a chain link fence, sadly awaiting scrapping. I then turned in the rental car and we had a nice walk back to the hotel. It was indeed a wonderful field trip!