07-Oct-2008 -- As we (1) were in the vicinity for the National Conference on Geography Education, as it (2) is our tradition to visit a confluence during each NCGE conference, dating back to 2002, and including visits to a golf course, to the marsh at the Great Salt Lake, on a boat on Lake Tahoe, and across the prairielands of Oklahoma, and as (3) we were teaching two full days of GIS and GPS workshops at the geography education conference, a confluence visit seemed like the perfect beginning to a week filled with geography and geotechnologies. We had already visited 42 North 84 West a few days ago, and had since rode the roller coasters at Cedar Point and marveled at the water cascading over Niagara Falls. We were now heading toward the conference itself, but this confluence beckoned for two reasons. First, it was not far from our overnight location in Hamilton. Second, it would allow us to tramp about a bit in the Canadian countryside, away from the national highways.
And so, we set off with the other commuters at Hamilton. Our vehicle was equipped with a Hertz NeverLost GPS, and we experienced a curious sensation while driving down the Red Valley Parkway. The parkway was not on the NeverLost GPS map, and it looked like the vehicle, symbolized by a triangle, was roaming over Terra Incognita, not on a city street. We rejoined civilization when we joined an older section of the highway, turned southwest at the airport exit at Highway 6, and after quite awhile it seemed, left the commuters behind.
We passed the Hamilton regional airport and were on the farmlands of Ontario. Political signs dotted the landscape as the Canadian elections were only a few weeks away. On many of the doorsteps sat pumpkins and ears of corn, making for a colorful and peaceful scene. It was a beautiful day, with frost on the fields and blue skies above. We drove southwest along Highway 6. When we reached Third Line, we turned left, toward the southeast. To the west lay what looked to be a power station for the region. The whole area had been surveyed at right angles, but the grid was aligned northeast-southwest. It would be interesting to find out exactly why this was done, and also do some research on the the history of surveying here, resulting in road names such as First Line, Second Line, and Third Line. The road was only slightly hilly. Just after crossing the 80th Meridian on Third Line, we pulled over. Nobody else was on the road.
We quickly assembled supplies and set off. We walked gingerly along the edge of the field where we hoped we would remain relatively dry. With the soybeans in the field (I believe that is what they were) about 1 meter high and soaked with cold dew, I was concerned that we would soon be as soaked as the soybeans. We heard a dog barking off to the east, and I hoped we would not encounter any during our trek. Dogs are what make me most nervous about these confluence visits, but fortunately, it came to nothing. The going was pretty rough at first as we skirted muddy puddles and grasses, but after about 10 minutes, rounding some bends, it became a bit frostier and also a bit drier. We were further rewarded when we came to a hedgerow that marked this field off from the field to the south, where the confluence must surely be. The field to the south was low-cut alfalfa, and we would not have to trek through the soybeans after all!
After walking through the hedgerow and then following it along its south edge, we came to the 80th Meridian. Next, we made a beeline to the confluence point across the alfalfa and reached it in under 5 minutes. A large powerline and associated structures lay off to the east over the woods to the edge of our field. The temperature stood at 4 C (40 F) under clear skies and almost no wind. We saw no people or animals on our visit, and scarcely a bird. It was a beautiful, peaceful spot. The confluence lies in the northern part of the gently undulating field. I had been to 80 West in North Carolina, but to 43 North more often, in Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan, New Hampshire, and now, in Canada. This is one of the southernmost Canadian confluences. This was my second day in Ontario and indeed, yesterday was my first day in Canada since 2001, when I was in British Columbia for another NCGE conference. This was my first confluence in Canada!
We took more photographs than we needed and spent just under 15 minutes at the site. We trekked out the way we came in, and retraced our steps through the hedgerow, along the edge of the soybean field, and back to our vehicle. I hoped that I provided a meaningful field experience for Lilia. She didn't seem too impressed, but I am sure that when she becomes a famous naturalist, she will fondly recall these treks around the countryside. It certainly was unique if nothing else. I hope that I can keep making these visits, but realizing that travel and travel costs might prevent me from doing so in the future. Therefore, I treasure each one.
We made a U-turn and drove back to Highway 6. Then we drove southwest to Hagersville and northwest along Highway 20, where we encountered the densest conglomeration of smoke shacks that I have ever seen. These were independent sheds selling tobacco products on individual landowner properties, a very curious and unique part of the landscape. We drove west on Highway 4, north on Highway 24, and then, reluctantly, southwest on the freeway--Highway 403. About an hour later, we encountered a huge traffic jam. Fortunately, we made it to the USA and Detroit by early afternoon, turned in our rental car, and took a taxi to the site of the 2008 National Conference on Geography Education. Visiting 43 North 80 West was a wonderful way to end our time in Canada and start the geography education conference!