23-May-2001 -- My co-explorer, Thomas C.H. Mueller,
and I decided to try for this confluence because we were not convinced that
Daniel Klein had approached as close as he believed he had on
his visit. We would try it ourselves and see
if our impressions were correct.
While preparing for this confluence visit, Tom and I were concerned about a couple things.
For one, the USGS topographic maps pretty clearly designate the confluence area as being marshy,
or at least a "wetland," and we were considering this visit in mid-spring. All of the patting
ourselves on the back for doing the marsh visit at
N44W088 while things were still frozen
over is hereby nullified by our impatient ambition to do this visit with the land at its
soggiest. We partially rationalized our decision to go by pointing to the maps and noting that
at least half the ingress from the road lacked the "marsh" designation. This later proved to be
a mapping error or oversight -- rest assured the entire way was squishy at best and "immersed"
The other thing that concerned us was the fact that Klein on his visit the year before had
a post-visit run-in with the gentleman whose land he was stomping over, and it didn't sound
as though he had done a winning job of presentation. Klein advises: "If anyone else comes
here, make sure you ask permission to cross his field," but unfortunately fails to inform us as
to who exactly the landowner is. Tom and I would try to sidestep any possible trespass
brouhaha by taking a couple precautions: (1) We'd go in toward the confluence further west,
well clear of the landowner's home and hopefully off his land entirely (though we have no
way of knowing the exact boundaries of the property), (2) We'd get in and out early,
both so Tom and I could get to work on time and also (hopefully) so that nobody would see
or be concerned by the crazy people hopping about in the marsh during a spring rain. Tom
and I figured these were sufficiently prudent measures, and we were also reassured by our
combined history of ten confluence visits without encountering a single soul. (For all you
literary types following along, this is called "foreshadowing.")
Tom and I got underway in the wee hours of the morning, planning to get to the
confluence area between the onsets of nautical and civil twilight. This, I figured, would
allow us time to walk to the exact confluence point just as there was enough light for
pictures and get us back on the road around sunrise. As we covered the last mile or
so of approach in the car, Tom had to drive very carefully because of the sheer number
of deer near the road. But we got to where we needed to be without incident and
parked as far off the pavement as seemed safe on the soft, grassy shoulder. It was
still pretty dark out, overcast and raining as well as unseasonably cool (~45 degrees F).
The cold rain made the prospect of hopping down off the road and into the tall
grass pretty un-inviting, but in we went nonetheless. Every blade of the tall, broad,
lush grass bore up its own little reservoir of wetness that went immediately onto our
clothing upon passing by. Furthermore, the ground was a hummocky up-and-down
affair. The tops of the hummocks were unsteady and slick, the low points in between
were often pools of rain and muck. Progress was slow.
Tom and I paralleled the west side of the irrigation ditch (photographed by Klein
and shown on topo and aerial maps) as we went south from the road. The ditch's east
side looked like it would be easier going, but we were resolved to stay well clear of the
house to our east. More importantly, Tom and I didn't want to be on the wrong side of
the ditch as we neared the confluence. So we stuck to the west bank for a quarter
mile of soggy trudging, only able to turn to the southeast once the ditch took a sharp left turn.
From here on the grasses were a little shorter, but the ground itself was even
wetter with more areas of standing water and muck. Tom and I also had to figure
out how to either pick through or circumnavigate the wooded area ahead in order to get to the
confluence we figured nestled on the opposite (south) side of the trees. We made one
abortive attempt that got us into a hopelessly mucky thicket before Tom found a better
way through a little further east. Then we started to zero in on the exact confluence
Somewhat to our chagrin, we had ample time at hand to stand about and let the
GPS refine its measurements owing to the fact that it was still too dark for the camera
to take its pictures. My timing plan didn't take into account the thickly overcast skies
that greatly reduced the available light, so the even marginal pictures we obtained had to
wait until pretty close to sunrise. Even then, the necessary exposure times were between
a quarter second and one second, making the pictures rather blurry.
We did have one amusing incident at the confluence itself. As Tom and I meandered
back and forth, zeroing in on the exact spot, we flushed a bird from the tall grass. Of course
I nearly jumped out of my skin as the bird broke cover not more than eight feet from where
I was standing. But instead of having the good graces to fly off quickly and let me regain
my composure, the bird touched down again no more than five feet from Tom, flopping
about pathetically and making quite a ruckus. Tom clicked on the flashlight as the poor
bird thrashed away. I had an obstructed view, but it was clearly patterned brown, bigger
than a dove but smaller than a chicken. This turned out to be amusing only because it
gradually dawned on me that this melodramatic bird must be a grouse, putting on a show
to lure us away from what must be its nesting area. Tom and I thus resolved to ignore
the bird's antics and just be careful and not step on its nest, which we figured was
probably at the base of a nearby tree. Interestingly, after ignoring the bird for a bit, it
did a perfectly good job of flying back around our position and into a nearby thicket from
which it could berate us more effectively.
Eventually the morning light brightened enough to allow the camera to take
passable landscape photos. I decided to be thorough and took a couple iterations of
pictures, nearly using up my digital "film" but allowing me to later assemble a 360-degree
Tom and I took a slightly different route leaving the area, cutting as straight north
as possible so I could take a GPS reading on the south bank of the east-west leg of
the irrigation ditch at exactly 89 degrees longitude. This location would be the
bank just across from Daniel Klein's closest possible approach, since he indicates
in his narrative that he stopped on the north bank of this ditch on his visit.
Klein's GPS reading at that point corroborates
this account, indicating that he was right on 89 West but still four arcseconds north
of the confluence. Four arcseconds latitude corresponds to about 123 meters
(not the "ninety yards" offered up in the narrative); but considering that the
DoD's "selective availability" was still active at the time of his visit his GPS reading
could easily have been off enough to put his true position within the 100 meter limit.
The measurement I took with my GPS however tends to confirm Klein's own
GPS as well as the distance measurements I inferred from aerial photos. My quick
reading on the south bank indicated 43d 00.069m, corresponding to a distance of
128 meters to the confluence, with a total uncertainty on the order of 12 meters.
The distance I estimated from aerial photos was 141 meters, give or take 8 meters
due to resolution limits and uncertainties in scaling. These mutually consistent
distance measurements lead Tom and I to conclude that Klein failed to get within
100 meters of the confluence on his visit.
After our final measurements Tom and I made our way back to the car. Once
back at the car, we took the liberty of shedding what we could of our wettest gear
and banishing those items to the trunk. While I was in the process of peeling off my
boots, which themselves had standing water inside, I heard an approaching car slowing
and pulling up to a stop alongside us. My first thought was that a Waushara County
deputy was about to ask us what the hell was going on, but instead it was a neighbor
with pretty much the same question. Bear in mind that this was now about 5:30 a.m.
I must say that considering the circumstances, the neighbor was the epitome of
cordiality and understanding. Tom and I were soaked through from being in the marsh
in the rain for about 75 minutes. There was no obvious reason, save for nefarious ones,
for the two of us to be where we were at that ungodly hour. So we did our best to
answer the neighbor's many questions a clearly and as thoroughly as we could. It
helped that we were able to hand over a printed (albeit rain-spattered) copy of the
"Letter to Landowners" as documentation
of the "why" of our being there and show our other tools-of-the-trade (GPS, maps,
et. al.). We received a mild admonishing for not having made advance contact
with "Mr. Young", probably the landowner that Daniel Klein talked with, but in the end
I was pretty happy to have had a five minute chat in the rain as compared to a
half-hour grilling by the back bumper of a squad car.
By now I'd guess the area residents have had quite enough of strangers
walking 'round their properties. If you're thinking about making another visit to
N44W089 for whatever reason, I would strongly encourage you to
email me for Young's full name,
address and phone number. There's no excuse anymore not to get advance
permission for this area!