19-Feb-2003 -- 49N 100W—I poked my head out of my sleeping bag and sucked down a deep breath of sub-zero frigid air. My eyes were filled with the defused light of early morning as I peered toward the smoldering fire in the middle of my tent. Fire in the middle of my tent?!? I had slept the night in the Teepee at the Busted Boot Guest Ranch. I was about a 1.5-hour drive from--Snow-covered Confluence Number Four.
As we were planning to visit my wife’s family in Manitoba, it occurred to me that one confluence remained to complete a quad of confluences. Starting two years ago, I had managed to visit three adjoining confluences. 49N 100W would complete a rectangle—a quad.
When I mentioned my plans to my sister-in-law, Bethany Gowryluk-Booy, she bemoaned the fact that all of our confluences had been snow covered. “People are going to get the impression that Manitoba is always snow covered.” To which I retorted, “Actually, there are more green Manitoba confluences posted than snow-covered ones. We are helping to balance out the illusion that Manitoba is always green!”
Border confluences have an extra level of complexity. How would I ever explain this to a border guard on patrol for smugglers? When viewing the online map of the confluence point on this web site, I noted that it was only 3.1 miles (5 km) east from the International Peace Gardens.
My wife (pregnant with our second child), daughter, mother-in-law and sister-in-law piled into the car and departed Busted Boot Guest Ranch and headed for the Peace Gardens. I didn’t take my first reading on my Handspring Prism w/ Geode GPS until we were in front of the Duty Free shop on the US-Canada Border. We took a short drive through the grounds of the Peace Gardens. Although the roads were nicely plowed, the frigid temperatures and deep snow precluded seeing any of the floral beauty usually associated with this garden.
Initially, we intended to approach the confluence from the Canadian side. While in the Peace Gardens we had actually crossed the border to the US side (the Gardens straddle the border.) We explained to a mildly interested Canadian Customs officer what we were doing. We then passed back into Canada.
We traveled back north looking for a road to take us east--as close as possible to the confluence. We wanted to minimize the amount of snowshoe trudging necessary. After “k-turning” the car on several snowy and heavily wooded dead-ends, we decided that a US approach might be more practical. From the Canadian side the closest we were able to get was about 3 – 4 miles (5 – 7 km) from the confluence point.
At the US border, we showed the US Border Guard the “Landowner Letter” (handy thing isn’t it?) After asking us what we were using for a GPS device, he waved us on wishing us the best of luck.
The roads on the North Dakota side were much more like the “mile roads” we encountered during our other confluence adventures. Without a detailed North Dakota map, we needed to consult our GPS continuously as we drove east on the first farm road we encountered. We monitored the degrees longitude until we passed 100.00W. We then backtracked to the first road heading in a north direction. That road took us very close to 49.00N. My GPS told us we only had about 1 kilometer of snowshoeing to do to get to the confluence.
As we headed across the snow covered stubble field, to our left we could see a cleared section of forest delineating the US-Canada border. The forest on the Canadian side continued from our left (West) following a line close to the 49th parallel and then off to the East. As we approached the forest we could see the top line of barbed wire from a fence on the US side. The snow around the fence was deep enough so that we could easily step over the fence and continue. (Actually, it was easy for my sister-in-law. Somehow I got tangled in the bottom line of barbed wire and had to be rescued by my smirking sister-in-law.)
After brushing off the snow and trying to pull together some dignity, I led the way toward a stand of scrub oaks.
We found the point next to the lichen-spotted bough of an oak tree. At least, this confluence picture wouldn’t be just a snow-covered field. It would a snow-covered grove of trees.
The trudge back to the car (including climbing back over the barbed-wire fence) went smoothly. Soon we were back on our way to the Canadian Border, with yet another confluence visit completed.
Anyone visiting the International Peace Gardens with a GPS device and some extra time, may want to consider visiting this confluence.