I bought an Etrex Legend last week, and decided to put it to good use. I was searching around the web for waypoint sites and came across the confluence website which struck my fancy. As it turns out, an unvisited secondary confluence was relatively close to home. I set out from Athabasca on Saturday March 22, 2003 at 11:00 in the morning with nothing but my new GPS and a waypoint. I knew the general area, and a quick scan of the map showed that it should be fairly close to the main road. That was not to be true, but more on that later.
Heading East on Highway 55 from Athabasca, I found the intersection with Range Road 195.5 (N54-43.957 W112-51.993) after about 15 minutes. Turning north, after another 15 minutes or so, I passed by the Alberta-Pacific pulp mill and the largest log yard I have ever seen, thanks to the large forest fires this past summer (you can take a mill tour in the summer). A little further north, the pavement ends at a t-intersection (N54-56.191 W112-52.695) and I continued west down the “C” road for about 12 kilometers, crossing the Athabasca River. The closest I could get my Jeep to the confluence was about 1.2 kilometers away, so I parked on the side of the road at N54-59.825 W113-01.058 and got ready for a nice stroll through the woods. Note to self: next time, bring gaiters – the snow was anywhere from 6” deep under the trees to 14” or so in the open areas. It didn’t take long for my hiking boots to fill up with snow, but I was not to be denied. The weather was too nice to turn back now. The first 500 meters or so from the parking spot, I followed a seismic line, but then had to veer off through the woods (I love the GoTo feature on the Etrex). Besides, with less snow in the forest, the going was actually a bit easier. A short time later, I arrived at my destination. I shook some of the snow out of my boots and got out my camera. I took the requisite pictures in the four cardinal directions, but there wasn’t much to see due to all the black spruce trees in the area. I topped it off with a nice pic of my GPS screen, to show the coordinates and the GPS elevation (about 580 meters). I left a note inside a plastic bag attached to a tree stating “This is the confluence of N55 degrees and W113 degrees”, in case anyone should happen to pass that way again.
I had brought a new geocache with me, which I hoped to place if the confluence was not too isolated. Alas, since the lone geocache in Athabasca has been relatively inactive, I decided not to place a cache here. Perhaps I’ll take it to a closer confluence and stash it there, hopefully bringing more attention to the degree confluence project.
I followed my own track back to my Jeep and was surprised to find that a deer had already covered my tracks, walking the opposite way I did. I was quite impressed that this deer managed to step into every one of my footprints for something like 200 meters. Ironic, since I used a deer’s footprints to ease my own walk in! When I made it back to the seismic line, my deer friend continued across into the woods on the other side. Walking down the seismic line, I had another surprise, which I have seen before, but not often – snow mites (that’s what I call them, anyway) had now made my footprints into a new home. The untracked snow had few mites on it if any, but each of my footprints was now home to about 100 of these tiny little bugs. Such wonderful natural symbiosis between man and nature : ) I made it back to my Jeep, with my feet now swimming in my hiking boots, and returned home a little bit prouder than when I had left. I see three more confluences that should be relatively easy compared to the ones remaining (seeing as all the easy ones have been taken!). Now off to find a local geocache!!
Total roundtrip from Athabasca: 3 hours and 130 km.