20-Jun-2006 -- As I was in southern California to visit Environmental Systems Research Institute, the largest Geographic Information Systems (GIS) company in the world, a confluence trip seemed like the perfect way to begin such a visit. I landed at around 6pm at the Ontario California airport, and after obtaining a rental car, was sailing quickly westbound along the California State Highway 60 freeway, or as quickly as southern California traffic allowed.
I exited the freeway at 7th Avenue in Hillgrove. Soon, I was winding my way southwesterly along steep streets among houses perched at impossible angles along the hillsides. I was on a race against time with the sun was sinking low and me without a decent street map to direct me to the correct block. Navigating with the GPS alone, I knew that one wrong turn would make me lose so much time that the sun would set before I would arrive at the confluence. Would I make it?
I was too far south--literally, on "Camino del Sur." I made a U-turn and went back toward the freeway. I turned west on Turnbull Canyon Drive. Good fortune prevailed--I found that this road was winding steeply up toward the west, exactly what I was hoping for. After turning north on the aptly named Edgeridge Drive, Skyline Drive, and then Descending Drive, I became rather uneasy with these steep streets without shoulders. Where in the world would I park? After turning right from Oak Canyon to Athel Drive, I was amazed at what lay before me--a small pullout, the only one in the entire neighborhood, at the perfect spot. I dashed out of the car, being careful to set the parking brake, and scrambled up the hillside.
Scrambled is actually not the right word to describe the difficult ascent that I experienced at this point. The hill was at least 45 degrees in slope, alternating between being covered with slippery vines and dry, crumbling earth. I took a few photographs in case I did not make it to the zero-zero point, and almost pitched headlong down the hill in doing so. After taking these photographs, I decided to continue on. The photographs turned out disappointingly dark, so I supplemented these with a few screen shots captured from the video. Near the summit, I encountered some truly nasty thorns, but the slope became less steep. Underneath an amazing tree with at least 30 branches from its root, I found the confluence.
The confluence lies on a steep slope of about 20 degrees to the north, but certainly not as steep as the slopes adjacent to it. Due to the presence of the tree, it was extremely difficult to zero out the unit. I was amazed to finally do so, right before the sun set. The confluence is located on the extreme southern edge of the San Gabriel Valley. Just about everyone has used a product made in the famous City of Industry, which is just north of the confluence, incorporated in 1957. Predominant vegetation here includes oak and walnut trees, mixed chaparral, coastal sage scrub, western sycamore, and willow.
I paused there a moment in the gathering gloom. I wondered what it would be like to be up here during an earthquake. I don't think I'd like to find out. I reflected on the confluence itself. I had been to 34 north far away, in Alabama and North Carolina. This was my first time to stand on 118 West but it was my second southern California confluence and my 7th California confluence in total.
Before it became dark, I hastily slip-slided away down the slope the way I had come. I reached the vehicle at dusk. I drove down unknown streets in the darkness and eventually found Highway 60 again, heading east to Redlands. Truly, this was a perfect way to begin my trip to the headquarters of the largest GIS company in the world!