05-Apr-2008 -- As I had spent two days at the University of California Santa Barbara to give the Professor Reg Golledge lecture in geography, and as the lecture and subsequent meetings were about spatial thinking, geography, GIS, and GPS, I decided that the perfect end to this trip would be a confluence visit. In addition, UCSB is the focal point for much research and teaching about Geographic Information Sciences, and a trek to a latitude-longitude intersection would be fitting tribute to the fine people I had met on campus. It would mean another early morning rise, but that was all part of the adventure.
Armed with tea and apples, I departed Santa Barbara in the 4:00am darkness, heading east on US Highway 101. I stopped in Woodland Hills for petrol and a beverage and had a pleasant chat with a convenience store clerk from India, and then drove north on Interstate Highway 405, and then I-5. By the time I passed Valencia, the rising sun touched the tips of the roller coasters at Magic Mountain amusement park, giving them a surreal look. By 7am, I neared my desired exit, at Laval Road, in Wheeler Ridge.
I hesitate to call Wheeler Ridge a town, because, like other such communities along major highways in America, the structures were all there to meet travelers’ needs. No doubt that most folks who lived here worked in the cluster of fast-food establishments, motels, and the truly enormous truck stop. I had entered the southern end of California’s great Central Valley, where much of the world’s avocados, nuts, grapes, broocoli, citrus fruits, and other fruits and vegetables are grown. The valley is dry and hot, and therefore requires great aqueducts to bring in water to irrigate the fields. I would cross one of these aqueducts in an hour’s time. The first challenge, though, was to find the closest approach to the confluence that a vehicle could make.
After exiting the interstate highway and driving west from one of the motels and truck stop, I drove north, hoping to spot the dirt road that I had identified on the satellite image as the best approach. I passed its location and doubled back. Since the satellite image had been taken, the road had now become a small parking lot, and to the west, I could see that the road’s bridge across a ravine had been removed. I then drove to the enormous warehouse complex about 1 kilometer south, but the approach to the aqueduct road was blocked. I then considered my options, finally deciding to park next to the truck stop in an employee lot on the west side. My GPS read just under 3 miles (4.82 kilometers) to the confluence. Not wanting to waste any more time searching for a road, I set off on foot. In retrospect, if I had driven about 15 kilometers north, and then back south, I could have found the road that I eventually would hike on. But no matter—I needed the exercise, and a walking approach always makes the finding of the confluence that much more special. The only problem was that I had to make good time so that I would not miss my flight in early afternoon.
I first had to cross a fence, which turned out to be the first and last fence of the hike. The first segment was a bit treacherous due to the numerous holes I encountered in the field. Once I reached the road I had tried to drive to, I encountered the ravine that was formerly bridged. It was narrow and at least 35 feet (11 meters) deep. I navigated to the other side, keeping a watch for any possible snakes in the tumbleweeds, nooks, and crannies, then walked straight for the next hour, toward the northwest. The area epitomized the larger region’s economy, as oil and cattle predominated. I saw one white pickup truck making rounds, checking on the wells, and it later passed me once without stopping. Nobody else was walking. About halfway up the road, I passed a storage area housing equipment for the pumping facilities. Fifteen minutes later, I crossed the aqueduct on a bridge, this one fortunately not having been removed, because this crossed over one of the great aqueducts of the Central Valley. It was heavily barbed wired and posted with signs about trespassing and drowning. I passed one trail to the north, which I should have taken, in retrospect, and took the second one. I angled to the north and northeast, quickly climbing high above the valley floor. The hills I was entering were deeply incised. I descended into one ravine, climbed out the other side, and hoped that the confluence would not be located at the bottom of the next ravine. I began to descend it, and the soft terraces made for difficult footing on the 50 degree slope. The GPS recalibrated and I found myself hiking back to the top of the ravine, where I had just been.
I was very happy to finally locate the confluence just over the crest of the this saddle, before the terrain dropped into an even deeper ravine. It lies therefore at the west side of the ravine, east side of the saddle. The spot is on ground sloping 20 degrees to the northeast, adjacent to a 50 degree slope. I had a magnificent view in all directions, especially to the southeast and to the west, although it was quite hazy in the Central Valley. It was one of the more scenic and rewarding confluence hikes I have taken since I had been in New Zealand last September.
I had been to 35 North several times before, in the states of New Mexico and North Carolina USA. However, this was my first time to stand on 119 West. This was my 5th confluence of 2008, and as my goal was a modest 10 confluences this year, I was well on my way. I now had quite a nice little collection of 5 confluences in southern California. The temperature was 59 F (15 C) under sunny skies and windy conditions. The ground cover was short stubbly grass which had obvious signs of being grazed. I saw no animals besides the cattle, some magnificent birds, and no people. I spent about 15 minutes at the site.
I hiked out by descending the ridge, after donning some sunblock for the hike back into the sun. I was quite warm after climbing the ridge but resisted the temptation to take my coat off, as I knew the hike down would be a bit cooler. I ended up near the intersection of the road and the aqueduct. I noticed two people checking on the irrigation pipes there but they didn’t speak to me. I made haste, having decided early that morning that I would need to leave the area by 9am to make my flight. I arrived back at the vehicle by 9:35am for a total hike time of 2:15 and total distance of 6 miles (9.65 kilometers). I was behind schedule but still made my flight out of Ontario with plenty of time to spare. This was indeed an excellent way to end my trip to southern California! I plan to return in August to the region for the ESRI International User Conference. I will be quite busy with the conference and will not have any time for a confluence trek, so this one will be my last in the region for awhile.
Peaceful and safe travels to all readers of this narrative.