04-Dec-2008 -- I was in the area working with the Island Institute, an organization that promotes the sustainability of island communities off the coast of Maine. As the project that they wanted me to participate in had to do with involving youth and communities in GIS and GPS-based projects for teaching and learning, I thought that a confluence visit would be the perfect start. I began the day at 5:20am in Rockland, Maine, intending to visit this confluence on the way to Bangor High School, where one of my all time favorite teachers works, Ms. Chernosky. She invited me to work with her students in her GIS and geography classes, and I was looking forward to it immensely.
On the way up the coast, I was treated to an absolutely fantastic Maine sunrise. Due to our latitude and the fact that we were only three weeks from the winter solstice, the best part about the dawn was that it seemed to last for an hour. I had to drive through Bangor on the way to the confluence, and I looked for signs of the high school, but found none. It took awhile to get through town due to the people dropping their kids off at various schools, so time was running short as I headed out of town northwest on State Highway 15. I passed through some lovely New England villages, and as I neared East Corinth, I kept a close eye on access roads heading east. My plan was to approach the confluence from the east to avoid having to walk through people's yards. I saw a few roads and was conflicted about which one to take. When I reached Highway 43, I knew I had gone too far. Therefore, I doubled back and headed south a few hundred meters. The satellite imagery in this area is poor resolution at the moment, so it had given me little help a few days ago before I flew to Maine. Then I spotted a sign heading to a trailer park, and recalling one of the previous visits, took it. It proved to be the correct choice.
The trailer park was quiet and I tried not to disturb the peace, driving very slowly. I was only able to drive 20 meters past the end of the trailer park when the lane became too icy and rutted to continue. I quickly gathered supplies and headed out. The GPS gave me 1,200 meters or so to the confluence. I was dressed up with a tie on for the classes I was to teach at the high school, so I must have looked quite amusing in the middle of the Maine woods. I also proudly donned my Grand Junction High School Tigers hat, which is as old as the trees I would be walking through. I followed the lane until I reached the powerline right-of-way. Even though the right-of-way headed southeast while I wanted to keep going due east, I took it because I was worried that I would lose satellite reception if I stuck to the woods. This might have been a poor choice. The right-of-way had been cleared of trees, and had become a wetland. The good news was that I had on my rubber hunting boots, made right here in Maine from L.L. Bean! The bad news is that they only came past my ankles. The ice gave way on me several times, and by the time 10 minutes had passed, I was soaked up past my knees. Fortunately, I did not fall down, but came close several times. After crossing two more lanes, I came to a third, and took it to the northeast. The going was still rough, but not as wet. The lane petered out after 10 minutes, and I was alone in the forest, walking on wonderfully crunching leaves. I tacked to the north and the trees became younger, where I found the confluence. The tree cover made the confluence dance last about 10 minutes, finally finding the spot while practically lying on a tree.
The confluence lies on hummocky ground just north of a large older stand of trees, in a grove of younger trees. Snow lay on the ground but the skies were partly cloudy with the temperature right at freezing. It was really quite a bit more pleasant than I thought it would be up here in Maine, but just as beautiful as I knew it would be. I saw no animals, birds, or people. The area is fairly densely settled, but still rural. I am sure most folks commuted from here to Bangor, where they could still have a bit of countryside to enjoy. This was my first time to stand on 69 West Longitude. This was the fourth time I have stood on 45 North, halfway to the North Pole. I also stood here in Vermont, Minnesota, and in South Dakota. The South Dakota visit was quite a bit colder! I took the images and video and was at the spot at least 20 minutes.
Now I was really pushing the time that I needed to be at Bangor High School, so I moved as quickly as I could through the marsh--not an easy task. I no longer thought about getting wet but rather, sloshed with wild abandon. Now I was really wet, but fortunately, my movements kept me from freezing. I posted a compilation of still pictures and several videos on YouTube.
What happened next was the perfect example of what we are always telling the students: Maps are powerful, rich sources of information, but like any source, use them critically and with care. They contain errors and distortions, some, such as map projections, are on purpose. I drove back to Bangor and tried to find the High School based on a spot placed from an online mapping service. The Google maps spot given for the high school is actually where a private school is located, on the southeast side of the interstate highway. A bit confused when I arrived at that misplaced spot, I stopped at a small diner and asked the waitress about the location of Bangor High School. She, along with the few men in one of the three tables in the establishment, pointed me back up the way I had come, on the northwest side of the highway. If the spot on the map had been in the correct location, I would have arrived 15 minutes earlier. I had passed right by it! However, all worked out fine.
In fact, more than fine: When I arrived at the high school front office, three students greeted me wearing "I Love Geography--GIS Day" shirts from ESRI! For a geographer, it does not get any better than this. I walked to the classroom with these fine students, squishing my way down the hallway and leaving a little bit of water from the countryside in my wake. I told the students, "yes, geographers need to get out in the field!" The remainder of the morning was equally wonderful, as Ms. Chernosky allowed me to teach one of her GIS classes and two of her Geography classes. Her awesome students gave me great hope for the future.