19-Jun-2010 -- As I had just completed a week of intensive GIS and GPS training with a stellar group of co-instructors in Redlands, California, and an equally stellar group of 29 educators who were participating in our 2nd annual T3G institute, a confluence visit seemed like the perfect capstone. After dropping off two dear friends and colleagues at the Ontario airport, I had a few precious hours of time before my own flight left from the Los Angeles (LAX) airport. I had a lot of work to do in the next few days, but considered it healthful to get away for awhile and practice what we are always preaching--to get out onto the landscape. Therefore, north on I-15 I did trek, into the Mojave Desert.
Over the past few years, I had amassed a tidy sum of confluence visits, due to my trips to Esri headquarters and to the Esri GIS User Conferences. There remained a single confluence within fairly easy reach. From here on out, things would require more time and effort. And thus I set out for the last remaining point--35 North 118 West, between Barstow and Mojave, two towns that daily baked under the desert sun. It took awhile to reach the vicinity of the point. After exiting I-15 to US 395 North, quite a few stop lights impeded progress. I marveled at the many new subdivisions of houses, sitting out there in the sagebrush under the hot sun. It would be an interesting place to live, but without electricity and air conditioning, really almost impossible--hence the reason why very few people lived out here until recently. The traffic lights and subdivisions thinned; the sage remained. I drove due north, cresting a knoll, and saw the intersection with Highway 58 in the distance. When I arrived, there was no road sign to indicate that it was truly 58, and I didn't have my GPS unit on yet to check. But after turning east, the angle of the road was correct and it just had to be the place. I tried to see what the vast array of objects was to the north of the road, but could not determine it. Something to decipher on the satellite image later. It was past noon as I drove along to the west, just north of the Edwards Air Force base. I imagined how fascinating it would be to see the space shuttle land, as it often does here.
I neared the edge of the base and could not turn south. I missed the next turn and nearly the next one as well. I finally was able to pull over next to a large sign indicating no tresspassing to the automobile testing ground to the north. No problem, as I needed to travel south. It took awhile to cross the highway due to fast-moving traffic, but once across, I was in the peaceful land of the desert. Ahh! I traveled slowly south on the sandy one-lane road. I could see that in the distance, a long train was parked, and it provided a good landmark for my destination. I drove to the road alongside the railroad, turned left, and bumped along here for awhile. Hoping that the railroad conductors would not become suspicious, I stopped alongside the train, gathered supplies, and set off to the north. I knew that there was a closer road to the confluence point, but was wanting a hike today because I do enjoy the desert.
I set off with about 1.1 kilometers to walk to the northwest. The street map in this area is quite amusing because with the streets all named as Europe Ave, Miller Ave, and 75th Street, you might think that you were in a city. However, a quick switch to a satellite image brings you to reality--these streets were blazed long ago, perhaps for an industrial park that never materialized, and some of them are long abandoned, while the one I had been driving on is still used for exploring the desert. I descended gradually in altitude, passed a joshua tree, and then began a slow ascent all the way to the confluence, keeping an eye out for snakes. The temperature was a warm 90 F (32 C) under absolutely clear skies. It was certainly not as hot as it could have been out here. And today, not too much wind. I passed one of these abandoned roads and took a forlorn-looking set of photographs while standing on it. A few minutes later saw me standing on the confluence, with all 12 satellites in view, and hence, there was no problem zeroing out the GPS receiver.
The confluence point lies on fairly flat ground, sloping less than 5 degrees to the south. The land is covered with about 1/3 shrubs, and the other 2/3, bare dirt. The desert shrubs are quite varied, with prickly pear, mormon tea, yucca, joshua trees, and other species making an appearance. The longest views were to the west and southwest. This was truly my last confluence in southern California, having tagged all of the rest of them at least once. I would have to give up my quest here in the future or else arrive during business trips a full day ahead of time and do some serious field work. I suspected I would not have time to do that, so I thoroughly enjoyed my time here at 35 North 118 West. I have stood on 118 West before and 35 North a number of times, in a variety of states. I encountered no people and just a few crows were in view. I could barely hear the traffic to the north on the highway. It would be an interesting night confluence visit. This was already one of my favorite confluence points. I spent about 15 minutes on site and then walked back to the joshua tree. I noticed a reptile or other creature living about waist-high in the tree and tried to get a better look, but it was too timid, so I contented myself with taking some video there and then, a few minutes later, a geography video where I discuss train transportation. The train was still parked here.
Always preferring to exit a different way at these points, I bumped along to the east a bit, until the road curved to the north at the boundary of Edwards Air Force Base. This is not shown on the satellite image of the area but I am fairly certain that I was on Neuralia Road. I filmed a movie here as well as the shrubs were quite high. I arrived back at Highway 58 and found that I could not cross the median as no road had been blazed here. I needed to go west, not east, and so I was faced with a decision: I could travel all the way back to the railroad track or try the frontage road. Choosing the latter, I drove extremely slowly, as the road was not much more than a trail here, with the center strip full of high plants. Eventually I found a way back to the highway and successfully made it across despite the traffic. I then drove to the town of Mojave, south on highway 14 to Lancaster and Palmdale, and then across the San Andreas Fault and into the mountains and down to Los Angeles. I drove straight to LAX with some desert dust on my shoes. The scenery and population changed in an hour from desert to coastline and millions of people. Such variation. What a planet!