21-Aug-2010 -- As I was en route to Esri for a series of GIS education team meetings in what would be exciting but long workdays, I thought that a bit of field work would be the perfect beginning to the trip to southern California. Due to my trips there over the years, I had collected all of the points in southern California already. I thought about the point east of Barstow, but I needed to get a great deal of work done today, and could not afford the trek. As I did not have time to collect a faraway point, the natural one to visit would be 34 North 117 West.
I had not visited the point at midday before, only later in the day, and I also thought that to make things a bit more interesting, I would attempt the point from the south. The road here leading to the water tank is the closest road approaching the confluence. In retrospect, I should have known why nobody had attempted the point from this angle before. After flying into Palm Springs and happily motoring west along I-10, I exited at County Line Road. After stopping for 1.5 liters of water and briefly considering if I should buy more (yes, I should have), I drove west to Fremont Street, then wound south and southeast. Suddenly, I encountered a very serious obstacle: A gated community. I had not noticed this on the satellite image, and I suppose it explained why no Google Street Views existed inside it. There was no guest access and I sadly turned around and drove back to County Line Road.
Not wanting to abandon my quest, at County Line Road, I drove east and decided to attempt the point using my standard method. Next time, if I have a few more hours, I would like to attempt the point from the east, and climb west over the top of the ridge, like my colleague Sam did years ago. Today I was interested to see what had changed. A few years ago, there was talk that the open space leading to the confluence might actually be turned over to development. I was happy to see, as I drove up to the stopping point, that this had not occurred. I exited the vehicle and was amazed at the temperature. It was only 10:30am but over 90 F (32 C) already. Certainly not as hot as it could have been, but the skies were perfectly clear and so no chance of shade today. Fortunately I had brought my hat and had the water with me.
I set off on what I thought was the correct trail, but after angling south and then southeast, did not recognize the ridge I was climbing. I had apparently chosen a wrong fork, but did not as of yet realize it. I descended into the valley to the south and nothing looked familiar. Finally I realized that I was in the valley to the north of the confluence point. The next 10 minutes was extremely slippery and steep as I ascended to the next ridge. I kept an eye out for snakes, hoping it was too hot for them to be out. I then reached the trail on the next ridge and immediately recognizd the "confluence valley." I hiked up to nearly 117 West, and then descended. The terrain was more slippery than I recalled, and I fell a few times. Like so many other confluence treks that I had been on this year, I collected what seemed like 1,000 burrs in my socks.
After reaching the bottom of the valley, I then was puzzled because it took at least 20 minutes for me to zero out the GPS unit. It was about 15 meters south of the bottom of the ravine, and I had about as difficult time finding my footing as on any confluence point. The vegetation and crumbling dirt combined with the steep slope made for a very intersting confluence dance. I never found the geocache that I had discovered a few years earlier; perhaps it had been removed. My confluence dance and the heat of the day had made me a bit weary, and once I found the location, I only stayed a few minutes more. Had it really been three years since my last visit? Where does the time go?
When I left the scene and climbed the ridge to the north, I clearly saw a few new houses. The water tank, from where I had originally wanted to start hiking, was no more than 600 or so meters to the west-southwest. The temperature must have been 95 F (35 C) by now and the swimming pool at the nearest house looked quite inviting. Someday, it would be interesting to obtain permission to access the gated community and hike from there. But my tried and true method was fine too, because it allowed for more open space hiking. I ended up hiking down a few different trails that led to a shallow, sandy ravine. I had descended too far and had to climb the ravine side and back up the way I came. By the time I reached the vehicle, nearly 2 hours had elapsed, and I was nearly roasted. This was one of the top 5 hottest confluence treks of my career, and two of the other top 5 were also in California. I would spend some time this evening picking burrs out of my socks and shoes. Still, it was indeed an excellent way to start the week full of spatial thinking and GIS.