08-Feb-2011 -- As I was in the area for the GeoTechCenter project, an NSF-funded effort to advance and support GIS in workforce development at community colleges, and as the project emphasizes teaching and learning with geotechnologies, a confluence visit seemed like the perfect start to our 3-day meeting. I approached the confluence from the west, winding through some truly magnificent north-central Georgia scenery, passing through communities with a central courthouse surrounding by businesses on all four sides--a genuine town square. I circled the courthouse twice because it was so picturesque. I would have liked to get out and walk around but I had too much work to do back at the hotel. At Thomaston, I headed east on State Highway 74 to US 341. I should have stopped to take some photographs here as well, because the intersection was magnificent--a roundabout, fairly uncommon in these parts, and in the midst of acres of peach orchards. It would be even more beautiful in a month or two when the peach blossoms were out. I then headed north on US Highway 341 to State Highway 83, angling to the northeast, on another scenic intersection where the two highways were bisected by a magnificent row of tall trees. Highway 83 was hillier than the highways I had driven on previously, dipping into hollows and onto hilltops with wonderful views. As I crossed Hopewell Road, my own hopes rose that I would actually be able to visit this confluence, although there is always some element of the unknown about these visits. I never feel confident that I will reach the goal until I am less than 100 meters away. And even then, strange things have happened.
I turned west at Renouf Road. A couple of fellows were sitting in what looked to be a utility repair van in the church parking lot, and we waved to each other. I passed the house on the left, drove up the hill, crossed the 84th meridian, and descended into the next hollow, parking at the bottom. I gathered supplies and set off. First, I hiked back up the road a ways, and then plunged into the forest. Fortunately, the leaves were off the trees due to the winter season and the GPS constellation was still visible. There were lots of holes in the ground where trees had been extracted and harvested in the past, and some vines and thorns, so I had to take care, but the landscape was beautiful and last autumn's leaves crunched underneath my feet. I descended a slope and crossed several gullies, at least 3 meters deep. The gullies were the most surprising feature about this landscape. How did they get here? What sorts of soils were these? I arrived at the last gully and then spent at least 15 minutes trying to zero out the GPS unit. I could not determine which side of the gully it was on, or whether it was on the log that spanned it. I finally zeroed out the unit about 2 meters east-southeast of the east end of the log.
The confluence is therefore on the east side of a deep gully, on ground sloping about 5 degrees to the west. The view was longest to the west, but not that long in any direction due to the density of the trees. The temperature under a partly cloudy February sky was a pleasant 55 F. This was my 5th confluence in Georgia. I had stood on 33 North several times, from Georgia on the east to California on the west, with a visit in Texas included. I had stood on 84 West a few times, in Georgia, Ohio, and Michigan. This was one of the easier confluences I have visited, but certainly not as easy as those on the side of a road. It was obvious that this area has been harvested and replanted for timber, perhaps many times in its past. I wondered if the area had ever been farmed and what it looked like here during the 1800s. I spent about 15 more minutes at the confluence point filming geography and fieldwork-based movies and taking photographs. The sun was getting somewhat low off to the west and it was a peaceful moment. It was a pretty spot although I could hear the noise of the highway to the east. I filmed a last movie while walking across the log to the south, not an easy feat, and then continued on through the woods while holding the camera. It made for some nice leaf-crunching sounds.
I then hiked out the way I came in, leaving the GPS on for assistance, but eventually turning it off when I neared Renouf Road. I hiked down the road and was glad to spend time in the woods, even for a brief hour. I then drove north on Highway 83 to Forsyth, and then northwest on Interstate 75, just in time for the rush hour in Atlanta. Stuck in traffic, I marveled at the difference between the confluence in the woods just an hour before and the cars and buildings I was currently in the middle of downtown. What a planet!