19-Mar-2011 -- As I had just completed an intensive GIS-GPS workshop at Northeast Junior College in Sterling, Colorado, and as the focus had been spatial analysis and skills, a confluence visit seemed like the perfect capstone. The last of the educators as participants left just after 4:00pm, and we as the organizers of the institute then debriefed and gathered our computers, remaining maps, and GPS receivers. After we parted ways, I thought about the rather mundane drive back west on the interstate highway (76), but then considered that I had not visited 41 North 103 West in several years, and could probably be there within an hour. I actually had been considering it all day. In the end, the decision was easy. Would I have enough time before the sunset?
Thus I drove out of Sterling to the northeast, along US Highway 138, and then north on Colorado State Highway 113. It was my favorite time of day, and now that we were near the vernal equinox, sunset was still awhile off. As I drove north, the sun on the wheat fields created a nice color contrast with the dark thunder-laden skies to the east. The road bent to the north-northeast at Peetz, and my anticipation rose. I reached the Nebraska state line, slowed and turned right, or east, on Road 2, the first east-west road in Nebraska. I drove due east, along the state line, with Nebraska off to my left, as well as a few dozen meters to my right, and Colorado off farther to my right. To a geographer, it does not get much better than this. Road 2 is not much more than a trail dividing the fields. The road gradually became worse and worse, but I was still able to navigate in the rental car. Part of the reason was because it was not muddy, as it has been so dry in eastern Colorado this spring, and unfortunately we have had a few wildfires already. I drove until the road ended five miles later in a T-intersection.
I turned right on Nebraska County Road 111, which, because of a slight difference in the survey of the section lines between Nebraska and Colorado, made a jog of a hundred meters or so to become County Road 61 in Colorado. This jog puts the road that much closer to the confluence, minimizing the hike distance to less than 100 meters. Therefore, 41 North 103 West ranks in the easiest 10% of my more than 200 confluence points. I gathered supplies, and as I hiked, I wished the hike had been longer. The reason? The color of the wheat fields, the wind turbines moving in the distance, the perfect temperature (about 60 F), the dark sky to the east and the sun setting in the west, combined to make for some wonderful moments both photographic and otherwise. I wanted to stay longer, but only lingered 15 minutes due to my long drive ahead, made longer by my trek here in the opposite direction to my destination. But I looked forward to the way back west--north to I-80, west in the Nebraska panhandle into Wyoming, and then south back to Colorado. But for now, I truly enjoyed the time here.
I had stood on 41 North several times before, from Utah on the west to New Jersey on the east. It was one of my most commonly visited latitude lines. I had also stood on 103 West numerous times, from Colorado on the south to a very cold trek in North Dakota. I was making steady progress on my Colorado confluences: Most of the ones I have left to visit are on the southern boundary with a few in the northwest. This confluence visit was indeed the perfect way to end our GIS-GPS institute out here on the Great Plains!