14-Oct-2011 -- As I was in the area for the 40th annual conference of the North American Association for Environmental Education, and as I was focusing on GIS and GPS technologies at the conference, a confluence visit seemed like the perfect capstone. However, given the busy teaching and exhibiting schedule I had arranged for myself at the conference, the challenge was to find a small window of time to break away and get out in the field. During my fourth day at the conference, the opportunity arose. The exhibit hall closed at 3:00pm, and I attended a workshop from a colleague on geotechnologies. By 4:00pm, however, I was on my way out of town in a rental car. Knowing that sundown occurred at 6:40pm, I felt hopeful that I could make it. But, as with any of these visits, anything could happen.
The first difficulty came as a result of the Friday afternoon traffic. It was quite heavy out of Raleigh, even out in the countryside. Were people heading toward the coast? I was heading that way, southeast along Interstate Highway 40, so perhaps that was it. I then drove southwest along Interstate Highway 95 and things improved noticeably. It was a fine late afternoon in mid-Autumn as I neared Fayetteville, with clear skies. I exited at State Highway 59 and had a slow but interesting drive through Hope Mills, North Carolina. I am always amazed at the high volume of traffic in small towns, but emerged on George Owen and Fisher Roads without incident. At the elementary school, I turned left on Lakewood Drive. I looked to the west with a bit of a shock: Nearly the entire forest that was standing during the last visit, and indeed, on the satellite image I had been examining, had been removed for a new housing development. I turned on Middleton Court, got a bit turned around, and eventually parked on Rolling Meadows Lane under the clearing for the power-line. I glanced to the north where I knew the confluence would be, and gathered supplies.
Aren't we always telling students that the Earth is a dynamic planet? Something is always changing, and humans are the biggest change agents on the planet. Indeed, this specific area was undergoing rapid change. Most of the forest was indeed gone. The power-line remained. This was the first confluence since my Virginia trek many years ago on this same line of longitude where the confluence point would soon be in someone's yard or inside their house. Here, like in Virginia, my visit would most likely be the last before the transformation was complete. I hiked north to the fence that had been erected around the construction site. I reflected that the timing of the day was perfect; after the construction workers had left, but before dark. Earlier in the day, I probably would not have been allowed on an active construction site. I made haste over the fence and along the bare earth, marked by the tracks of large earth moving vehicles, finding the site in less than 10 minutes on a gentle to-the-south facing slope. The lack of trees made zeroing out the GPS unit quite easy, and I took several videos and photographs. The temperature was a pleasant 75 F with the sun sinking to the west. A dog barked near where I had parked the car but I saw no people here. I enjoyed the humidity and feel of the air here in North Carolina, so different from where I came from. Fortunately, it was autumn but no hurricanes were in the forecast. It had already been a rough few months, with Irene's devastation still in the clean-up stages to the north.
I had stood on 35 North several times in the past, here in North Carolina, west in Oklahoma, New Mexico, and in California. This was my first North Carolina confluence in several years, and I was glad to be back, adding to the tidy sum that I had accumulated in the mid-2000s. This was only the third time, though, that I had stood on 79 West, the other two being the Virginia spot where the confluence plot of ground was under construction for another housing development, and just north of here at 36 North 79 West in North Carolina. Just to the northwest was a large hole dug for sewer pipes and storm drains. Lakewood Drive was visible to the east. I did not delay at this spot as I did not want to incur questioning here on the construction site. I probably spent no more than 15 minutes on the site before hiking south the way I had come in. I saw a heartwarming sight as I arrived at the vehicle: A father helping his daughter to ride a two-wheeled bicycle, jogging alongside her as she rode along.
Wanting a different way out, as I always favor as a geographer, I drove southwest on Lakewood Drive to Stoney Point Road. Here, a few cotton fields existed, resisting urban sprawl pressure. I reached US Highway 401 and skirted the southern boundary of Fort Bragg via Highway 211, returning to Raleigh on US Highway 1. This confluence visit was indeed a fine way to get out in the field, even though that field, or forest, was soon to become someone's front yard.