28-Oct-2011 -- As I was scheduled to give a presentation on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in education at the University of Wyoming, a confluence visit seemed like the perfect way to begin. I awoke at 3:40am and was on the road by 4:10am, driving north in the darkness on Interstate Highway 25. Our first major snowstorm of the season had occurred just two days before, but fortunately had melted off these roads, and I made good time. At the Wyoming border, I looked over toward 41 North 105 West but had to keep on moving. I had been negotiating with the landowner at 41 North 105 West via email to no avail. The landowner wanted $250 to take me a few miles from I-25 to the site, and that was too high a price for me to pay. That would prevent me from ever visiting all of the sites that lay inside or bordered Colorado, but seeking to turn that realization into a positive experience, I set my sights on the next closest one, 42 North 105 West. However, I had visited that one, so I decided to try 42 North 106 West. But would I make that one in time to set up for my presentation?
I continued to Cheyenne, noting with a smile that my favorite sign on all the interstate highways, a holdover from the 1970s, was still standing. That sign was: 80 East: but instead of the destination being Kimball or Sidney as the newer signs indicated, it still read: Omaha, which was 500 miles distant. I loved it. I turned west to cross the low mountain range between Cheyenne and Laramie, reaching Laramie while it was still dark. Here, I began a journey toward the northwest on a road I had never been on, at least in this area: US Highway 30. Steeped in history, it was the only highway between Laramie and Rawlins in decades past, but now was less often used, given I-80's close proximity to the south. I passed a few ranches but the population density here was extremely low, with the only town being Rock River. Rock River sported some wonderful photo moments as dawn was breaking, such as an abandoned fast food restaurant that was more than a trailer than an established building. However, I needed to make haste, as I was uncertain what the condition would be of the upcoming unimproved road that would lead to the confluence.
At Marshall Road, or County Road 610, I turned north. Snow lay everywhere, including on the road, and I proceeded with caution. I could see signs of trucks passing this way, and their ruts were not easy to negotiate. I was in a rental car and if I got stuck, it was an extremely long hike out, and who knew if my cell phone would work out here? I could see mountains to the northwest and to the northeast, and far to the south, along the Colorado border. The scenery was stark and beautiful, a few buttes here and there, and I dropped into a river valley and passed the one lone ranch along the road. I stopped at the point I had identified on the map during my earlier reconnaisance: This was where I should be able to walk east along a four wheel drive trail. I parked facing outward and made care that I would be able to get out without getting stuck. I donned my mittens and hat, camera, and GPS, and set out. The GPS gave a distance of about 1.5 miles to the confluence. I began by walking east on the four-wheel drive road, making decent time and reaching the southern edge of the valley to the north in about 30 minutes. My heart sank as I saw a ranch house to the northeast where I thought the confluence would be. Fortunately, as I descended the valley in fairly deep snow, avoiding the large holes that dotted the landscape, I began to realize that the confluence would be reached long before the ranch house. I saw a large jackrabbit but was uncertain what animals were burrowing here. I crossed the dry creekbed at the bottom of the valley and reached the confluence on the other side about 5 minutes later.
The confluence therefore lies in the center of the east-west shallow valley, on the north side of the drainage. It was just about 9:00am, and the temperature was cold for this time of year, about 15 F, under clear and breezy skies. The longest views were straight east and straight west, owing to the fact that I was in a shallow valley. I saw no people, a few birds, and one jackrabbit. The wind was blowing as well and my extremeties were already quite cold upon taking the photographs. That, combined with the fact that I needed to get to the university soon, made for a short visit of about 10 minutes. This was my first Wyoming confluence in several years; I believe, since 2007 when I was on my way to teach GIS in South Dakota. I had a nice tidy collection of confluences in the southeast section of the state. I had stood on 42 North several times in the past, from Wyoming on the west, through Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan, and to New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts on the east. I had only stood on 106 West a handful of times, in Wyoming and in Colorado.
Always wanting a circular route on all my hikes, I hiked back to the vehicle by following the creek bed to the west-southwest. I passed a pond that was still ice-free and lined and supported with tires, way out here in the sagebrush. I hiked south along a four wheel drive track which as I suspected led back to the Road Closed signs on the trail I had been hiking on earlier. It wasn't quite so cold now but I hastened back to the vehicle, with a round trip hike time of about 80 minutes, including the time at the confluence. I filmed a few movies about road closures and about low population density as the wind whistled past the microphone. A large truck passed me on Marshall Road. Turbines on a wind farm about 5 miles distant to the northwest spun on the ridge with the mountains behind them. I made my way back down Marshall Road without incident. On the way back to Laramie, I discovered that the vehicle's dashboard had a horizontal platform perfect for my camera. Therefore, while driving into the rising sun, I filmed a segment on US Highway 30 that I later set to music from C.W. McCall, appropriately, the song "Old 30." It was the perfect ending to my time in the field. I arrived in Laramie without incident, parked near the stadium, and began wheeling the materials and computer I brought for the presentation across the campus. It was a beautiful day. A student even said hello to me.