07-Apr-2016 -- As I was in the area for the 2016 annual conference of the Montana Geographic Information Professionals. The conference had just ended. As the theme of the conference and the organization was geotechnologies and solving problems on our planet, from local to global scale, a confluence visit seemed like the perfect capstone. I had visited 48 North 111 West at the beginning of the conference, and so these two visits at the beginning and end could serve as "geo-bookends."
From the conference site, I drove northwest along Interstate Highway 15 to Brady. It was the first time I had seen speed limit 80 (mph) signs. I exited at Brady and enjoyed the very small community, and then made my way out to the rural gravel roads to the west, where the Rocky Mountains, snow covered, lay in the distance. It was a magnificent view. I got a little turned around on a few roads, but after about 25 minutes, parked north of the confluence site. I could have driven on a private lane, but declined, and holding the landowner permission letter and my phone and GPS, and with I set off walking to the south. A truck was parked there, and someone in a combine was making long swaths in the bare earth, furrowing and possibly planting at the same time. I walked due south, waved at the combine driver, and then at the end of the field, turned east along a narrower track. I traversed some long grass and down a slope to the lower field where the confluence lay, which was edged on its south border by a corral for animals.
After a walk of 1.36 miles (2.2 km), and about 25 minutes, and encountering no fences, I had arrived at the confluence. The confluence lies in a field that was not being used at the moment; it was mostly bare earth with a few short grasses. The confluence lies on flat ground. The temperature stood at a very pleasant 65 F (18 C) under a moderate breeze but nothing like what I am sure is possible in this "Big Sky" country. I can't remember such a sunny confluence visit before. The sky was absolutely devoid of clouds, so I had clear views where some farmers to the south were burning some of the vegetation in their fields, and the Rocky Mountains near Glacier National Park to the west. I had a nice collection now of about a half dozen Montana confluence points, two near Billings, a few near the North Dakota border, and now these two near Great Falls. I was only 1 degree south of the USA-Canada border. This was my first time at this point and it had been years (before a few days ago) since I stood on 48 North. Years ago, I had stood on 48 North in Washington state, just 1 degree east of here, and in North Dakota. I had stood on 112 West a few times before, in Utah and Arizona at the rim of the Grand Canyon, and now enjoyed the moment. I had no problem zeroing out the GPS receiver. It was amazing to think that this point had only been visited twice before, and yet it was pretty easy to find. Admittedly, unless one is in the Great Falls area or traveling to Alberta, the confluence is not "on the way" to anywhere, though the terrain here is beautiful. Wheat and barley fields and mountains in the distance--ah! The photographs from the past at this point look quite different than mine, as I was here during planting time when most of the fields were bare soil.
After about 15 minutes of standing on the confluence point, I considered making a loop of my trek, but decided to walk back the way I had come in. The combine was still out in the field to the west, and I took some video of it while I walked. I crested the last hill and saw my vehicle in the distance. I set off in the vehicle back to the east.
After a short time I noticed someone behind me; I pulled over and it was the landowner, asking, rightly so, what I was doing walking through his land. I told him about the project and we had a nice chat; he owns other land right on the Canadian border, which, as a geographer, fascinated me. I asked him about water issues and what the predominant crop he was involved with out here, and he replied that it was barley eventually destined for beer making. By now it was getting near the time I needed to get to the airport, so after about 15 minutes we parted ways. I drove through Brady again, snapping some nice photographs of the grain elevator there. As I drove back to Great Falls, I reflected upon the good people I had met at the Montana GIS conference, all doing work that makes a positive difference in the lives of people and for the planet's energy, water, natural resources, and other key issues. I arrived back at the Great Falls airport with over an hour left for my flight to leave, and the airport was wonderfully uncrowded. The confluence trek was indeed, as I had hoped, the perfect way for me to end my days in Montana.