12-May-2018 -- As I had been invited to the region for almost a week, promoting and supporting the use of geotechnologies at universities and at the Indiana GIS conference, a confluence visit seemed like the most perfect capstone. And so, after the conference ended, I met with some good Indiana folks to discuss GIS and geography in the karst terrain, and on my way back to the Indianapolis airport, I considered 40 North 87 West within reach. It seemed incredible that it had not been visited since 1999! Could it be that difficult? Would I make it in time to make my flight?
Approaching from the south-southeast on US Highway 231, I passed through some wonderful towns, including Cloverdale and Greencastle, home of DePauw University. Truly a lovely campus and city. East of New Market, I turned west on a county road and things became even more interesting. This was the part of Indiana that is on the dividing line between the glaciated flatter north and the hillier limestone south, and as I drove west, the flat road became a hilly and wooded one, as I wound to the north and around some ponds. At Fall Creek Road, I turned to the east down a small valley, quite picturesque, and then parked there.
From this point at the bottom of the hill, I gathered supplies, and walked south and up the gravel road. I passed two houses and came up on the upland that was all covered in planted crops. To my surprise I saw a large piece of machinery a short distance away to the southeast in the direction of the point. As I approached and waved, a man who turned out to be Allan, the landowner, came over and we then had a great chat about all things geography, land use, agriculture, climate, and more.
Alan was using an enormous machine, a no-till soybean planter. He was extremely high-tech and knowledgeable, using a GPS guidance system that drives his tractor with a 4 inch accuracy which allows him to be incredibly efficient with his use of fertilizer, seed, and time. He is forced to operate manually when he is near the edges of his stands of trees as satellite acquisition in those areas is poor, and when solar storms occur that affect satellite accuracy, but on the whole is pleased with his system. We were on the Bal Hynch Farms, and Allan was pleased to know that it contains one one of only 64,442 decimal zero longitude x latitude points on the Earth. Allan also knew that his former home in Lebanon Indiana was crossed by The Second Principal Meridian, from which most parts of Indiana was surveyed. Allan was most proud of his many groves of trees interspersing the planted fields, in which he has planted many native species and eradicated some invasives, confessing that, "I'm really a forester."
Given this statement, you can imagine that we were both pleased when the confluence point ended up in one of these groves of trees. Alan joined me and we had to walk about 10 minutes to the east. There we were, standing in a peaceful point there on 40 North Latitude, after just meeting each other, and having a grand time. The temperature stood at a pleasant 70 degrees F with moderate winds. From the point, one can see into the fields, especially to the north, as the point is only about 15 meters into the trees.
I have visited numerous points along 40 West, from California to the west to Spain on the east. I have also stood on 87 West many times, from Indiana on the north (1 degree north of here, 12 years ago!), to Alabama on the south. This land at 40 North 87 West is magnificent; it occupies the whole of the upland and is the highest land in the vicinity. I now have a nice collection of over half the confluence points in all of Indiana, and along several key lines of latitude: 41, 40, 39, and 38. My first visit was in 2006.
By now I really needed to get to the airport and so I was sad to tell the landowner farewell, but I promised to send him a copy of my new geography book about 100 discoveries, which I did a few days later. After we parted ways and the landowner got back on his piece of machinery, I experienced the only nervous part of the trip. The person renting the house to the northwest came out along with his dog, and the dog was quite aggressive. I chatted a bit and he showed me some fossils he had found, but I was glad when I was clear of the dog and walking down the slope again. After arriving at the vehicle, I drove down the valley to the east, out to Crawfordsville and I-74, and I made it to the airport with time to spare for my flight. I was pleased to have visited 4 points this week on my trip to Indiana. Get out there and explore the world!