26-Jul-2019 -- As I was concluding my trip to the South Dakota GIS conference, and as the conference themes had been focused on place, location, and geotechnology, a confluence visit seemed like the perfect capstone. And so, "on my way" to the Sioux Falls airport from Mitchell, I set out at 6:00am, driving due south on Highway 37 to the area near 43 North 98 West. I put on my way in quotes because to a geographer, everything is on the way to everywhere else, even if it is in the opposite direction. Construction impeded my progress but eventually I reached Highway 50, where I turned west for two miles, then north. I slowly drove back and forth along this stretch of road for awhile, as there was literally no shoulder or place to pull over. I finally made my own little zone on a hill, on the east side of the road, quickly gathered GPS and hat, and plunged on foot into the ravine.
Many confluence points end up being easier than I expect, and some turn out more difficult. The satellite image in this area makes the trek appear rather free of obstacles, which is far from the case. As I was at the north end of an enormous soybean field, the first few meters showed me that this was already more difficult than I anticipated. Would I make it? I had a long way to walk and within the first 10 minutes, I had already stepped in some big holes and fallen once. I took great care not to step on any plants, which added to the difficulty because I had to hug the north end of the field and wind along the ravine to the north. Within about 250 meters of the point, things got even more challenging as I realized I would have to cross the ravine. I got wet feet, and literally, stepping through it. And, my heart sank a bit when just before the point, I thought the DCP would be in head-high grasses. Fortunately, I emerged on the north side of the wetland and found the point on drier ground in the field to the north. Oh, the joy! I had traveled about 5,150 ft (1.57 km) to reach this point. I am almost positive that I was the first person to stand here with a tie on.
The confluence therefore lies on the north side of the winding ravine and adjacent wetlands. It was still early morning but as it was July, already the temperature stood at 81 degrees F (27 C). I saw no people, a few birds, and a herd of cattle to the south. I heard truck noises on the highway 50, which lay to the south, but invisible from the point. It was a magnificent summer morning with almost no clouds. Only a light breeze was blowing. It was amazing to me how long it had been since this point was last visited. Though, to be sure, the landowners here surely had stood here many times. I had stood on 43 North on many memorable moments in the past 20 years, from a hillside in remote Idaho on the west to a marshy New Hampshire field on the east. I had also stood on 98 West numerous times over the past 20 years, from 44 North 98 West in South Dakota on the north end to 28 North 98 West in Texas on the south end. This was my first time on this point. I now have a nice tidy collection of at least 8 or so confluence points in South Dakota. This was my last day in the state for probably quite awhile and I would miss it.
I hiked out a different way, this time on the north side of the ravine, looking for a drier place to cross, which I did succeed in doing, and then repeated my steps on the north end of the soybean field, but to the south of the ravine. I reached my vehicle without falling again and by that time, even though it was morning was rather roasted. But it was worth seeking and finding this point, and enjoying the wide open spaces, fields, and the planet. I am not certain of the round trip hike time, as I was being free of time devices and enjoying it, but it was most likely about 90 minutes. Get out there and explore the Earth!