17-Oct-1999 -- The point on the earth's surface corresponding to
35 degrees north, 120 degrees west just happens to be in the middle of the
Sierra Madre mountains of California at an altitude of about 5,000 feet.
When I was looking for confluence points near me, I discounted this one at
first. The brush tends to be very thick in these mountains ... that is, in areas
without steep precipices. I do not have the equipment, courage, or inclination
to attempt a confluence point on the face of a mountain. Just for kicks,
though, I checked the Terraserver site to see what the terrain looked like.
Now, let me explain the road situation in the Sierra Madres: the simplest
description would be "there aren't any", simply because the very few exiting
roads are so few and far between that they hardly deserve mention. Much to
my surprise, however, the Terraserver site showed a road running almost
straight through the confluence point (photo #5)! With this luck there was no
choice: I had to attempt this point. I went to my local AAA office and got a
map of Santa Barbara County. Sure enough, the map showed the road
(Sierra Madre Road, as a matter of fact) and the crosshairs of 35N 120W
immediately to the west. The map legend showed the road in question
to be a "graded dirt road", which sounded good enough to me.
After an absolutely restless night of Santa Ana winds (the hot, dry,
dangerously fast desert winds that seasonally sweep across Southern
California) throwing trees against my windows, my wife and I decided
to get out of bed at dawn and make the beautiful drive up into the Sierra
Madres. After about two and a half hours we found the spot where
Sierra Madre Road meets Highway 166, and started the ascent. We
crossed a marker that said "All vehicles must bear 'Forest Adventure
Pass' decals to proceed" (which we didn't have) and continued up the
"graded dirt road". I learned quickly that "graded dirt road" is secret
AAA code for "lots of very big rocks" (the portion you see in photo #4
is by far the smoothest area ... you'll just have to take my word on this.)
After rattling and rolling for fifteen miles in our little dusty Celica,
frequently with sheer drops on one or both sides, we crossed 35N
and I parked the car.
It was only a short walk off the road to find the region. My GPS
receiver was hopping around a bit and the standard GPS dance
wasn't working. Some fixes were closer, some were further, but the
display showed about 35 degrees 00.25 minutes North, 120 degrees
00.35 minutes West when the photograph was taken.
Standing in this estimated confluence point, I took a full 360-degree
field of photographs which I stiched together to form the panorama
found in photo #2.
I think photo #1 is the most representative picture of the area, with
photo #3 being a close second. It will, however, be photo #1 I will
have on my shirt!
There are more confluences in my general area that I look forward
to visiting in the near future (ideally sans mountain driving.)
Finally, I would like to thank my friend John E. of Redmond, WA for
bringing the Degree Confluence Project to my attention on the Public
Forum of another excellent and geographically-minded site:
Joshua McGee, Thousand Oaks, CA, 19h00, 17 October, 1999