30-Oct-1999 -- Liz wanted to make Halloween
decorations, so I figured I'd go do a couple of confluences. I'd studied
the maps for 47N 123W and
for a little while, now, and decided that I wouldn't need to do much
off-roading; that I'd be able to take the Porsche without any
I set off for Olympia, the capital of Washington. I drove west on
WA-520, then hooked I-405 south. Then, I hooked-up with I-5 south to go
the rest of the way down towards Olympia. The navagation system in the
car had Delphi Road in Olympia, so I knew I'd not have trouble at least
finding the start of the road that went near the confluence. Indeed, the
car guided me off the highway onto US-101 just south of Olympia and I
cut west for one exit before hitting the north end of Delphi Road.
Delphi wiggled its way south. It's your basic narrow two-laner with
very little traffic. There's not really much farming around here, it
seems. But there are plenty of modest houses with lots of land. Many
people kept horses in big pens, while a few had cows. You can see a
typical stretch of the little road in Photo #2. Aside from the track,
it's little rural roads like this why I bought my car. Even in the
drippy rain, my pet monster straightens out the turns and assures me of
I guess I went south on Delphi road for about three miles before
coming to the first of the two roads that would offer me a crack at my
confluence. With the sprawling super-rural estates here, I was afraid
I'd have to confront a property owner about walking through their field
to find an arbitrary point for no good reason. I'm not sure why I'm
adventurous enough to go hunting confluences, but too shy to approach
property owners for permission to hike around for a picture or two.
Anyway, I was in luck: the first road bore a sign (in Photo #3) for the
McLane Creek Centennial Demonstrantion Forest and Nature Trail. Wow!
This should make finding the confluence pretty easy!
I drove a bit of the way into the forest and noticed a couple of
pedestrian crossing signs that designated spots where the
trail crossed the roadway. A piece of cake!
There was even a wide spot in the road where I could park my car.
There, a deck overlooked part of the forest and there were several
interpretive signs describing the trees and wildlife. (I'd later find
out that the McLane Creek area is a favorite of birdwatchers.) I scanned
the maps and tried to guess where the confluence would be. Again, I
forgot to bring a compass and would have to wander back and forth with
the GPS to find my goal.
Even though my GPS was indicating a 3D fix, it was still showing an
elevation at (or just below!) sea level. I vowed to check the manual
when I got home to see if I had dorked some setting to give the reading
a bad offset, or if there was some other wierdness going on.
I hiked up some wooden stairs to start on the trail, towards the
south side of the entrance road. I knew that the confluence would be
between my entrance road and some other road about 100 yards into the
woods, so there should be little problem finding my way. I hiked through
the overgrown trail, stopping occasionally at the posts. Unfortunately,
they were made of some plastic that obviously deteriorated sharply in
sunlight. The plaques were almost opaque, making the cards underneath
almost invisible! Most of them described the way the forest regrew after
being harvested, and discussed the types of trees that grew there.
Though not quite as thick as the real rain-forests out on the other
side of the Olympic Penninsula, this forest was thick and damp. There
were pine trees and maples and oaks. The maples were dropping leaves
that were more than 18 inches high; it's really breathtaking. The air is
fresh and clean.
And my ass is fat and heavy. With my camera and two lenses, and my
GPS, I hiked up into the woods. Photo #4 shows the typical trail I
followed; they were set, but not groomed. And easy to loose—it
seemed as though there were lots of trails off into the woods that had
become overgrown and neglected.
I went straight south and found that I passed the confluence, but I
decided to keep hiking to find another way to loop towards the east and find my
spot. There was no such luck: I emerged on a gravel-paved forest road. I
cut to the east on that road to find another way to dive into the
forest, and got confused: in my head, without a compass, I flipped east
and west and was walking the wrong way. Nothing but stubborn, I kept
going--feeling sure that I would turn back onto another trail that would
take me right to the point I wanted. In my heart, though, I fretted:
there was such deep growth here that I'd never find my way and be lost
Plus, last weekend, Liz and I rented The Blair Witch Project. It was
a real stupid movie; I might get disoriented, but my stupidity would
never actually kill me.
I followed the logging road back downhill all the way to Delphi Road.
It ended there, and was barricaded by a huge mound of dirt and a "No
Tresspassing: Patrolled Land" area. What the heck is "Patrolled Land"?
Well, anyway, I hopped back onto Delphi Road and headed North. It was
here that I realized that I'd crossed my directions and had to walk back
around through the entrance of the park and find the trail again.
Easy enough, except I was working up quite a sweat. A bit of hiking
is no challenge, but the elevation changes were wearing me. The first
trail entrance#0151; the one I had driven past— didn't have stairs
and seemed a bit more level than the other one I took. I wandered
around and read the signs about how trees grow differently in the same
forest. Some filter light for others, and the lower trees adopt to that.
I started whistling that Rush
Now that I was one with my confusion, I hiked back up the trail I
first passed. The hill was a monster; the trail had to feature an grade
of at least fifteen percent. It looks deceptively shallow, though, in
At the top, I hit the logging road again before getting south enough
to be near 47-degress, flat. I followed the logging road the other way
into the woods, and was surprised to see it veer towards the southwest.
Exactly the way I needed to hike to find the confluence!
By wandering back and forth, I realized I would need to climb into
the woods to find my mark. It was tough going: there was no running
water or chiggers, but there was deep, deep growth. Limbs and small
trees had fallen and created a nursing groundswell of underbrush. I had
to lift my feet to my knees and wade through brush that was sometimes
chest high, but usually pretty passable. My big fear became the
disturbance of a snake or a nest of scorpions or a bottomless pit or a
badly decomposed body.
But, after zigging and zagging, I found a treestump. It was old,
maybe 20 inches in diameter. And it was cut down a long time ago. But
right there, I netted the reading of 47 degrees, zero minutes south by
123 degrees, 0.009 minutes west. You can see it in Photo #5. (Since I
forgot to bring my polarizing filter, there's terrible glare on the
face of the GPS.) The confluence was only 30-something feet away, but
the hill fell sharply in that direction. I had already lost sight of my
gravel road home, and wasn't too familiar with the tracking and heading
features of my GPS, though it looked like I had a decent line to follow
to get out. I'd call this "good enough"!
I used my 15mm fisheye lens to capture the area of the confluence.
The fisheye bows the tall trees, and you can see the GPS on the log near
the bottom. The light-coloured sliver at the bottom edge is my own knee!
It took 20 more minutes to hike back out, even following the tracking
feature on my GPS. I was afraid of slipping off the logs and tripping on
the deep underbrush. If I badly twisted my ankle back here, it would be
years before someone would find me.
Hiking downhill is lots easier. Unfortunately, the rest of the
pictures I snapped were unacceptable. Between my sweating and the
supersaturated air in the forest, the glass in my camera was badly
fogging. I thought the problem was with just the viewfinder window, but
it was too late before I realized the problem was actually fogging on
elements of my lenses.
I dusted off my shoes and climbed back into my race car. Off to the
You can get more information on the McLane Creek recreation area by
calling the State of Washington's Deparment of Natural Resources information
line for the Central Region at (360)-753-2400.