10-Feb-2001 -- My colleague from work, Eric Hansen, and I visited the intersection of
43 degrees North, 86 degrees West on Saturday, February 10, 2001. We had
attempted to visit the intersection the previous Saturday, but were unsuccessful,
due to an inferior GPS unit, and a large and unfriendly dog we encountered. As
it turned out, we had been within a few hundred meters of the intersection, although
we could not be certain at the time, since we could not acquire sufficient satellite
signals on the GPS.
The next week, we tried again, armed with both a better GPS, and a better plan
to avoid the local wildlife. Confluence.org lists this site as about nine miles northeast
of West Olive, Michigan. Since you have probably never heard of West Olive, Michigan,
perhaps the intersection of 43 degrees North, 86 degrees West could better be
described as approximately twelve miles west (and two or three miles north) of downtown
Grand Rapids, Michigan. Eric and I drove west from Grand Rapids on M-45 until we
reached the town of Allendale. At Allendale, we headed north on 68th avenue for
about two miles, and then turned to the west on Warner Street. After two miles, we
turned north on Pine street, which turned out to be a semi-private drive running through
the River Pines Campground.
Since February is the middle of winter in Michigan, we had expected to find the
River Pines Campground deserted. What we had forgotten was that at least some of
the people who are crazy enough to put up with Michigan’s winter weather are also
crazy enough to camp in Michigan in the winter. The campground was half full, even
though the temperature was a brisk 20 degrees Fahrenheit (minus six Centigrade), with
a stiff breeze blowing. Since this site is only about twenty miles east of the relatively
warm water of Lake Michigan, we were experiencing what is known as "lake effect"
snowfall, which is produced from the moisture the air picks up as it crosses Lake Michigan.
We drove to the back of the campground, and parked the car in a deserted area. We
were approximately three quarters of a mile to the east of the intersection. The campground
is called River Pines Campground both because of its pine trees, but also because of its
location near the flood plain of the Grand River. Although the ground generally had a frozen
crust of ice, frequently we broke through the crust into from four inches to a foot of water
and/or mud. We alternately walked through frozen corn fields, forest wetlands, and then
corn fields again. At one point, we crossed a small creek, followed by frozen, partially flooded
We had been looking for a small pond that the satellite photos had shown as being
adjacent to the intersection. We never did find the pond. Since the satellite photos were
taken in the spring, we assumed that either the satellite photos were showing spring river
flooding, or the local farmer had filled it in order to obtain more corn acreage. We emerged
from a wooded area and immediately overshot the intersection in the corn field. We were
amazed at how easily it was to go past the intersection with a GPS precision of one
thousandth of a minute (we quickly translated this into "one long step"). In fact,
we found it very difficult to hold the GPS reading directly on 43 degrees North, 86 degrees
West long enough to take a photo. We eventually accomplished this on about the sixth
or seventh attempt, suffering only moderate frostbite in the process.
As I explained previously, the intersection was in the middle of a frozen cornfield, which
was surrounded by woods, and to the north, the Grand River floodplain. This we
expected. What we did not expect however, was what we found planted directly on the
intersection. As you can see from the photo, we found our company's flag planted directly
on the intersection. Truly a case of "floorcare around the world" as our logo
used to say. Isn't geography amazing?