16-Mar-2001 -- Ever since discovering the Confluence Project in early January of this year I have been plotting and planning a trip to N45 W122. Ward & Pat Cunningham had attempted this spot on September 23, 2000 but had their trip cut short by darkness. I knew that when the snow melted this spring they or someone else would be headed up there.
The actual confluence is located in the Mt. Hood National Forest at approximately 3000’ (900 metre) elevation. This area was originally logged in the early 1900s using a method called "clear-cutting" where nearly every tree was cut and removed. Today a nearly mature Douglas Fir forest has re-grown and a process of selective cutting has begun.
This area receives nearly 100 inches of rain annually, much of this falling as snow from mid-November until early April each year. The very dense understory is made up of vine maple, huckleberry, rhododendron, etc.
Our adventure began early on the morning of March 16, 2001. My seven year old son, Alex, was off school for the day. We have visited several Geocaches in the area and one other confluence (N45 W123), so he was ready for the trip, but neither of us realized the difficulty this confluence would present. It was a nearly 2 hour drive from our home in Portland, Oregon. The final 6 miles were narrow single-lane logging roads. As we gained elevation we began to see snow on the hills ahead and finally encountered snow on the shoulder of the road at about 2600’ elevation. We were soon forced to park our van, which is pretty worthless on snowy roads.
Now began the hike. Within half a mile of hiking up the road we were ankle deep in snow. Soon we passed a logging operation which had broken up the snow and packed it into ruts for us to walk in. After the logging area the snow was unbroken and grew deeper with each step. The final 0.3 miles, at about 3300’ elevation, had snow about 3 feet deep and I was sinking in thigh deep with each step. My son, weighing only 48 pounds, generally sunk in only 3 or 4 inches; my progress was pretty slow at this point. However, we were so close we didn’t want to turn back.
At its closest approach, the road comes within 0.13 miles from the True Confluence. We looked, from the shoulder of the road, steeply downhill toward the northeast. The brush was incredibly thick and the hill was very steep. The only good thing was that once off the road, under the tree canopy, there would be very little snow on the ground. I remember reading that the Cunningham’s had said that it took them 15 minutes to travel 100’ down this hill, now I saw why.
We headed off the road and found the going very difficult. There were many fallen logs, and plenty of thick, snow covered boughs which slapped us across the face. Soon I noticed that in this steep, heavily timbered canyon I had lost satellite lock with my, generally faithful, Garmin GPS12. After arriving at only slightly better terrain and standing still awhile I again got a poor signal lock. We forged on down through the heavy brush several hundred more feet to a point that momentarily looked like the True Confluence, but the signal continued to bounce around with an EPE of over 100 feet most of the time. At this point, the game was no longer fun for Alex, and he was beginning to look miserable. This location appeared to be as good as any and well within the 100 metre goal of the project. We set the 4" x 4" post, which was marked "45N 122W", deposited a small, simple, Tupperware geocache, took the obligatory photos and began the nasty ascent out of the canyon.
The brush throughout this cross-country portion was so thick that you never could see more than 20 feet in any direction. After 45 minutes of slugging our way up this hill we returned to the road. It was now obvious that Alex wasn’t having any fun. He was wet and cold; in particular his rubber-booted feet had started to go numb from the cold. So I put him on my back and began the hike out through the 3’ deep snow. His added weight didn’t help matters any. An hour later we returned to our van, fired up the engine and the heater, and stripped off his wet socks (pouring the snow-melt out of his boots). The pain of thawing toes was a little intense for awhile, but I think he has almost forgiven me now for taking him on our grand adventure.