18-Feb-2001 -- The meridians of 41 North Latitude, 74 degrees West Longitude intersect in my hometown of Old Tappan, New Jersey. Some out-of-towners have already made their way to this confluence and submitted their official visit to this website, but I felt compelled to pay my own visit to this spot because it falls in the dense woods behind the house I grew up in where I have walked my dogs, gone fishing, built tree forts, and ridden bicycles long before most people ever heard of a GPS.
I have known there was a confluence in my town ever since I started looking at maps. After learning that there was a website that pays tribute to such places, I quickly went and found "my" confluence. Unfortunately, the adventurous confluence seekers who had already made their journey into these woods had proclaimed this confluence to fall in the neighboring town of River Vale. So my account is also submitted to give Old Tappan the due credit for being the town where this confluence falls, and perhaps also give a local's perspective of the place.
Times Square is only 16 ½ miles due south of this point, but you'd never know it. The forest adjacent to the northern Hackensack River is undeveloped watershed land owned by the local water company. It is an expanse of hardwood trees with an occasional pine stand, and many small ponds, swamps, and wetlands. It looks like what you think the place must have looked like before the first Dutch settlers began farming the area among the native Tappan Indians more than three hundred years ago. Over the centuries people have come and gone. There once was a small hotel along the river nearby, and also a mill that took advantage of the abundant trees and persistent river. General George Washington moved his troops through this area during the Revolution – there's a historic marker nearby that memorializes the site of a massacre of American troops by British soldiers in 1778. Now the woods are just home to the wild animals and the lucky few residents who live on the edge.
Sunday, February 18, was a nice day for a winter walk in the woods. The forest floor had been deep in snow for much of the winter requiring snowshoes for any respectable hike, but a welcome warm trend provided an opportunity for a visit to the confluence. My girlfriend Cynda and I grabbed a GPS and a camera, and headed out behind the house. It was a little tricky getting to the actual spot on which the confluence falls. We had to turn off the path and lumber among the thick undergrowth and amid half-frozen ponds hidden under the snow. Luckily our GPS showed exactly 41N, 74W on higher ground where we could take pictures with little difficulty. It was nice and quiet in this part of the woods, far from any house or road, and we enjoyed the warm sunlight streaming through the trees and glimmering off the water of the river which is something that does not happen when the leaves grow in thick and there is nothing but green all around.
When we returned, we told our friends and family about our hike. It was humorous how people reacted when we told them what our mission was – some with blank stares, some nodding in envy. I have to hand it to Cynda who willingly went along with me to a place that is merely a crossing of lines on a map. She had to endure those people who look at you like you’re crazy for doing such a thing, but we both enjoyed the hike. It was a nice retreat from our normal urban day though we were not far from the big city, and like standing on the equator or at Four Corners monument, it was unique. At one moment we were standing on 41 degrees North, which is the same line of latitude that from here extends across the Atlantic to Portugal and Spain, then across the Mediterranean towards Italy’s Mt. Vesuvius, onward through the middle of the ancient city of Istanbul in Turkey, through the heart of Asia across the Great Wall near Beijing China, then back to North America forming the northern boundary of Colorado and the southern boundary of Wyoming. And we were also standing on 74 degrees West, which comes out of the North Pole through Canada over the Pont Honore Mercier bridge in Montreal, down through downtown Manhattan crossing the Brooklyn Bridge and then skimming the Jersey Shore, down through the Caribbean and then Brazil before ending at the South Pole.