24-Sep-2001 -- In France and near Paris for a few days of vacation with my children and
their spouses, I decided to look on the Confluence web site to see if by
chance there were any confluences left in France. To my surprise there was
one (although secondary) just about 5 kilometers from where I was staying in
Cergy. I had figured that the closest confluence to Paris would have been
captured long ago. But no, there had been no visitors to 49 north, 2 east.
I began to make my plans and study my maps, and the kids got interested and
volunteered to go with me. I figured the hike would be about 8 kilometers
one way (I had no means of transportation) but they still seemed excited.
We planned to rise early on the following day, September 24, 2001 and hunt
for the confluence.
I woke up early and got dressed warmly as the
temperatures were in the 50's. No kids to be seen. I waited until 9 and
finally decided to go it alone. Outside it was very misty and there was
intermittent drizzle, but the brisk weather enabled me to walk quickly and
make good time. I headed south out of Cergy on a wide sidewalk next to the
major departmental road, and passed through the town of Vauréal. At the
next village south I turned east off the main road, headed through some
apartments, and came to a gravel track leading through corn fields and under
a powerline. This passed a golf practice area before I came to another
village. Here I was supposed to take another track past a "gîte" or a farm
that takes in tourists.
I missed the trail, however, and ended up cutting
through some woods and up a steep hill before crossing another departmental
road which I recognized from the GPS basemap. Then I was in the Forest of
the Hautil, in which the confluence was located. Due to the wet conditions
the trails in the forest were very muddy and in bad shape. There were signs
warning of old quarries and the dangers of cave-ins. At first I was headed
straight for the confluence but the trail turned slightly and I soon found
myself reading 300 meters still to go and no trail in the right direction.
I continued on a little and found a trail heading back in the general
direction. This was very muddy as you can see from the pictures. It was
now about 10:30 and the fog had not lifted much. Now and again it would
rain on me a little, but not enough to drench me. Eventually I came upon
one of the old quarries, with the GPS reading 50 meters to the confluence,
across the quarry. It was overgrown and the sides were steep so I decided
to go around and try to approach it from the rear. Sure enough, a couple of
hundred meters further along there was a trail that looked like it would
take me very close. It was even muddier than the ones I had already been
on. My shoes were now soaked and squishy. My GPS readings were getting
less and less accurate due to the leaf cover, and by the time I was opposite
the confluence again I had between 25 and 30 meters EPE.
I struck out into
the forest, but the map and my track kept shifting, and I was not able to
get the GPS to read any closer than 22 meters from the confluence. After
some minutes of trying to get the zeroes to show, I gave up. As nearly as I
could tell the biggest tree around was growing right out of the confluence
point. I photographed it, and then did a timer shot of myself in front of
it. I then tried to get back to my original trail across the quarry, but
the GPS readings were so erratic that I got lost and could not find the
trail, so had to backtrack out past the confluence again. I then began the
long hike back.
I arrived home at noon to the reproaches of my kids and
in-laws who had wanted to go with me. Of course they wanted to go in to
Paris, so after having hiked some ten miles in the morning at a fast pace I
walked another mile to the train into Paris and hiked probably another 6 to
8 miles before bedtime! I slept well as you may imagine.