08-Aug-2004 -- Imagine the largest Geographic Information Systems (GIS) conference in the world, that of the Environmental Systems Research Institute in San Diego California USA. Over 12,000 people from hundreds of professions and from 150 countries were gathering this week for this event. With such geographic synergy in the area, I thought it quite appropriate to visit a confluence during the conference. In addition, it provided a perfect opportunity to meet one of the volunteers who works for the confluence project, Uwe Luettringhaus. After visiting confluences in Thailand and other far away places, Uwe had been wanting to visit his "home confluence," the one closest to his residence. Therefore, we made arrangements ahead of time to make this California trek.
Uwe picked me up outside the San Diego Convention Center at 3:30pm local time. We trekked north on State Highway 163 and Interstate Highway 15 to Poway, where we wound through the California hills. The spectacular homes and lush vegetation led to conversations about the October 2003 fire. By 4:15pm, we were on Oak Canyon Road and recognizing the fence posted from the previous unsuccessful visit attempt. We parked at the driveway that leads to the northeast, and walked past the older home, over the bridge spanning the arroyo, and to the home built in the past year. We talked with two couples who were sitting adjacent to the swimming pool. These turned out to be the homeowners and their two friends. They were all quite amiable when they realized that we were just a few geographers on an expedition. We gave them the permission request letter and I gave them my USGS business card. One of the homeowners expressed concern about trespassers who were en route to a geocache which had previously laid near the confluence but has since been removed. We assured him that the confluence project is not the same as the geocaching project, and that we would not take anything away nor leave it there. Furthermore, Uwe would post a note to the site requesting that all future visitors contact the landowners.
After talking for 20 minutes, two of the people accompanied us to a point close to the site. We walked up the road to a structure that appeared to be a guest house to the water tank behind it. The homeowners told us that due to fire danger, all land near homes had to be planted with water-retaining vegetation. I felt like Dorothy traversing the Field Of Poppies in the Wizard of Oz as we walked through the fragrant clover. Above the clover, the land became quite steep and we walked through thorns and brush. This must have been extremely difficult terrain and vegetation for early settlers to traverse. After hiking less than 10 minutes, the GPS zeroed out at a rock that was about 1 square meter in size.
The confluence lies on a south-facing slope of 35 degrees, on a rock surrounded by thorny southern California vegetation. Several homes in the arroyo as well as homes on the ridge to the southeast are visible from the site. It was a hot summer afternoon, 34 degrees C, with no wind blowing. After taking the video and photographs, we walked back down the slope to the home below.
I had never been to 117 west longitude, but my first confluence visit of 2004 was to this same line of latitude. In January, I visited 33 north, at 97 west, in Texas USA. This confluence was interesting in another sense: It is the southwestern-most confluence on land in the continental USA.
Uwe and I thanked everyone and bade them goodbye before walking back to the vehicle. We drove back to our starting point in San Diego, arriving before 6pm local time. I thanked Uwe for his kindness and expressed my hope that we could visit another confluence someday. This confluence visit was the perfect way to complement the 2004 ESRI GIS Conference and yet another example of geography bringing people together!
Coordinator's Note: The landowner has asked to be contacted through the confluence project coordinator prior to any future visits.