15-Mar-2015 -- As I was in the region to visit two colleges, and to talk with the education and geosciences faculty at each about the benefits of using geospatial technologies in teaching, learning, research, and campus administration, a confluence visit seemed like the perfect fit.
This confluence seemed almost too good to be true--not far from a paved road, it had not been visited since 2000, nearly 15 years ago, and it was not far from our intended route from Rock Island Illinois to Cedar Rapids Iowa. After a breakfast at the wonderful Iowa Machine Shed in Bettendorf, my companion and I journeyed on the back roads through great towns such as Maysville and Big Rock, Iowa. Northwest of Oxford Junction, anticipation grew as we rounded the bend and looked at the valley to the south where the confluence lay. I pulled into the driveway leading to the abandoned buildings that I had spotted on the satellite image, and gathered supplies. The skies were quite dark but no rain was falling. As my companion was making a college visit, and wanted to make a good impression; i.e. a non-muddy one, she wisely stayed behind in the vehicle.
I gazed to the south toward the vacant buildings at the end of the lane. I had thought after reviewing the satellite imagery that these buildings were abandoned, and I was correct. If I walked toward them, the initial few hundred meters would have been easier, but then I would be faced with a very muddy trek on the other side of them. Plus, I wanted to tread on the farmers' fields as little as possible just in case they had planted anything, but I knew that nothing had yet been planted; they had just recently been "turned". Thus, I set off along the slippery but passable embankment of the ditch that angled to the southwest, and then south, and then southeast, around the property housing the abandoned buildings. Snow still clung to the embankment, and the footing was uneven with the grass fairly high, so it was slow going. After about 15 minutes, I abandoned the ditch and struck out toward the treeline dividing a field to the west from a field to the east. I crossed to the western boundary of the eastern field, and quickly, my shoes became heavier and heavier. Clinging to the edge of the field as long as possible, when I reached 42 North, I stepped gingerly across the muddy field, just in case anything was planted here, for about 7 minutes until I reached the confluence point.
The confluence lies not far from the center of this field; the field is flat but the land rises to the north and there are some decent-sized Iowa hills especially to the northwest, where later we would find a wonderful view of the entire confluence valley. I saw a few birds but no people or animals from the point. The sky was gray and the temperature stood at about 54 F (12 C) on this day, around noon just a week before the Vernal Equinox. The land was just waking up from winter; and only recently had the snow largely melted from the hills and valleys. Previously, I had stood on 42 North from Wyoming on the west to Massachusetts on the east. I had stood on 91 West many times before as well, from Wisconsin on the north to Louisiana on the south. The day before, I stood on 41 North 91 West, just one degree south of here. With this confluence, I probably have nearly 10 Iowa confluences by now, with points in just about every corner of the state except the northwest. It is a great state! I was on site for only 10 minutes owing to the person waiting for me.
For variety, on my way out, I crossed through the trees, which were encased with some thorny plants, to the field to the west, where I filmed a few videos about getting out into the field. I walked north, where it was even muddier than the other field, and rejoined my path along the ditch. I reached the vehicle, shook off some mud, and we made the rest of the journey toward Cedar Rapids, finding the campus of Coe College to be quite pleasant. I was happy to provide an update to this confluence, 14 years after the initial visit. The only disappointing thing is that the conditions were just about as gloomy as the first visit. But: Get out there and explore!