07-Mar-2020 -- As I was in the Toronto area for a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) conference focused on teaching and research, and as the degree confluence project is focused on geotechnologies, and as I am always preaching the message of getting out into the field, and as I had not been in the field in Canada or to a confluence point in four years, all of these factors combined to induce me to get out onto the landscape. The natural point to aim for within a short-ish distance of Toronto was to voyage to 44 North 80 West. It was a 10 degree confluence, and seemed within easy reach of Toronto. The main challenge: Sadly, my cell phone data was turned off, so in reach of the hotel wi-fi the night before, I scratched out a few 3x5 index cards with maps that I hoped would guide me to the point. This would be almost like navigation in the 1980s.
After Uber-ing to the airport, which with no data on my phone was itself a challenge to even find an Uber, I picked up a small rental car once there. The Toronto airport is fairly massive, but I was successful. Then, without digital maps or turn-by-turn directions, again relying on my crude hand-drawn maps, I made a few wrong turns after departing the airport. However, after 25 minutes, I was happily heading northwest on Highway 7, which runs very close to the east of the point. I drove through an area populated in large part by a community of Sikhs and others from south Asia. It was fascinating to move through these neighborhoods. The warehouses and housing gave way finally to farmlands, and then to forests, and I stopped at a local bakery and saw some nice local folks. As I went up onto the Niagara Escarpment, the first thing I noticed was that now that I had left the city, snow lay everywhere. And it was deep, too. I was wearing all my layers on from my trip to Canada, including my suit coat and tie, and hat and gloves, so I was prepared, but had only running shoes and no boots. It was a rather cold morning, for me, but not by Canadian standards, most certainly. It would be an adventure!
After a few magnificent hills and valleys, I slowed to the turn-off on and headed west on Hockley Road. Hockley Road ran along one of the valleys in the area. I drove slowly down it, getting honked at once from someone behind me, as I was apparently moving TOO slowly, before pulling over just after a house sporting a large lovely Canada flag, which I photographed on the way out after I had confluence success.
Getting out, I looked both ways several times before dashing across the road, for although we were in a rural area, there was lots of traffic. I have noted this phenomenon in many of my confluence narratives. I walked east along the south side of the road for 5 minutes. I was then standing on the embankment exactly at 80 West Longitude, within 100 meters of the point. There was a deep ravine between the point and where I was at the moment. But then I considered: No fence existed, and although I could get muddy or snowy or wet, why not give it a try? I first needed to get to the south side of this small but deep creek. Once that was done, I clambered through the branches and sunk in some snow, but in less than 10 minutes, arrived near the site. I was wondering if I was going to need to clamber down the snowy embankment, which could be a bit dangerous, as it was deep and studded with pointed branches and fallen trees. The GPS unit took at least 10 minutes to zero out. Fortunately, I found zero heaven and the confluence point just barely by leaning over the ravine. But without falling in!
It was about 20 F (-7 C) on a late winter day in early March, two weeks before the Vernal Equinox, in mid-morning. I saw no animals, no bear or moose, not even any birds. When one considers the vast territory and lands of Ontario, and where this confluence COULD be, in a marsh, on a cliff, or miles from any trail, this was all things considered, remarkably easy. The same thing can be said for the other point I had snagged in Ontario, one degree south of here, over a decade ago, at 43 North 80 West. Today's skies were blue after yesterday's rain and snow, and there was only a bit of wind. This was my first confluence point in Canada in four years, since my trek to the forests of New Brunswick following teaching at the University of Moncton. Ironically, just a few weeks earlier, I had also stood on 80 West, far to the south of here, in South Carolina. I had also stood on 80 West several times in the past, from Ontario just to the south of here, at 43 North 80 West, through Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and on to South Carolina. I had also stood on 44 North at many points, from South Dakota on the west to Maine on the east, including a few aborted attempts in the woods in Wisconsin and again in Michigan. It was extra spatial to be on a 10 degree meridian today--80 West!
I filmed a video on site, panning all directions, with sound; view it here on my Our Earth channel.
I hiked out the way I came in, sinking in to deep snow a few times, and stopping at the far side of the road to photograph the Canada flag. My next hike was a short distance away at Mono Cliffs, on the edge of the Niagara Escarpment. It took awhile to get there with my 3x5 hand drawn maps, but once there, in the snow, trees, and landscape, I was at peace. I spent 3 hours hiking there in the snow. Afterwards, I did some work and went to the airport. As it turned out, the world was changing while I was in Canada, due to the COVID-19 crisis, and therefore this would be the last trip I would take for awhile--all of my upcoming travel was canceled over the coming days. This was the calm haven before the storm! Safe travels and good health, everyone.