the Degree Confluence Project

United States : California

4.2 miles (6.8 km) SW of Coso Junction, Inyo, CA, USA
Approx. altitude: 1806 m (5925 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest OpenStreeMap topo aerial ConfluenceNavigator)
Antipode: 36°S 62°E

Quality: good

Click on any of the images for the full-sized picture.

#2: View West #3: Dual GPS #4: View East #5: Dave and Glen #6: Dave at the confluence

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  36°N 118°W (visit #1)  

#1: Panorama

(visited by David Seidner and Glen Seidner)

27-Dec-2000 -- 26-Dec-00

Two thousand feet below and 8 miles down a dirt road, a continuous trickle of headlights inched up and down Highway 395. Downhill ski-bearing SUVs, looking out of place in this high desert landscape, were heading north, through Owens' Valley, up to the snow covered slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains that cradle the winter resort of Mammoth Lakes. Eighteen-wheelers, heading south to feed the appetites of Southern California, stopped off at the solitary crossroad, the service station destination of Coso Junction.

My brother Dave's four-wheel drive had taken us about a half mile further than we had expected based on the trace on the topographical map. The dirt road started almost immediately out of Coso Junction. Within a few miles it bumped over two massive yet inconspicuous concrete veins, two of several which supply Los Angeles with the water that have made possible the city's rise to sprawling metropolis. The drainage of the eastern Sierra Nevadas is diverted south and west through this infamous aqueduct system which was the vision of an extraordinary engineer named Mulholland.

Climbing away from the aqueduct we crossed through the wash that drains Portuguese Canyon. Close attention to the details of the map tipped Dave off to the existence of a structure a few miles up the wash, at the mouth of the canyon. A side trip the following day revealed an abandoned homestead which set the mind to speculation. Impossible to know precisely when it was last inhabited, the remnants of a modest orchard, structures probably for animals, root cellars and an abandoned cinder block addition to the dilapidated main one room house made us wonder about the self reliant, solitary existence someone must have found there.

Rising to a bluff that rode between the washes of Portuguese and Fine Canyon, the pair of tire tracks, which had diminished to a bare impression in the sandy dirt, just stopped. With dusk upon us, this would be the place where we would camp for the night. Despite the winter season, in the middle of the day, with the sun on your back, you could eat lunch in a T-shirt; a long sleeved T-shirt. Setting up camp on the eastern slopes of the southern Sierra Nevadas, in the shadows of the setting sun, a chill came to the evening air quickly.

Tomorrow we would have to hike, bushwhack and scramble our way two miles into and 1400 feet up Fine Canyon. The majority of the excursion would be made easier by following the drainage of the canyon with the last hundred yards up the steep slope of a tributary wash near the head of the canyon. Following animal trails along the wash illustrates how so much of desert life, plant and animal, centers on the springtime waters that drain over the now dry earth. Our trek would begin in the low dry scrub and sage of high desert. Punk hairdo-ed joshua trees and obsidian provide a flair to the beautiful moonscape on earth. The site of the confluence would put us at the transition zone between high desert and sub-alpine Sierras with the appearance of Pinon pines and a general greening of the vegetation.

For the moment however the most important task was putting fresh batteries in the digital camera and making sure the GPSs were working and giving us an accurate read on our spot for the night.


Almost a year ago, aimlessly ambling through the internet found me stumbling upon the Degree Confluence Project. I knew it was something I wanted to try. Recent gifts of a GPS unit and a digital camera were the technological acquisitions that cemented the task in my mind. I simply needed to sell the idea to the right person. Dave's love of maps, exploring and adventure made him the obvious choice. A family reunion for the holidays had brought me across the country to visit Dave at his mountain hideaway at the Pine Mountain Club. N36, W118 was our opportunity.

The folks headed south to visit friends in LA. Dave and I headed northeast, through the southern section of California's central valley. East of Bakersfield, we followed the lower Kern River through the canyon which cuts across the southern Sierras to Lake Isabella, then over Walker Pass and down into the flatlands of the Mojave desert before making the final trek to our base camp.

We awoke with the rising sun. Hiking in the morning for 2 hours, deep in the wash of the canyon, we walked in shade until we were almost upon the point. Fortuitously, we landed on the confluence for the only hour during the day that the low winter sun's rays rose above the mountains to warm the spot. The view of Owens' valley was spectacular. To say that we thoroughly photo-documented the view, the site, and the occasion would be a gross understatement. The cool night out and the efforts of the day were justly rewarded on the return trip, with a long soak in the Miracle Springs natural hot springs on the banks of the Kern River.

 All pictures
#1: Panorama
#2: View West
#3: Dual GPS
#4: View East
#5: Dave and Glen
#6: Dave at the confluence
ALL: All pictures on one page