the Degree Confluence Project

United States : Michigan

2.4 miles (3.8 km) NW of Standish, Arenac, MI, USA
Approx. altitude: 201 m (659 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest OpenStreetMap topo aerial ConfluenceNavigator)
Antipode: 44°S 96°E

Quality: good

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

#2: Panorama of our closest approach

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  44°N 84°W (visit #1) (incomplete) 

#1: View west, with family waiting in the car

(visited by Charlie Chambers and Sarah Chambers)

23-Dec-2000 -- 'Twas the day before the day before Christmas...
My wife, kids and I had been in the car for the better part of the last 24 hours, traveling from Philadelphia, PA to northern Michigan. Sarah had consented to join the confluence hunt only as long as we could get it done quickly and easily. The young ones gave their approval by saying "Ga! Da! Da!", which I took to mean "Go, daddy!"

This confluence seemed like an easy one. It was just a couple hundred meters from a road, and, although there were no satellite images available online, I thought I could get a good sense for what to expect from the stories of people who had visited the adjacent spots. They all talked about knocking on farmhouse doors and wandering into cornfields. Piece of cake!

The weather was cold and snowy -- about what one should expect in Michigan two days after the winter solstice. A foot of snow was on the ground and a flurry was underway, cutting visibility down to about a kilometer. We turned off I-75 north and onto 61 east, passed a prison (topic for future study: why are there so many confluence points near prisons?), and took a left on Deep River Road. This road runs right between some of those cornfields I had been expecting.

The suspense was building, only one more turn to go -- a left at the "T" onto Town Line Road. To the right, Town Line is a sizeable, paved thoroughfare, but to the left it is a narrow dirt path -- too insignificant to even get a mention on the road signs. The wife claims she said something at this point about getting stuck, but we plowed ahead, making new tracks into the woods.

I had one eye on the road and one on the GPS. Unwisely, I kept a third eye on the woods to our right. The spot was going to be a bit north of the road and I wanted to check out the terrain as we approached. There were dense birch woods fronted by a triple-wire fence and a nearly continuous parade of freshly painted "KEEP OUT" signs. About half a kilometer in, a private road went off to the north. It was blocked by an enormous cattle gate bearing the legend "Shorty's Place." Whoever Shorty is, he likes his privacy. The only way to ask him about walking on his land was going to be circumventing this fence on foot. And although deer season was basically over in Michigan, trespasser season never ends.

We revised our plans and continued on westward, deeper into the woods, all the while hoping that when we reached 84W longitude on the road, we'd be close enough. The online map showed the road ending before 84W, but it actually goes quite a bit farther. This was a surprise, and I passed the meridian by about 50 meters before I noticed. There was no room to turn around, so I put it in reverse and started back. Before I knew it, the left wheels had fallen about 12 inches into a snow-filled gully at the edge of the road. Who could have known the road was so narrow? And furthermore, who would have guessed that this would be all it took to get us stuck? Finally, who could have possibly imagined that no amount of rocking and shoving would get us unstuck? My wife had answers to all these questions.

After a while, a snowmobiler came by. Surely two grown men pushing could remove the car from its fluffy trap. Ten minutes was all it took to prove me wrong again. I decided to fall back on Plan D, calling for help. I thanked our Samaritan (after turning down his offer to get help for us) and began rooting around the car for the roadside assistance phone number that would bring a tow-truck. We’d have to wait hours, but we had enough gas to keep the car running and the kids warm. Of course I was sure my wife and I would have plenty to talk about, too.

The one thing I hadn't counted on was cell phone coverage. Either because of the snow, or because we were so deep in the woods, the phone would only keep a connection for 10 to 90 seconds. With each call I made, I had to listen to the voice-mail menu, then press one for something, press two for something else, wait for an agent and then BZZT -- I'd be disconnected. Reception was best when I held the phone high up over my head (as if in a gesture of defiance to the falling snow). The forest was so quiet I could carry on a conversation with the phone at arm's length. But after roughly 30 attempts, I had only managed to convey who I was and that I was stranded on Town Line Road near Standish. The phone had stopped working altogether, but I still hadn't mentioned that we were on the "goddamn dirt path" part of Town Line. We had no guarantee that anyone was going to be coming. Plan E was going to involve a whole lotta walking.

My wife had been busy, though. With some form of maternal-instinct-boosted adrenaline, she had been wrenching branches from the trees by hand (without gloves!), snapping them to one-foot lengths, and jamming them under the wheels of our beached whale. A little bit of rocking in low gear and we were free. I left the car just long enough to get some digital video of the closest approach, then we were off. I hadn't bagged the confluence but I could trump any story at Christmas dinner. Getting back on the highway with a shimmy in the steering, I swear the kids were chanting "Dada dodo, Dada dodo."

To make a long story just a bit longer, our closest position was at 84 degrees west, 43 degrees 59.828 minutes north. This puts us due south of the confluence by about 310 meters, only good enough for an attempt. The next fearless crusader will have to "Get Shorty."

 All pictures
#1: View west, with family waiting in the car
#2: Panorama of our closest approach
ALL: All pictures on one page