I thought I’d sliced-and-diced my county counting exploits in every way imaginable by the time I posted Counting Down, my account of barely crossed and airport only captures. Loyal reader and fellow county counter Andy begged to differ. He discovered one more dimension when he noted, "Probably 99% of what you or I color in on the map has been driven over or flown into, even if we got out of the car to touch ground with our own feet. But — have you visited any counties /only/ on foot?" On foot, eh? Now that was something I’d never considered.

I knew it couldn’t be very many instances. I’ve lived a pretty sedentary life devoid of strenuous hikes over vast distances. Friend-of-12MC Steve from (formerly Connecticut Museum Quest and now much more broadly focused) once completed a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. I created an article on counties he’d hiked through hoping he’d pick up the county counting hobby, although it just wasn’t his thing. I’m sure Steve drove through a few of the 87 AT Trail counties on other journeys although I’d also guess that his "only-on-foot" tally would be substantial. Mine, not so much.

San Juan County, Utah

4 Corners
Four Corners – Summer 1992.
Utah, Colorado, New Mexico & Arizona come together at a single point

I think I have two only-on-foot counties. One for sure. That would be San Juan County which was Utah’s contribution to the sole state quadripoint of the United States, Four Corners. Notice my right foot touching said county in the photograph above from a long-ago road trip. I circled around the marker any number of times, traveling through that tiny bit of Utah on foot each time.

Four Corners

I had confidence in my memory although I consulted maps extensively to confirm it. Apparently I drove on all sides of San Juan Co. without actually crossing the border except on foot at the Four Corners marker. Even the road leading up to the marker remained completely outside of Utah. So that’s ONE. Absolutely.

Nantucket County, Massachusetts

Cisco Brewers
Visiting Cisco Brewery.
That is NOT the pedaled vehicle we used.

Might it be possible to bend the rules a little? I’d have a second example from one of my more recent travels if that wish were granted. Massachusetts’ island of Nantucket fell within its own county. I never used a motorized vehicle anywhere on Nantucket. However, we rented bicycles and pedaled a few miles into the countryside to the Cisco Brewery for an afternoon of tastings and entertainment during our stay (map). I think I deserved at least partial credit or an honorable mention for getting everywhere on Nantucket under my own personal muscle power.

Incidentally I couldn’t make the same claim a day earlier in Dukes County (Martha’s Vineyard, primarily). We rented a car in Oak Bluffs and drove all over the island.

Municipio de Juárez, Chihuahua, México

Av Juarez to S El Paso Crossing
Av Juarez to S El Paso Crossing by Aquistbe on Flickr (cc)

I wondered if I could expand the game into foreign countries. I’ve been to México twice, neither time using engine power so I felt I might meet the rules for an entire nation. It involved two separate Mexican states so I should also get credit for Chihuahua and Coahuila. However I decided to focus on counties for this exercise, or in this instance their Mexican equivalents, municipalities (municipios).

Several years ago on a business trip to El Paso, Texas, a group of us decided to walk across the bridge into Juárez (map). The smarter bunch hopped into a taxi as soon as they crossed the border and went to a restaurant in a nicer part of town. Others, myself included, just sort-of milled around the border area checking out the scene. I thought it was pretty seedy, with a bunch of shops selling liquor and discount drugs that would need prescriptions back in the United States. I lasted about ten minutes before I grew bored and walked back into the U.S., although apparently it added Municipio de Juárez to my very short only-on-foot list.

Municipio de Ocampo, Coahuila, México

Boquillas del Carmen, Coahuila, Mexico
Boquillas… and the burro I rode in on

How about an even better rule bender than Nantucket? Several years ago I wrote about my technically illegal (albeit tolerated) dodge across the border into México while visiting Big Bend National Park in Texas. I visited tiny Boquillas del Carmen (map) in Municipio de Ocampo. I never used a motorized vehicle during that visit although I didn’t remain entirely on foot either. I rode a burro into town after disembarking a rowboat that ferried me across the border. Yes, a burro. I’m fairly certain it was the only time I’ve even ridden a burro. I should get double points for that effort.


Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls. My Own Photo.

I couldn’t think of any other examples. I’ve traveled into Canada using seven different border stations. For a moment I thought I might be able to claim the Regional Municipality of Niagara in Ontario because I walked across the border from New York for a better view of the falls. Then I remembered I drove up to Toronto on a different trip and would have passed through the same municipality by automobile. No dice. I also looked at my travels to Europe, Asia and Australia and found nothing.

The final tally in the United States: one county solely on foot; one on foot and bicycle. In México, one municipio solely on foot; one on foot and burro.

Mystery of the Mexican Quadripoint

Does México have a quadripoint? That’s not intended as a trick question. Ideally this should have an easily verifiable solution. Either four Mexican states touch at a common spot — a quadripoint — or they do not. The answer however is considerably more elusive. I remain at a loss as I attempt to uncover whether someone should reasonably conclude one way or the other.

There are a couple of candidates, and the Mexican states of San Luis Potosí and Zacatecas are common denominators.

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Notice the relative proximity of the states of Jalisco, Guanajuato, San Luis Potosí, and Zacatecas. A small notch of Zacatecas protrudes just far enough south to prevent Jalisco and San Luis Potosí from sharing a common border according to Google Maps, with all of the usual caveats about the accuracy of Google Maps. The situation seemingly separates the two states by about 1.88 kilometres (1.17 miles) according to my quick calculation.

This is an agricultural area farmed and ranched fairly intensively judging by satellite mode and confirmed by proximal Street View availability (sample image). There’s even a ranchero within the Zacatecas notch, which would be an interesting geo-oddity homestead for the lucky resident: a click east to San Luis Potosí; a click south to Guanajuato; a click west to Jalisco. It’s easily accessible from the nearest town, Ojuelos de Jalisco, less than 12km down a road called Deportiva (which translates to "sports" and runs by the town’s athletic fields as it departs town). A driver would also cross the border between Jalisco and Zacatecas a couple of times for good measure too (map).

This happy confluence of multiple borders didn’t seem to be controversial. It did in fact appear to represent two tripoints falling in very close proximity to each other. A cube of Zacatecas less than 2km on a side blocked a rare opportunity for a quadripoint.

The other potential Mexican quadripoint takes place in the vicinity of Coahuila, Nuevo León, San Luis Potosi and Zacatecas either where they all join together or where they all nearly do so, depending on the evidence one chooses to accept.

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Google Maps sides clearly with the camp that believes in two tripoints in close proximity to each other rather than a single quadripoint, once again considering that Google isn’t the arbiter of all things geographic. However, notice the distance between to two tripoints: 12.17 km (7.56 mi). It would hardly seem to be a question with such a sizable gap. Yet, other maps are much less clear including some published by the Mexican government. The Yahoo! Group "boundarypointpoint" which specializes in just these types of situation appeared to have reached a consensus that a quadripoint did not exist, after lengthy discussions and earlier research.

However, a monument exists at what many would call the northern of the two tripoints, the "Mojonera de los Cuatro Estados" (Marker of the Four States). There are various photographs of the marker posted on the Intertubes although none that I could find with Creative Commons licensing so I couldn’t embed them here. Feel free to open a photo from Panoramio or from Flickr in another tab and observe the results. The marker would be readily accessible albeit after enduring a jarring 8.1 km (5.0 mi) ride down a rough road. I think the guy in the Flickr image with the mountain bike had the right idea.

Wikipedia bought into the idea of a Mexican quadripoint, for what that’s worth. It was presented as fact without citing any evidence, and was immediately flagged as such. Wikipedia attempted to weasel-word around the issue by stating that this is the place where the four states "effectively" meet. Right. I’m not sure de facto or close-enough provides a decent standard for a concept that implies precision. Even the contributors on boundarypointpoint seemed conflicted after the revelation of the Mojonera de los Cuatro Estados.

Examining the Mexican Geological Service website, Servicio Geológico Mexicano, provided nothing definitive and Internet searches using the Spanish-language term "Cuadripunto" yielded no better results either.

Was it a situation created by imprecise surveying techniques like the Delaware Wedge? Is it so rural and effects so few people that the governments involved simply don’t consider it enough of a priority to figure it out? Or has it been overtaken by events with a named boundary stone, the Mojonera de los Cuatro Estados, converting a close-enough approximation to an exact declaration?

In my mind, the elusive Quadripoint of México remains a mystery.

Canada to Mexico

The Twelve Mile Circle continues to generate all sorts of interesting search engine queries, an endless stream of potential article topics. I remember back in the early days of the blog I had to come up with everything myself. That’s rarely an issue anymore. Case in point, someone wanted to know the shortest way to drive from Canada to Mexico.

I don’t know why someone would necessarily want or need this knowledge. One would have to cross through the United States any which way one slices it. This led me to conclude that perhaps my unknown visitor had an issue with the United States. He didn’t like it for some reason. Maybe he was a wanted criminal or an aging Vietnam War draft-dodger? Are the U.S. military authorities still looking for those guys? Never mind. Let’s just say they are for the sake of this exercise.

Maybe he’s a smuggler concealing something of particular value to people in Mexico but not to people in the United States? The query didn’t provide specifics so I’ll make them up. Let’s help our draft-dodging smuggler of Chinese counterfeit soccer balls make it through the United States as quickly as possible. He’ll have to obey speed limits to avoid police attention and he’ll have to use default routes generated by Google Maps as a proxy because he’s unfamiliar with the dangerous U.S. territory he will cover.

At first I wanted to set up a matrix. I intended to calculate both the distance and time between every U.S. border crossing with Canada and Mexico. I abandoned that when I counted 117 Canadian and 47 Mexican possibilities (117 X 47 = 5,499 combinations, both for time and distance). As much as I enjoy and respect the 12MC audience, it’s not productive for me to calculate 10,998 different numbers simply to determine the absolutely minimal times and distances. I took some educated guesses instead. It’s possible that others may improve upon these marginally, and perhaps even meaninfgully.

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Residents of Vancouver, British Columbia probably have it the best. Traveling via the Douglas, BC crossing to the Tijuana (West) crossing in Baja California would take 22 hours and 43 minutes over a distance of 2,223 kilometres (1,381 miles). That’s less than a day! Also, now that we realize Google Maps overestimates travel times, one could probably shave another hour or two from that figure with continuous driving and make it to the safety of the Mexican border posthaste.

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I wondered if I could discover a shorter Pacific Coastal route. The original one swings out to the west albeit it takes complete advantage of an efficient and swiftly-moving Interstate 5. Would a shorter route, one more closely aligned with a line of longitude make a difference? Actually, no. I replicated the exercise starting from the Paterson, BC border crossing instead. Oddly, it was both longer and less timely. Examining the map (above) it seemed to unfold this way because of the wobbly nature of obscure roads selected for the trip. Notice several jogs east and west that increased the total distance (2,305 km / 1,432 mi) and time (25 hours).

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There was another route. It surprised me how closely it challenged the Pacific Coastal route, although it wouldn’t benefit many Canadians. Maybe residents of Regina, Saskatchewan could use it. Otherwise it’s fairly remote from population centers. This one ran from the Oungre, SK border crossing to Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, on the Bridge of the Americas crossing. Google maps predicts that the U.S. transit would cover 2,220 km (1,379 mi), over 23 hours 18 minutes. See what I mean? Three kilometers shorter although 45 minutes longer.

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Finally I attempted a diagonal route, taking advantage of the southern boundary dip following the contours of the Great Lakes. It’s a little longer (2,596 km / 1,402 mi) and couldn’t be done in a single day (27 hours). However, potentially, many more Canadians could take advantage of it due to its relative proximity to Toronto and Montréal. This one goes from Windsor, Ontario to Piedras Negras, Coahuila.

The worst option? It’s probably Campobello Island, NB to Tijuana (West). That’s 5,438 km (3,379 mi) over 55 hours (map).

Hopefully this will offer plenty of options for my Canadian draft-dodging soccer ball smuggler.