I noticed an anomaly when I researched Kansas Mountain Time for an article last January. Very little of Kansas remains in Mountain Time anymore and I suspect the entire state will flip eventually to Central Time. That hasn’t happened yet and the anomaly will remain in place until that occurs.
Notice the far northwestern corner of Kansas, just north of the Mountain Time counties. That’s Cheyenne County. Cheyenne switched to Central Time in approximately 1955 according to the Statoids website. Meanwhile, western Nebraska observes Mountain Time as does all of Colorado. That created a situation where Cheyenne County is surrounded by its neighboring time zone on three sides. Drive east from Cheyenne and one will remain in Central Time. Drive north, south or west, and one will enter Mountain Time upon passing the county border.
This can be observed more clearly in the image I created in the National Atlas of the United States’ Map Maker, one of the few online resources that allows one to create a map with time zones and county borders. I considered whether this might be an unusual situation, a rare instance of time zone herniation with a county completely protruding into its neighbors, or whether it was entirely more common. I went through the time/county overlay in Map Maker and found only one other example, well, four-fifths of an example actually. Cheyenne County is either unique or nearly unique, with a different time zone found completely on three sides.
The kind-of, maybe, sorta instance
This is Malheur County, Oregon. I’ve mentioned Malheur before. It’s the corner of Oregon in Mountain Time that allows the trick question about an Atlantic state and a Pacific state only one hour apart (and on the same time for a single hour each year when the clocks are turned back in autumn). However, look closely, and it’s apparently that a small portion of Malheur’s southern end observes Pacific Time like the rest of Oregon.
The separation is defined by Title 49, Section 71.9 of the US Code of Federal Regulations:
"thence southerly along the west line of Malheur County to the southwest corner of T. 35 S., R. 37 E.; thence east to the Idaho-Oregon boundary". It’s a matter of drawing a line along the designated township and range boundary which corresponds to a latitude at approximately 42.45° north. It’s literally in the middle of nowhere (map)
Most of Malheur observes Mountain Time because it’s so far removed from Oregon’s cities that it’s more aligned economically with places in Idaho. That doesn’t explain the lower one-fifth, though. I looked a little closer.
Actually the southern portion accommodates residents of McDermitt, a town split by two states. The majority of McDermitt falls on the Nevada side of the border, on the left side of the Street View image. Nevada follows Pacific Time. Thus it makes sense for this small corner of Malheur to follow Pacific Time too. It makes even more sense when one considers that 75% of the population is associated with the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe.
Do we count Malheur as a second example in spite of it’s split personality, or do we consider Cheyenne a truly unique occurrence?
This nondescript grass path in a generic housing development leads to the Historic Tucker Family Cemetery, which is the oldest African American cemetery in the former English colonies of North America. It dates back to the arrival of slavery in the Jamestown colony in 1619. The Hampton Rhodes (Virginia) Daily Press described how it was long neglected and focused on recent restoration efforts. It’s shocking how a place of such historic significance could have fallen into such disrepair for the past half-century. History lurks everywhere. Even in the suburbs.
It’s been a protracted series of Extreme Connecticut geography articles and you’re probably growing a little weary of them by now. I was in a similar position somewhere around this same point during our long and busy adventure. Nonetheless, nobody had ever visited the state’s four cardinal extremities in a single day before. We were making history and this wasn’t a time for geo-wimps. With Steve of CTMQ in the lead and Scott of The Scenic Drive and myself along for the ride, we summoned up additional energy and enthusiasm, and pushed ever onward.
We left the corner of Connecticut once known as Litchfield County (before Connecticut disestablished its county structure in 1960). Our departure made me somewhat wistful. Litchfield, truly, upended all of my preconceived notions and stereotypes of Connecticut, with its forested ridges, green valleys, rolling streams and quaint country towns. I’d love to come back to northwestern Connecticut again someday in a slightly less whirlwind fashion.
Litchfield also contained more than its fare share of geo-oddities. Much greater distances would need to be covered from here onward.
Each of the farthest directional extremes of Connecticut presented its own unique challenge. This continued with the westernmost point, directly aside New York’s Route 120 — King Street — an extremely busy road with a monument hidden behind a thicket beside a blind curve. We had to park on the opposite side of the road, dash across the street Frogger-style and and dig through grass to the monument before a truck with a side view mirror might clip us.
Disappointingly, Connecticut doesn’t seem to hold its geography monuments in particularly high regard. Back home in Virginia, various historical societies volunteer to care for markers and even protect them in cast-iron cages. In Connecticut? One finds the westernmost stone forlorn in neck-high weeds that probably haven’t been mowed in years. It’s difficult and dangerous to approach the marker even if one knows its exact location.
King Street is famous for another reason. It’s the road that New York stole from Connecticut. It happened a couple of miles away from the westernmost point. Steve had my back on this one. He knew I was excited about the stolen road so he took a brief detour along the east side of Westchester County Airport just to be kind. It wasn’t on our agenda.
Finally the Great Captains Island ferry beckoned us. This presented the greatest logistical challenge of the day. It may be the single most difficult geographic extremity should one wish to replicate our Connecticut adventure. Even so, we were actually in pretty good shape at this point. We’d made up time lost earlier due to my lack of humidity hiking skills, and we positioned ourselves perfectly for a 2:00 crossing.
A bureaucrat who escaped from the old Soviet Union must have designed the process to visit Great Captains Island. The town of Greenwich owns the island and they don’t like non-residents like you and me visiting. From what I’ve seen on the Intertubes — and I can’t confirm this independently so take it with a grain of salt — there was a lawsuit a few years ago that finally opened it up for non-resident visitors. True or not, Greenwich still makes it as difficult as possible for those of us who are not worthy.
Here are the roadblocks and our resolution:
The ferry runs only at the higher end of the tide cycle. Greenwich publishes a schedule every year and that figured prominently in our planning. We had to select a date that matched our personal summertime plans, fit within the timing of our drive through Connecticut, and coincided properly with the cycle of the moon. August 4, 2012 was quite literally the only feasible date.
The weather has to cooperate. The ferry cannot operate during thunderstorms and those are entirely too common during summer afternoons. This was a complete crapshoot and we were lucky. Thunderstorms rocked Connecticut’s coastline the very next day.
Then, don’t even think about showing up at the docks without a non-resident daily park pass. They are not sold at the ferry either. One has to go to the Greenwich town hall or civic center. Steve made arrangements with a friend who lived in town to get the pass on our behalf who met us at the docks. This transaction reportedly took about 45 minutes — time we would not have had available otherwise.
Parking is another challenge. The municipal lot at the docks charges dearly for its convenience. Steve had a secret parking place I won’t reveal so we skirted the issue.
After that, and only when all challenges are met, can one purchase a ferry ticket to depart for Great Captains Island
Here’s the completely crazy part. We negotiated those logistics, jumped through every kind of hoop, went through unreasonable pain and expense, and remained on Great Captains Island for a grand total of nine minutes! Otherwise we would have been stuck there for an additional hour and we had a schedule to keep. At least we amused the ferry crew.
What was that I said about things I’d like to see again someday? Yes, this is one of them.
It was a nice ride on the ferry back-and-forth; very relaxing. It always feels good to out be on the open water.
Back on shore, we completed another round of quick drive-by captures, this time the smallest Indian reservation in the United States (above), Connecticut’s smallest town (Derby), and a minor detour for a pre-celebration beer.
I wanted to stop briefly and take a photograph of the sign outside of the Golden Hill Paugussetts’ quarter-acre reservation. What were the odds of them actually holding an event in their back yard? Well, 100% on that day. I didn’t want to feel like a complete schmuck stopping in front of their home and pointing a camera at them. This was the best I could do, and I’ve cropped out the portion where they were holding their barbeque to preserve their privacy.
Apologies to the Golden Hill Paugussetts if they happened to notice three guys with cameras driving by slowly. We were only attempting to document the extremes of Connecticut, and in this instance the entirety of the United States. We meant no harm.
As if we hadn’t trampled on private property and poked into peoples’ personal space enough times during the day, we had to do it all over again to capture the easternmost point in Connecticut. This could be accessed feasibly only by going through a horse farm. We found some cover. There was some kind of horse show going on that day and many of the participants had traveled great distances. They formed a makeshift campground with a cluster of recreational vehicles. We felt comfortable with the notion that nobody would notice an additional car slip into the mix.
That was true until we had to peel away from the crowd to reach the easternmost point itself. We felt we had a decent cover story if someone questioned us (nobody did) so we hopped out and pushed through brambles and wetlands. Steve had some directions that were like, "look for a big oak tree near a thicket of pines and an abandoned junk yard" or something equally vague. Dusk was approaching. It had been a long day. Scott and I were ready to call this one "close enough." Steve persevered in spite of the waning interest of his crew and located the marker a few minutes later.
We had one more item on the itinerary: the Connecticut-Massachusetts-Rhode Island tripoint. Steve had been there before on a previous adventure. Scott and I felt like we’d gotten more than our fair share already. Sometimes on needs to know when it’s time to let it go and call it a day. We’ll save that one for someone who wants to try to break our record.
I arrived back at my hotel sixteen hours after we’d begun. It was a remarkable day of extreme Connecticut geo-oddities. Steve is already planning Round 2. I suggested a visit to all 169 Connecticut towns in a single day.
Bill Williams’ Fingerprints appeared on the Twelve Mile Circle about a year ago. Mr. Williams was "one of the classic mountain men of the old west" whose name carried forward to various geographic features throughout Arizona, as I noted at the time. This inspired longtime reader Pfly to comment, "This post makes me think about the John Day River." I tucked that thought away to explore another day. Now that day has arrived. It’s John Day’s day.
Like Williams, Day was an early trapper and explorer in the American West, although he concentrated much further north, all the way into Oregon. He also has several geographic features named for him including the town of John Day in Oregon along the John Day Highway.
Day traveled through the west even earlier than Williams. He was already an accomplished mountain man when he joined the Astor Expedition in late 1810, the first American effort to establish a fur trading post in the distant west. Their goal was to establish a presence at the mouth of the Columbia River while preventing the British from doing the same. The overland portion of this expedition discovered vital paths over the mountains that would later become key links in the Oregon Trail. This was all happening just a few years after the Lewis and Clark Expedition, so John Day was earning a living in the far western wilderness very early.
The party became divided and widely separated. Experiencing hardships, John Day’s group dwindled to two people. He and Ramsey Crooks eventually reached the mouth of the Mah-hah River along the Columbia. There, a band of American Indians took everything they had, including their clothes. They were rescued and reached Astoria (Oregon) in 1812, where he settled nearby. Due to this incident, people traveling along the Columbia River would point out the mouth of the river where John Day was robbed. By the 1850′s, the Mah-hah River was referred to and renamed the John Day River.
John Day spent the rest of his life hunting and trapping in the Pacific Northwest. It is believed that he was born around 1770 in Culpepper County, Virginia and passed away sometime around 1819-1820 along the south bank of the Columbia River. Little is known of Day other than his memorable adventures with the Astor Expedition.
Getting to the mouth of the John Day River is considerably easier today than it was during the Astor Expedition. Interstate 84 passes directly above the John Day as it follows the Columbia River along the northern extremes of Oregon. It’s difficult to imagine the hardships John Day endured at this spot during that fateful expedition.
Events occurring at the mouth of the river lent a name to its entire length and four branches. The river, then, lent a name to the town. It also provided a logical name for the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument:
John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is a U.S. National Monument in Wheeler and Grant counties in east-central Oregon. Located within the John Day River basin and managed by the National Park Service, the park is known for its well-preserved layers of fossil plants and mammals that lived in the region between the late Eocene, about 44 million years ago, and the late Miocene, about 7 million years ago.
This national monument is within a reasonable proximity to where I’ll be staying in Oregon this summer. I’ll add this to my list of possible places to visit.
Other places named for John Day include Dayville, OR (map), the John Day Dam on the Columbia River, and various smaller geographic points of interest throughout Oregon. That’s quite a legacy to commemorate a single event in the wilderness taking place two hundred years ago.