On November 11, 2015 · 12 Comments

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.

India Loves 12MC

On November 23, 2014 · 1 Comments

Twelve Mile Circle noticed increasing visitor traffic from India over the last couple of years and particularly within last several months. Maybe that’s a recognition of growing Internet access within the subcontinent and perhaps a general improvement in its technological infrastructure. I’d prefer to think of it in simpler terms. India loves 12MC. This wasn’t the first time I’ve focused on people who love 12MC. I’m always on the lookout for new constituencies who appreciate this humble little geo-oddity site. There aren’t many of us. We need to stick together.

India Loves 12MC
Twelve Mile Circle Readership from India in 2014

On the other hand, India is a nation of more than 1.2 billion people, and 12MC can only attract a few hundred visitors in an entire year? Does that sound like love? Well, everything is relative of course, and the readership has much improved within that geographic area. That’s a fact. Also traffic wasn’t coming from a single person returning to the site day-after-day. Hits were coming from all over. The larger blobs on the map represented numerous readers from metropolitan areas such as Mumbai, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata.

Kolkata by Flip Nomad, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I’m not sure my culturally insensitive mind will ever get used to the name Kolkata. My brain reflexively seemed to drive towards the westernized colonial imperialist version, Calcutta, instead. Kolkata sounded too much like Cold Cuts. It would compare favorably with other foodie-sounding places such as Turkey and Chile (and why not Hamburg and Frankfurt while I’m at it). I’ve really got on a tangent this morning. I’ll see if I can pull it back together.

Then I noticed that Kolkata fell within the West Bengal State, an area of peculiar geographic shape.

WestBengalDistricts numbered
West Bengal Districts via Wikimedia Commons,
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic

West Bengal included two narrow necks of less than 20 kilometres across as it ambled north from the Bay of Bengal, past Kolkata, and onward towards India’s borders with Nepal and Bhutan. Bangladesh pinched West Bengal from the east and other Indian states pushed from the west. I took a closer look at the lower neck, a place anchored by Farakka on the Ganges River. One corner was called Farakka Barrage Township (map), which I considered an unusual name that might benefit from further investigation.

A barrage in a military context would turn into an unpleasant experience rather quickly. It would likely include heavy artillery bombardment. Fortunately that wasn’t the case in Farakka. It didn’t reference a barrage from an historical context based on warfare.

Barrage derived from a French word meaning "barrier." Militarily, artillery could be used either as an offensive or defensive barrier. In a peaceful situation as in Farakka, a barrier could be used against natural forces such as water. A barrage was a very specific type of dam used to control the flow of water instead of creating a reservoir. At Farakka, "The purpose of the barrage is to divert 1,100 cubic metres per second (40,000 cu ft/s) of water from the Ganges to the Hooghly River for flushing out the sediment deposition from the Kolkata harbour without the need of regular mechanical dredging."

Enclaves and Exclaves of the India / Bangladesh Border

West Bengal also included the famed Cooch Behar district, a distinct section of border between India and Bangladesh noteworthy for its particularly complicated intertwining of the nations. As I noted in that previous article, "Within this odd borderland are 106 exclaves of India within Bangladesh and 92 exclaves of Bangladesh within India, including numerous exclaves within the exclaves." It also included a number of quadripoints and boundary crosses.

Anyway, Twelve Mile Circle extends a hearty welcome today to readers who hail from India (and everyone else of course).

Quad County Towns

On May 5, 2013 · 10 Comments

I mentioned Braselton, Georgia a few months ago in an article called "Bought the Town." In that case the person who bought the town was the actress Kim Basinger who later sold her interest for a stunning financial loss. More interestingly, I noted, the town boundaries included a county quadripoint. Braselton sprawled across Barrow, Gwinnett, Hall and Jackson Counties. The quadripoint itself fell within a creek.

View Quad County Towns in a larger map

I’ve done a couple of things since that cursory observation. First, I converted the static image from the earlier article into an interactive Google Map. Bear in mind that it’s a pain to draw town and county boundaries on this media so consider all lines approximations designed to prove a point. You’ll see all kinds of anomalies if you drill in. Town boundaries were particularly difficult to render exactly due to the haphazard nature of their annexation histories.

Second, I attempted to find additional examples of towns with boundaries that crossed into four distinct counties. I found only three legitimate instances, including Braselton.

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

View Quad County Towns in a larger map

I’ve probably been to the Dells at least a half-dozen times over the years. It’s completely tourist-cheezy which I suppose one could view favorably or not so much depending on one’s tolerance for such things. Much of the Dells is over-the-top kitschy although the Ducks are always a good time. I also happened to be nearby in June 2008 right after a huge flood devastated the area. I wrote about Lake Delton’s destruction after the dam blew. The entire 267 acre lake dumped into the Wisconsin River right at the beginning of the tourist season, leaving behind mud, fish and tree stumps.

Nonetheless, until my recent Internet sleuthing, I had no idea that Wisconsin Dells crossed into Adams, Columbia, Juneau and Sauk Counties. The most intensive development fell within Columbia. However, land within the other counties contributed rather significantly too.

The quadripoint fell within the middle of the Wisconsin River.

High Point, North Carolina

View Quad County Towns in a larger map

High Point, North Carolina was the third example although possibly less remarkable than the other two. Certainly, it’s territory included acreage in Davidson, Forsyth, Guilford and Randolph Counties. However, the vast preponderance of High Point fell within the southwestern corner of Guilford. Land within the other three counties ranged from minor to inconsequential. It was obvious that High Point began as a Guilford County construct and sprawled only recently into the others.

Town annexations in North Carolina became rather contentious in recent years. Organized efforts such as Stop NC Annexation sprang up in opposition. The state’s law authorized forced annexations of unincorporated areas, with acquired residents suddenly hit with municipal taxes and utility hook-up charges against their will. North Carolina changed its laws in 2012 to allow people living in such areas to block annexation attempts with a majority vote.

Walkerton, Indiana

View Quad County Towns in a larger map

Walkerton, Indiana was a near-miss even though the town itself claimed, "Walkerton is uniquely located where four counties meet." No, Walkerton’s town boundaries remained within a single county, St. Joseph. Also it wouldn’t be "uniquely located" even if borders happened to cross all four because, as noted, there are at least three other instances of such.

What I will concede to Walkerton — and I still find it fascinating — is that the town fell within a little knob of St. Joseph. It’s surrounded on three sides by La Porte, Marshall and Starke Counties. One will hit another county almost immediately after leaving Walkerton heading south, east or west. Walkerton needs to grow just a little bit more to join the other quad county towns.

Postville, Iowa

View Quad County Towns in a larger map

Postville, Iowa also fell just short of the mark. It straddled the Allamakee and Clayton County lines. The quadripoint formed along with Fayette and Winneshiek Counties can be found less than a mile from town. Postville holds promise if it can grow towards the west.

I’ll include one final honorable mention, the unincorporated Citrus Ridge community (also known as the Four Corners census-designated place) in Florida. It included the quadripoint of Lake, Orange, Osceola and Polk Counties (map). However Citrus Ridge is not a town even though more than 25,000 people lived there during the last census. Citrus Ridge simply needs to incorporate. It has more than enough residents to function as a town and it would make a welcome addition to the quad county list.

It was very difficult to find examples of quad county towns. I know there are more out there. Feel free to mention your discoveries in the comments.

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