Confluence of Confluences

On February 6, 2014 · 3 Comments

I began to consider confluences while pondering the Confluence Brewing Company during my recent Geo-BREWities exercise. Maybe I should credit Google Map’s auto-completion function for the suggestion after I typed the brewery name into an address bar. It noted that at least one town of Confluence existed. A quick check of the Geographic Names Information System uncovered two more although the occurrences in Kentucky (map) and Alabama (map) barely registered as pinpricks.

By comparison, Pennsylvania’s Confluence was a veritable metropolis, and home to several hundred residents nestled in the hills of the southwestern corner. Confluence was even large enough to justify its own Tourism Association.

The Confluences of Confluence, Pennsylvania, USA

Confluence, the town, recognized a couple of distinct riverine confluences. First, Laurel Hill Creek flowed into the Casselman River. A few hundred feet later a slightly-enlarged Casselman River flowed into the Youghiogheny River. Truly this Confluence represented the facts on the ground. Abundant water descended from neighboring hillsides and joined near a common spot where a settlement sprouted.

(A) Fallingwater (B) Kentucky Knob (C) Town of Confluence (D) MDPAWV Tripoint (E) PA Highpoint

The situation went beyond those literal confluences as I considered the surrounding landscape. Confluence, the village, offered a gateway to a confluence of interesting historic and geographic features within remarkably close proximity.

Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob

Fallingwater, photographed by Chun-Hung Eric Cheng on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

Fallingwater (aka the Kaufmann Residence) — Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1935 architectural masterpiece — perched on a hillside nearby. This was arguably one of the most visually recognizable homes ever built, an iconic symbol certainly within the United States and perhaps beyond. The unusual cantilever design constructed over a natural waterfall has been hailed as a masterpiece.

Lesser known, Wright designed another home only seven miles (11 km) away, Kentuck Knob (aka the Hagan House). This property remains a private home, owned by Lord and Lady Palumbo of the United Kingdom who reside there part of the year. It has become available for limited tours only recently.

Great Allegheny Passage

Great Allegheny Passage Trail Outside of Confluence

The Great Allegheny Passage bicycle and walking trail blazed directly through Confluence. This Rails-to-Trails project followed the path of several lines abandoned by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad, Union Railroad and Western Maryland Railway. Someone could bike 150 miles (240 km) from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Cumberland, Maryland on the Great Allegheny Passage, and from there pick-up the C&O Canal Towpath all the way to Washington, DC, stretching the ride to more than 330 miles (530 km).

Maryland-Pennsylvania-West Virginia Tripoint

Confluence and the MDPAWV Tripoint

Government officials drew artificial lines all over the eastern side of the continent during Colonial times and tweaked those boundaries in the early years of the newly-independent United States. That resulted in a tripoint for the current states of Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia very near where Confluence later grew. The MDPAWV Tripoint should be a readily-approachable waypoint for those fascinated by borders and boundaries. It maintained additional historic significance as a marker along the famed Mason-Dixon Line.

Pennsylvania Highpoint

Mount Davis Observation deck by David Fulmer on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

As an added bonus, nearby Mount Davis marked the highest point of elevation for Pennsylvania at 3213 feet (979 m). Summit Post said,

Views from the top are nice, especially with the very tall observation tower, that allows for expansive views in all directions. You are surrounded by mountains, and you can also see modern wind turbines on a nearby ridge.

For a lazy highpointer such as myself, I noticed that a visitor could drive almost all the way to the very top and reach the summit with a short, easy hike.

Now that I’ve considered it more, I think I’ll have to put Confluence on my list for a long weekend. This should be a feasible itinerary for anyone living in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Someday maybe I’ll take this trip and report back to the 12MC audience.


Highpoint, Not Summit

On September 19, 2013 · 2 Comments

I was reminded recently, as I updated an old page, that not every U.S. state highpoint can be found on the summit of its parent landform. Boundaries don’t always follow geographic contours like rivers or ridges. Oftentimes segments are composed of straight lines determined by agreement or treaty or negotiation regardless of the underlying terrain. Sometimes, by random chance a state line crosses the shoulder of a mountain, and not its summit. Much more rarely, the line crossing at that spot will be the highest point of elevation in the state, while the higher-elevated mountain summit will be found in a neighboring state.


Connecticut Highpoint Marker
Connecticut Highpoint Marker by

The most well-known example appears along the border between Connecticut and Massachusetts. Connecticut’s highpoint can be found at the far northwestern corner of the state (map), just a short walk from the CTMANY tripoint. As Summit Post described it,

Mt. Frissell’s southwest shoulder is the highest point in Connecticut at 2,380 feet [725 metres] above sea level. It is one of only three US state highpoints that are the highest point in a state but not technically the summit of the hill or mountain.

The highpoint is sometimes described as located on Mt. Frissell’s southwest shoulder, other times its southwest slope, and it’s an otherwise unremarkable outcrop. The nearby summit in Massachusetts rises a bit higher, to 2,454 feet (748 metres). I was fortunate enough to visit the state highpoint during the Connecticut Extremes trip in 2012. The diminutive green rod was marginally more exciting than the District of Columbia highpoint disc, and fell considerably short of New Jersey’s impressive highpoint tower. The scenery was nice, though.

What caught my eye was the reference to "three US state highpoints that are the highest point in a state but not technically the summit…" I thought I knew the second one. I had no idea about the third, and I’m still not convinced I confirmed it.


Black Mesa Trailhead
Black Mesa Trailhead by

I was pretty sure about the status of Black Mesa (map), or at least I seemed to recall something about it when I researched the feature during my Dust Bowl trip. I never actually made it up to the Oklahoma highpoint though. That would have entailed effort. I got as close as the iron fence at the trailhead and opted for the nearby CONMOK tripoint and the fossilized dinosaur tracks instead.

Sure enough, Wikipedia mentioned Black Mesa’s unusual situation:

Its highest elevation is 5,712 feet (1,741 m) in Colorado. The highest point of Black Mesa within New Mexico is 5,266 feet (1,605 m). In northwestern Cimarron County, Oklahoma, Black Mesa reaches 4,973 feet (1,516 m), the highest point in the state of Oklahoma.

I don’t know if it makes sense to say that a mesa has a "summit" although whatever one calls its highest point, Black Mesa would have one located in Colorado. Even spots in New Mexico’s portion are higher than the Oklahoma highpoint. Thus, Oklahoma earned the dubious honor of having a highpoint located on a geographic feature with higher elevations in two neighboring states.


View Larger Map

Was Nevada the third state referenced by the claim? Maybe. Undoubtedly, its highest elevation is Boundary Peak. The controversy centers on whether Boundary Peak counts as a distinct summit or whether it’s merely a bump on the way to Montgomery Peak on the California side of the border. They’re twin peaks, with Boundary at 13,140 feet (4,005 m) and Montgomery at 13,441 feet (4097 m). I figure it has its own name — Boundary Peak — so I’m not sure it belongs on the same list as Mt. Frissell and Black Mesa.

Could some other state contain the remaining elusive highpoint that wasn’t a summit? I examined every state highpoint that fell near a border and couldn’t find another one. Perhaps I’m overlooking something obvious, in which case I’m sure the 12MC community will let me know.

I thought about repeating this exercise at the international level, and maybe someday I will. I started getting little frustrated with the U.S. state search and stopped for now.

Odds and Ends 8

On August 11, 2013 · 5 Comments

I have a slew of short topics not befitting an entire article on their own. That means it’s time for another installment of Odds and Ends.

Non-Native English Readers of 12MC

Due East from Eastern Time into Central Time
Breakdown of 12MC’s Audience from Non-English Speaking Nations

The Twelve Mile Circle receives a robust amount of website traffic from readers in nations where English is neither a predominant nor an official language. It doesn’t come close to the number of visitors from the United States, Canada, the UK, Australia and the like, however it’s more than I’d generally expect. I have a hard enough time writing for an English-speaking audience so people from other nations have a double handicap — my trouble stringing together an intelligible sentence along with reading my gibberish in a foreign language.

I examined statistics generated by readers since the beginning of 2013 and recorded the following Top 10 non-English language reader nations: Germany, France, Russia, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Denmark, Switzerland and Japan. Those ten comprised a little more than half of the set with another 150-or-so nations taking up the rest. I don’t have a point to make with this compilation, I just found it interesting. That’s all.

Loyal reader "January First-of-May" probably pushes Russia up as high as it is. Russia would still be in the Top 10 although a few slots lower, otherwise.

Metropolitan Area Pattern Game

Metro Area Web Traffic
U.S. Metro Areas with 12MC visitors on August 10, 2013

I based the article "Room to Grow" on the metropolitan area tab in Google Analytics, last November. I mentioned at the time that I hadn’t used that tab much before. I’ve kind-of grown fond of it since then. It doesn’t tell me anything useful that I don’t already know, however I’ve turned it into a little game. Each day I check to see if I can trace a route from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean following a contiguous trail of 12MC readers. I award myself double points if I can also connect to the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico. I completed a route and nearly won double points from yesterday’s example.

No, I don’t actually track the points or anything like that. It’s a fun little mindless activity when I open Analytics each morning, like pulling the lever on a slot machine. I can’t trace a path as often as one might think.

Supreme Court

Supreme Court in Gaithersburg Maryland
Photo by Brandon M.; used by permission

I’m not sure how many readers went back and noticed the comment from "Brandon M." or saw my recent tweet (a good reason to subscribe to the 12MC Twitter feed) so I’ll repost his photo. Brandon read Order in the Court and noticed he’d be near one of the streets called Supreme Court, this one located in Gaithersburg, Maryland (map). He also said he checks the 12MC Complete Index Map for local geo-oddities when he travels. I thought I was the only one who did that so it’s nice to hear the index provided a useful purpose for someone other than myself.

Tripoint House for Sale

DEMDPA Tripoint

Wouldn’t you like to own a state tripoint? Longtime reader Bill forwarded an article link recently: "Delaware Spaces: Three states in the backyard, near Newark." It talked about homeowners who generously allow people to access the Delaware-Maryland-Pennsylvania (DEMDPA) tripoint, even though it’s located on private property. The article included an additional surprise, though. The property is for sale and can be yours for only $525,000!

I thought briefly about snapping it up and doing like Joe Biden used to do when he served in the U.S. Senate: commute daily from Wilmington, DE to Washington’s Union Station by Amtrak train. I certainly knew the route. I guess it was probably after the third or fourth time I mentioned this to my wife, ignoring her eye-rolls and icy glares, when she finally said, "It’s a good thing I love you." My tripoint dreams were dashed. That’s good news for the rest of you, though. You’ll have one less person to outbid if you want to own DEMDPA.

Great Captain Island

Great Captain Island

The same correspondence that inspired my Tombolo(s) of Connecticut article the other day also inspired Steve of Connecticut Museum Quest to finally complete his Southernmost Point in Connecticut page (subtitled "Then Things Really Went South"). This is the true, untold story of our visit to the island last summer with a modicum of embellishment for amusement’s sake. Visit Steve’s page — you’ll find it entertaining.

Great Taste of the Midwest

Founders at Great Taste of the Midwest
12MC Visits Madison, Wisconsin

Saturday was my annual pilgrimage to Madison, Wisconsin for the Great Taste of the Midwest beer festival. This is one of the best beer events in the nation in my opinion, which I know is a bold claim. It’s casual although exceptionally well-run, and it’s hard to beat the lineup of breweries represented. I’ll mark my calendar and hope to return again. 12MC readers in the Midwest should feel free to let me know if they’re one of the lucky few to get their hands on tickets next year.

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