It is always with great respect when I walk any section of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. Why, you may ask? Because in 1774 this commander, Juan Bautista de Anza, first explored and then was successful in discovering an overland route from Sonora, Mexico to San Francisco, California in 1776. Native Americans, the Tohono O’odham of this area, were guides and interpreters and helped this expedition be a success.
Having backpacked in my life, I know the challenge of walking miles with every thing on my back and as I walk any section of this trail I imagine the challenge of this expedition. With this commander’s expedition there was plenty of livestock, equipment and supplies to move as the almost 400 individuals traveled over 1,000 miles on foot, horseback, burro and mule! Remember too it is 1775-1776 when all were heading to new settlements (no San Francisco at this time). Volunteer soldier-settlers came from many different places along with priests, cooks, cowboys and 1,000 head of livestock. Truly an accomplishment!
Some sections of the trail are now narrow foot paths. I discover the trail to be wide here on the the mile I walked north of the Historic Canoa Ranch, south of Green Valley Arizona. It was easy for me to imagine large numbers of people, wagonloads and animals piled high with supplies since the trail here is wider than I have seen elsewhere.
Here is a map of the entire trail:
Let’s not forget; it is Spain expanding here to protect this frontier against the British and Russians as the American Revolution was being fought on the Atlantic Coast. California is not a state, but instead a frontier in New Spain, and incorporating Hispanic language and customs.
This section of the trail is very wide. I saw one other hiker, a mountain bike rider, a red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, numerous white-crowned sparrows, ravens and a few other birds. It makes sense the trail would be flat, except for the washes which on my hike was dry. That would not necessarily be the case on their expedition! When water flows in rivers and washes one sees the power of water!
I only hiked a mile since it was in the middle of the day and the sun was beating down on me. I had water and snacks and was dressed appropriately, but I had already hiked earlier in the day elsewhere so thought it best to only go a mile. Next time I will walk further since I have never been on this part of the trail. I loved imagining the expedition happening and me walking with them all. Here are some photos of this section, just 1 mile of 1,000 miles: