Last updated: March 8, 2018
Women's History Month on the Anza Trail Blog
To celebrate Women's History Month, we'll be highlighting the women who make up the Anza Trail - the wives and daughters who traveled on the expedition and their female descendants and the women who make up the Anza Trail today, trail users, volunteers, scholars, and staff members. We hope you enjoy the many different voices of the Anza Trail!
Passport to the Anza Trail, Passport to History
I was very excited to finally visit the John Muir National Historic Site, home of America’s most famous naturalist and conservationist who played an important role in convincing the government to protect Yosemite, Sequoia and Grand Canyon for the nation. Less than an hour from San Francisco, I wondered what took me so long!
Collecting the stamps for my National Parks Passport, I noticed that one commemorated the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail – I’d never heard of the Anza Trail, although as someone who lived in the Bay Area I was of course familiar with the name, honoured with several roads and institutions. Fortuitously, within the grounds there is the Martinez Adobe, the only permanent exhibit on the Anza Trail in California. My interest already piqued, I devoured the brochure and was hooked!
The Spanish Choir of St. Catherine's of Sienna, Martinez, California performs at Los Posadas, an annual event hosted at John Muir National Historic Site (NPS)
Over the following months, I visited all the sites along the California portion of the Anza Trail, and in doing so learnt so much about its history, be it natural, cultural, military or religious, and by extension that of Mexico and Spain. This was especially interesting to me as a relative newcomer to both California and the United States. I would ‘earn’ my stamps by engaging with the interpretative material, exploring the site, talking to any members of staff present, before planning my next stop. This was all so fascinating to me that I trekked to points on the trail that are no more than an information panel, or even just a historical plaque!
There is no doubt in my mind that I would never have come across many of these sites had it not been for the Trail. They range from National Parks to city parks and privately owned properties, but all I spoke to were proud of their site’s history and of being part of the official NPS trail.
Having completed the California section, I decided an Arizona road trip was in order to finish the trail. Not only did I learn about Arizona’s history, whether indigenous, Spanish or American, but also more about Anza the man. Whereas in California he is seen as an expedition leader, in Arizona he is also a respected military commander.
A lone sign marks the Auto Tour route in on Highway 371 in Anza, California, Riverside County (NPS)
Driving along the route in the Sonoran Desert, I imagined how the expedition must have felt when they reached the Pacific Ocean near present-day San Diego, or seen the majestic Coast Redwoods on the eastern flank of the Santa Cruz Mountains, or upon arriving at their final destination of what we now know as San Francisco, the beauty of its Bay, the islands within and the Marin Headlands.
Had Juan Bautista de Anza not lead the expeditions to Alta California on behalf of the King of Spain, sooner or later someone else would have. Yet, that expedition might not have had the same success negotiating its way across the harsh desert and challenging mountains, or Native Americans encountering Europeans for the first time, or surveyed the land so carefully. Anza’s legacy is the California we know today – amongst others, he sited the Presidio without which there would be no San Francisco; the city of San Jose, the state’s first capital and presently that of Silicon Valley, and Mission Santa Clara, the oldest university in the state. Thousands of cars each day unknowingly retrace his steps as they drive along sections of Route 101 and El Camino Real, amongst others. I have thoroughly enjoyed this Trail and learning so much – now I need to find another to do!
Passport to Your National Parks Program
One of the most popular ways to preserve memories of visits to America’s national parks is through the Passport To Your National Parks® – sold in national park bookstores across the United States. Since its inception in 1986, the program has introduced millions of visitors to the national park system. Our trademarked, best-selling program consists of a guidebook, an annual series of commemorative stamps, a companion app, and collectible cancellations. Collect the famous ink cancellations at nearly every park in the system while experiencing America’s cultural, historical, and natural treasures.