Anza Trail Blog

Photographer Finishes 1,200-Mile Hike of the Entire Anza Trail

by Bart Smith

Tagged as:   Recreation Trail , hiking

Reaching the finish line

Photographer and author Bart Smith completed a hike of the entire 1,200-mile Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail on Friday, April 29, 2016. Staff from the Anza Trail and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy greeted him at the Golden Gate Bridge 68 days after he set off from Nogales, Arizona. Here is Bart's reflection as he neared the finish line:

I am a 56-year old photographer who is attempting to walk and photograph America's National Trails System in time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the National Trails Act on October 2, 2018Indeed, it is a very crazy and overly ambitious personal undertaking.
To date I have walked and photographed all eleven National Scenic Trails, and upon completion of the Juan Bautista de Anza I will now have completed eleven of the 19 National Historic Trails. 
When I began the Pacific Crest Trail in 1992 it was certainly not with intention to walk the entire National Trails System, but one trail led to another, and now the opportunity exists to complete the entire system.   
I set off on the Anza Trail from the Mexican border at Nogales, Arizona, on February 23, 2016. Finishing the trail this Friday will put me at a 68 day journey with only one day of rest. 
I push my camping and photo gear on a baby jogger, which works great on roads but can prove very challenging in remote off-road sections and roads with limited- to no shoulder. The Coyote Canyon section of Anza Borrego Desert State Park was truly challenging -- pushing my wares through miles of deep sand under a glaring sun. It was also one of the wildest sections and remarkable for its feeling of desolation so close to the Los Angeles Basin. 
Walking through greater Los Angeles was a unique five days of the journey. I was continually impressed with what a nice city it is.
Dealing with setting up my tent in regions with so much poison oak has been a constant challenge. Fortunately, I made it through mostly unscathed. 
I often set up my tent near river washes and flood zones while keeping an eye on the weather report. Near Santa Barbara, a harmless late evening rain almost forced me to move my tent from fast pooling water. Walking the roadsides, I have to be constantly vigilant to the traffic; it is not something I would necessarily recommend, but it is the only way to try and follow the proximate route of the original Anza Expedition travelers.
Walking the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail in our modern era doesn't replicate the hardships and uncertainties the 240 colonists must have endured 240 years ago, but it did give me a profound understanding of the scale of the land, the challenge of dealing with the elements, and how delicious a gallon of water can taste.  
And now I need to pack up and walk.


Reaching the finish line
Bart Smith reached the end of his 1,200-mile Anza Trail hike on April 29, 2016, where he was greeting by BriAnna Weldon, the trail's outdoor recreation planner.

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