Anza Trail Blog

Junior Ranger Francesca’s Travels on the Anza Trail

by Francesca C., Anza Trail Junior Ranger

Tagged as:   Historic Sites , youth

Francesca at Tumacácori National Historic Park

This past Labor Day weekend, intrepid Junior Ranger Francesca, a 5th-grader from New Mexico, traveled the Anza Trail with her father to uncover stories of her own cultural heritage. The story and photos below are an account of her trip:

Nogales to Tumacácori
I started my journey on the Anza Trail at the Mexican border town of Nogales, Arizona. My dad and I followed Anza’s Trail up the Santa Cruz River valley stopping first at Tumacácori National Historic Park, one of the trail's first stops in what is now the United States. Tumacácori was like a journey to the past with its ancient walls, structures, and carvings. It had a wonderful museum that featured Father Kino, who had founded the mission in 1691, the same year Yorktown, Virginia was founded.

We walked through rooms with blackened ceilings from the candles that softly light the long nights that the priests labored recording the events of the day. The thick walls of the mission kept the rooms cool that hot Labor Day weekend. In the gardens I saw pear and pomegranate trees that had been planted long ago. About 30 minutes later we were on the way to the Presidio of Tubac where Juan Bautista served as commander beginning in 1760.


Tubac Presidio State Historic Park
As we parked the car; we walked over to the 1885 schoolhouse. Inside we looked at the funny rules written on the chalkboard, one was that girls could not play with boys, and if they did the punishment would be four whips! A little bit later we went over to the museum and looked at all the exhibits set up. I thought the printing press one was cool. Afterwards we walked the grounds, discovering a plaque that marking the Luis Maria Baca grant. Can you believe that he was my 5th great grandfather? It is truly amazing that Juan Bautista de Anza went through what was once my family’s land! I would later learn that Don Luis served as a soldier under Governor Anza at the Presidio of Santa Fe (1778-1788), a position Anza earned after his successful expedition to California.

Mission San Xavier del Bac
The sun was blazing hot when we arrived at Mission San Xavier; I see why Anza waited until mid-October to pass through Arizona!! I was marveling at how amazing the towers and domes were on the top of the church, they were glowing bright white in the sunlight.

My dad was taking MANY, many pictures of me with the mission. When I walked inside of it, I swear it could have been a mini version of the magnificent cathedral in Spain! The walls had beautiful paintings on them, as did the ceiling. At the altar, it was so HEAVENLY! The amazing carvings of saints towered at the altar painted beautifully.

The next day my dad and I went to Saguaro National Park and it was amazing! I was so giddy when I saw the first saguaro in my life that my dad thought a big bug had landed on me!

There were literally forests of cacti; it was like a cartoon in the wild west come to life! It would be funny if one of the travelers with Juan Bautista de Anza had hugged one! (Ouch!!)

Southern California
The travelers encountered many new cultures and people on their way to establishing the presidio of San Francisco. Some of the places they passed through are now famous for other things, like the John Paul Getty Museum, which had many beautiful artifacts and the California coast, which had cute seals, many seagulls, of course the salty ocean air. Brr, the water was cold, but I found perfectly shaped sand dollars and seashells.

There were fun places Anza did NOT pass through, but I did! Legoland and Disney California Adventure were really fun.


Central Coast
Anza stopped at San Luis Obispo where the travelers would have enjoyed the companionship of Spanish settlers and priests. The children must have played at the beach like I did, searching for seashells, marveling at the birds and seals, and trying to climb the big El Morro rock.

We then came to Mission Carmel in Monterey, which was a stunning mission with many beautiful wood carvings. The walls were very thick. Seeing it at my age then must have been like what children on the expedition felt like when they got to Monterey! They would have gotten to sleep on real beds, and used many of the plates and bowls displayed in the museum there.

At Monterrey there was the soft white sandy beaches, whale watchers, and many other cool things like the Presidio of Monterey that had cannons and soldier uniforms. There was a horse model with the saddle and such on it to make it look like it would have back in the day.

San Francisco
Reaching the end of the trail we explored the Presidio of San Francisco. The view of the Golden Gate was stunning! Since there was not any fog, the water looked like a shining sapphire.

We stood in awe for what the members of Anza’s expedition had achieved traveling on horseback and foot. They would plant the Spanish flag firmly on the ground we stood on. Anza would be followed by others, including another of my ancestors, Manuel Baca, who would in 1841 lead his family over the Old Spanish Trail from Santa Fe to Los Angeles, then up the Anza Trail to Monterey, where he was granted land in Solano County near San Francisco, site of present day Vacaville, California.

And my Grandpa, who served in the Army at the Presidio in the 1950s as a driver for the Commanding Generals. My dad, born at the Presidio, shared many stories about growing up at the Presidio -- long walks in the woods, crossing stone bridges over creeks to the movie theater, military parades, Easter egg hunts, Halloween trick-or-treating, and Christmas parties at the General’s home. Together we would walk through my Dad’s boyhood home and visit other parts of the Golden Gate National Parks like Forts Point, Baker, and Barry.

Other fun places I visited at the end of the Anza Trail were Golden Gate Park, The Palace of Fine Arts, Chinatown, and Fisherman’s Wharf. I thought those places were just awesome!

I encourage future Junior Rangers to visit as many places as possible in this story!


Francesca at Tumacácori National Historic Park
Our Anza Trail explorer begins her journey at Tumacácori National Historic Park.

Tubac, AZ
Anza was commander of the Presidio of Tubac from 1760 to 1766.

Luis Maria Baca
The Presidio of Tubac was located on the northern boundary of Francesca's 3rd great grandfather Luis Maria Baca's land grant, which also included Tumacácori.

San Xavier
Mission San Xavier del Bac; Anza and his expedition members worshiped here.

Saguaro National Park
Francesca at Saguaro National Park: "Anza and his expedition would have seen many of these awesome cacti."

View from the Getty
Of the view from the Getty Museum, Francesca writes, "The Anza Expedition's first view of the Pacific Ocean would have resembled this."

El Morro
At El Morro, outside of San Luis Obispo, Francesca thought, "children of the Anza Expedition may have played on this beautiful beach."

Carmel Mission
Founded in 1771 by Father Serra, residents of Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo would have greeted Anza.

White sandy beaches and Spanish galleons anchored in the bay might have greeted the Anza Expedition in Monterey.

San Francisco
My dad and I near where Anza would have looked out at the entrance to San Francisco Bay.

Presidio of San Francisco, Then and Now
Francesca's grandpa, uncle, and dad lived at the Presidio.

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