Anza Trail


By: Henry Heusinkveld



Want something different? A brand new bright yellow 15 passenger Dodge mini-bus was rented and the trip leader doubled as the bus driver. This mode offered two advantages--an energy saving stratagem In that each passenger was transported 150 miles for a gallon of gas, and also the bus allowed a 15 mile traverse, thereby negating any back-tracking. Our sincere thanks to Jim Sinnett of Palm Desert who drove the bus the 75 miles to the opposite end of the trail, unburdening the leader of this detail.

In the late 1775's a Juan Bautista De Anza, commanded 36 young Spaniards to explore a route from a Spanish presidio near Tucson to Alta, California, to link the missions of California with the empire. The expedition was fraught with dangers and disasters, such as deadly battles with the Apache Indians. West of the Colorado River the men and animals had to survive many days without water and without any knowledge of where water might be found, North of the present say Borrego Springs they entered into Coyote Canyon and were overjoyed to find bountiful streams of pure water. The group proceeded up Coyote Canyon to the tableland of present-day Anza and then on to the Mission of San Gabriel. Thus the expedition was a glorious success and De Anza acclaimed as the great leader he had proved to be. The following year this trip was repeated, this time with colonizing families to settle in the San Francisco area to head off the Russians who were filtering down the north-west coast of California. This was another grim trip especially for the women and children, and not all survived the trip. One Spanish lady gave birth to a son, Ignacio, at a place mid-way along Coyote Canyon, Upper Willows. A fine plaque memorializes this event. Our DPS hikers climbed out of the bus in the mountain country out of Terwilliger, hiked through the mountains, dropped into Coyote Canyon and arrived at Middle Willows by mid-afternoon to set camp. A beautiful stream of clear water coursed down the rutted ORV road, but before we could collect this precious fluid, an array of 13 4WD's ground relentlessly onward through the muck befouling our intended drinking water into a blue-black ooze. However, it cleared in a couple of hours.

A late afternoon assault of a 500' boulder block mountain yielded us the delights of discovering old Indian mortars (Bedrock mortars, that is depressions in the rock where seeds are ground with a pestle). Mary Omberg (above all) was absolutely thrilled on spying her first big-horn mountain sheep. Two were perfectly silhouetted against the sky. They gazed at us a long time as we did them. Mary claimed that she thought Ed had been putting her on.

Sunday we trekked through miles of desert to head for Cougar Canyon, where we found a delightful mountain stream, another example of the bountiful springs of the area. Then it was down to Lower Willows swamps and thickets where some had water over their boots. Back to the mini-bus nearby with 15 tired but happy hikers, and dining out, hilarity and relaxation all the way home.

We'll have to set up a similar bus trip. Monroe Levity suggested a cross-country over the top of Martinez coming out at the Valerie Jean Date shop. That sounds like a good one ???????????????????

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