Juan Bautista De Anza Historic Trail – Trail of Native Americans, Spanish Explorers & Pioneers

In 1776, while American patriots fought for their independence from England, Spanish Lt. Colonel Juan Bautista de Anza led more than 240 men, women and children, 695 horses and mules, 385 Texas Longhorn bulls and cows, some 1,800 miles to establish a settlement at San Francisco Bay. These families were the first colonists to come overland across the frontier of New Spain into present-day California. The trail was an attempt to ease the course of Spanish colonization of California by establishing a major land route north for many to follow.

The 1,210-mile Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, which extends from Nogales on the U.S.-Mexican border in Arizona through the California desert and coastal areas in Southern California, the Central Coast to San Francisco, was designated a National Historic Trail in 1990 and a National Millennium trail in 1999 and part of the National Park Service unit.

In 2005, Caltrans began posting signs on roads that overlap with the trail route, so that people can follow the trail. The path taken by Lt. Colonel Juan Bautista de Anza is today on lands that are in private hands, on government military bases, or in some places accessible only to automobiles and inaccessible to pedestrians and equestrians.

Over the years the Mules have followed the Juan Bautista De Anza Historic Trail during our migratory journey and visited the sites along the trail such as the Presidio in San Francisco, Mission San Francisco de Asis, the Vicente Martinez adobe at the John Muir Historic Site in Martinez, Mission San Antonio de Padua, Mission San Luis Obispo, Mission San Gabriel, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, Bautista Canyon in Hemet, and Anza-Borrego Desert.

Yesterday, January 2, 2020, the Mules walked the Old Stage Road historic route from San Juan Bautista to Salinas. The night before we stopped to rest for the night near the trailhead. In the morning, we met Kelly who stopped to greet the mules. After we ate breakfast and packed up, we headed for the Old Stage Road trailhead a hundred yards away.

Kelly meeting Little Ethel in San Juan Bautista
Kelly meeting Little Ethel
The Mules at Juan Bautista De Anza trailhead in San Juan Bautista

While on the trail, we met Keith and Thais, but forgot to get their photo. They sent us the following e-mail following our meeting:

We first heard about you 2 years ago when we were at Buck’s in Woodside and read the article about your adventures. We had no idea that we would meet you today on the De Anza Trail near San Juan Bautista. It was a thrill to for us to see all 3 of the mules walking the trail as we were sitting there eating lunch. Thank you for stopping to chat with us briefly on your journey. We also hike for the same reason you walk – to keep that machinery of the brain in good working order. Thanks for that reminder. Safe travels, always.

Keith and Thais

After reading this email, found it incredible that Keith and Thais remembered reading about the Mules from Buck’s Woodside menu which the Mules stopped to visit in the Fall 2015 after we met the owner Jamis who invited us to his equestrian friendly restaurant with a hitching post out front. Buck’s sent us a copy of the Winter 2015 menu that the Mules were featured.

Buck's Woodside Menu
Buck’s Woodside menu Winter 2015 that included article on the Mules

We continued our journey on the Anza Trail until we reached Salinas where we spent the night.

Where we spent the night in Salinas. This morning, we packed up and continuing South on the endless journey of the Nation, the Three Mules Nation.

Where we spent the night in Salinas
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Step by Step Accounting of the 3 Mules Contact with CHP on New Year’s Day

The Mules were walking east on the shoulder of Chittenden Road (CA-129) in San Benito County towards San Juan Bautista. Suddenly a California Highway Patrol (CHP) cruiser appeared and stopped in front of us. A CHP officer exited his cruiser and requested we stop, freeze in place. We did not do that. Instead, we turned around and walked about 20 yards to a much safer place than the shoulder of the highway.

The Mules waiting on the side of the road

The officer followed us and upon reaching us asked where we were going. We replied, “Where we choose to go and we have the constitutional right in these United States to do just that using all city, county and state roads, which make up the public thoroughfare to travel and move freely in this country. The officer replied, “You’re on a highway and you do not have the right to be on the highway.”

The Mules knew of course the officer at best was mistaken and knew nothing of the vehicle code he was suppose to be enforcing at worst case was lying (Supreme Court and Federal Court decisions allow police to lie without any fear of accountability) and they do a lot.

“State Route 129 in San Benito County is classified as a Rural Minor Arterial* and is not included in the California Freeway and Expressway System. It is included in the Interregional Road System from Highway 1 to US 101, but is not designated as a High Emphasis or Focus Route. SR 129 is not part of the Scenic Highway System or the National Highway system.”

*Arterials. These facilities make up the principal network for through‐traffic within a community and often between communities. Arterials have between two and six traffic lanes and provide connections between residential areas, shopping areas, places of employment, recreational areas, and other places of assembly.  

San Benito County’s General Plan Chapter 6 Transportation and Circulation page 6-9

So the situation remained in limbo with the Mules asserting their right to use the public thoroughfare Highway 129 and the CHP continuing to lie and tell us we were breaking the law by being on the highway. And if we got on it again we the Mules would be arrested and taken to jail.

San Benito County CHP officers

Then the supervising officer told the Mules, “We don’t want to take you to jail, you’re not going to jail. Let’s find a way to solve the problem.” The Mules replied in no way are we going to negotiate our right to the public thoroughfare away. The supervising officer replied, “We are not asking you to do that. You can walk on the shoulder but not in the lane of traffic.” The Mules replied that’s exactly what we were doing when we were stopped by the officer. The supervising officer then said, “We will give you a CHP escort on 129 to San Juan Bautista.”

At that point, a lady appeared and introduced herself and said she has followed the 3 Mules page for many years. She then said we should take School Road over the hill to Anzar Road, which would take us into San Juan Bautista, which was no more than 100 yards from where we were. The Mules said good.

The CHP escorted us the 100 yards to School Road and left. We have not seen them since.

The Mules

Little Ethel and Little Girl on our way to San Juan Bautista on School Road

Photos of other people we met also walking along the road on New Year’s Day as we headed toward San Juan Bautista. It’s always good to see other people walking too.

Mother and daughter with Little Girl and Little Ethel on School Road, San Juan Bautista
Mother and daughter with Little Girl and Little Ethel on School Road, San Juan Bautista
Other pedestrians the Mules passed walking along the road
People we met walking along the road as we headed to San Juan Bautista
The Mules in San Juan Bautista
Our written version of this post page 1
Our written version of this post page 2
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