gmhTODAY 10 gmhToday Sept Oct 2016 - Page 85

The NPS manages a variety of park units—national sea- shores, scenic parkways, Civil War battlefields, lakeshores and so on.  When we think of a national park, we almost always visualize a huge protected area like Yellowstone. However, the Anza Historic Trail is a substantial park unit in its own right. Within the United States, it is approximately 1,200 miles in length, and the Mexican government has designated another 600 miles south of the border as part of the historic trail.  The Anza Trail is managed by the NPS office in San Francisco, it has its own foundation to help support it, and there is a free quarterly publication available to all who are interested in Anza history and trail events. The year 1776 not only marked the signing of the Declaration of Independence but also the arrival of the Anza Expedition into Alta California for the purpose of establishing a presidio and mission in San Francisco.  It was a remarkable journey across many miles of rugged desert with men, women and children and hundreds of farm animals. The party arrived in Monterey in early March of 1776 to rest and recover.  Only one of the colonists died during the trip; a woman who succumbed during childbirth. The colonists were ordered to remain in Monterey by the royal governor at that time. Anza vigorously denounced this decision, and continued his mission with just a dozen soldiers and Fr. Pedro Font.  The route from Monterey had the group traveling through Gilroy after crossing the Pajaro River on March 24, 1776.  From the diaries kept by Font and Anza, it seems that the party journeyed along the west side of the valley, following today’s Santa Teresa Boulevard alignment and camping along- side Llagas Creek in Morgan Hill.  To find the location of the original campsite, drive north on Santa Teresa from Gilroy, turn right on California Street, make an immediate left on Water Street and follow it to Easy Street and Llagas Creek.  At the time of the Anza Expedition, before all of the GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN residential housing and creek engineering, Llagas Creek was a large open crossing or shallow pool, not the narrow channel with steep embankments that it is today.  For many years, old timers referred to this spot as a “poza” where the crossing was easy and there was a perennial source of water.  The diaries of the explorers also noted a number of local Ohlone villages and accounts of Ohlone Indians fishing from tule rafts along Llagas Creek. The nearest Indian settlement of any size and permanence was most likely at what is now known as Chitactac-Adams Heritage County Park on Watsonville Road.  After refreshing themselves at the Arroyo de las Llagas, Anza and his men continued north by northwest along Coyote Creek and camped next in Cupertino.  After exploring the San Francisco area and identifying a potential mission site, Anza decided to loop around the southern end of San Francisco Bay and return to Monterey through Henry Coe Park. It was an unfortunate choice due to the severity of the terrain, but they did name the area after the haunting howls of the neighboring coyotes. During this return trip Anza designated a mission location for Santa Clara and a pueblo for San Jose.  Anza returned to Monterey and then home to Mexico, leaving the actual settlement of San Francisco to his second in command, Lieutenant José Joaquin Moraga. Moraga and the colonists followed the same route in June of 1776, staying at las Llagas and finally establishing Mission Dolores and the Presidio of San Francisco.  The Pueblo of San Jose was also established by Moraga in November of 1777. There are several markers along Santa Teresa Boulevard that recall the Anza visit to Morgan Hill. The easiest one to drive to and read is at the corner of Watsonville Road and Santa Teresa. This Fall I will organize a walk along Llagas Creek to the spot recognized as the campsite for the Anza and Moraga parties. In the meantime, go out and visit a park.  It’s fun to remember the history and to imagine what the place was like before ‘civilization’ took over.       SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016 gmhtoday.com 85