Anza Trail Overnight Sta­bling

Trail Rider - - DESTINATIONS -

And ev­ery spring since 1938, the De Anza Trail Ca­balleros, a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion based in Cal­i­for­nia, have held their an­nual ride from Calex­ico to River­side to honor Anza’s ex­pe­di­tion and to en­cour­age the de­vel­op­ment of sad­dle horses for plea­sure rid­ing.

A Chilly Day

We set out on our jour­ney in late Fe­bru­ary on a cold, un­usu­ally over­cast and windy day. The fore­cast called for rain, but this was our only day to ride here, so we braved it. For­tu­nately, the weather held.

From Tuc­son, we drove south on In­ter­state 19 into Santa Cruz County and through a United States Bor­der Pa­trol check­point. We took Exit #34 at Tubac, then fol­lowed signs for the Tu­macá­cori Na­tional His­tor­i­cal Park, which is only a mile or so from the in­ter­state.

Ad­ja­cent to the mis­sion is the trail­head park­ing area, which can eas­ily ac­com­mo­date a half dozen trucks and trail­ers. Al­though the area where we parked and un­loaded the horses isn’t fenced, we were well away from the road. On the day we rode, we had the en­tire area to our­selves, likely due to the weather con­di­tions.

A mis­sion em­ployee told us that peo­ple do camp here overnight with their horses on oc­ca­sion, but your best (and safest) bet is to ar­range for overnight sta­bling for your horse and book a ho­tel room for your­self. (For one overnight-sta­bling re­source, see be­low.)

A Desert Oa­sis

Rid­ing from the Tu­macá­cori Mis­sion trail­head to Tubac and back is ap­prox­i­mately a four-hour round trip at a walk. (You can also park at the trail­head in Tubac and start from the site of Anza’s orig­i­nal ex­pe­di­tion.) Al­though this trail is in the South­ern Ari­zona desert, you won’t feel that way here.

“One rea­son I like rid­ing here is that it’s al­ways a few de­grees cooler than in Tuc­son, so even when the heat strikes, you still can ride,” said Kathryn, as we got un­der­way. “The trails are cooler, be­cause of the river and the tree canopy, and be­cause of the higher el­e­va­tion.”

I felt as though we were rid­ing through an oa­sis.

The area is rich in wildlife and boasts a great va­ri­ety of birds. Don’t be sur­prised to see deer along the trail. Dur­ing wild­flower sea­son in the spring, there’s also an abun­dance of but­ter­flies. The flora and fauna only en­hance this pic­turesque sec­tion of the Anza Trail, mak­ing it a fa­vorite of lo­cal rid­ers, hik­ers, bird lovers, and pho­tog­ra­phers.

Note that to en­ter the trail, and at sev­eral points along the way, your horse must walk through a nar­row metal pipe gate with an el­e­vated bot­tom rail about 15 inches high. This is no big deal for any sea­soned trail horse, but take care with an in­ex­pe­ri­enced mount.

As soon as we went through the gate at the trail­head, the trail me­an­dered through a large stand of mesquite. As we neared the river, we en­tered a for­est of Fre­mont cot­ton­woods and Good­ding’s wil­low (also called Good­ding’s black wil­low).

Th­ese abun­dant trees are part of the ri­par­ian area. Ri­par­ian means an area in-

If you’re plan­ning a trip to ride the Juan Bautista de Anza Na­tional His­toric Trail in the Tubac, Ari­zona, area, one rec­om­mended overnight-sta­bling fa­cil­ity is Free­dom On The Go Ranch (520/444-6481; es­thero­go­

This ranch of­fers pri­vate pad­docks, an outdoor arena, and elec­tri­cal and wa­ter hookups for liv­ing-quar­ters trail­ers. There are also ad­ja­cent rid­ing trails.

Af­ter you ride, you can ex­plore Tubac and other nearby towns, such as Patag­o­nia, Tomb­stone, Bis­bee, and No­gales. flu­enced by wa­ter, both above and just be­low ground. Here, I learned that a ri­par­ian for­est com­mu­nity is the rarest for­est type in all of North Amer­ica.

There are no sig­nif­i­cant el­e­va­tion changes along this por­tion of the trail, so it’s not phys­i­cally chal­leng­ing, as long as your horse doesn’t mind cross­ing wa­ter. If he has any is­sues with wa­ter, this isn’t the trail for you.

This por­tion of the Anza Trail crosses the Santa Cruz River mul­ti­ple times. Un­like many rivers in Ari­zona, the Santa Cruz flows year-round. It also has the dis­tinc­tion of be­ing the only river that crosses the Mex­i­can-United States bor­der twice.

At the time we rode, the cross­ings were no more than two feet deep, but depth will vary depend­ing on the sea­son and how much rain­fall the area has ex­pe­ri­enced.

(Don’t drink the wa­ter! River wa­ter in the Tubac area con­tains treated ef­flu­ent re­leased from the No­gales In­ter­na­tional Waste­water Treat­ment Fa­cil­ity.)

Foot­ing was good on the ma­jor­ity of the trail on the day we rode. Be­cause of re­cent rains, there were some fairly muddy spots in the low­lands, but over­all, the foot­ing was fine. I liked the fact that it wasn’t rocky at all. Many trails in the area are hard on un­shod horses, un­less you use hoof boots.

The trail is closed to cy­clists and mo­tor­ized ve­hi­cles, but it’s pop­u­lar with hik­ers. How­ever, on the day we rode, we met only one hiker and no other rid­ers. I imag­ine if the weather had been warmer, we might have run into more peo­ple, but per­son­ally, I loved hav­ing the trail mostly to our­selves.

His­toric Tubac

Tubac, the old­est Span­ish set­tle­ment in Ari­zona, is only about 18 miles north of No­gales, Mex­ico. To­day, Tubac Pre­sidio State His­toric Park com­mem­o­rates the site. Tour the small mu­seum, and see one of the old­est ter­ri­to­rial school­houses still in ex­is­tence.

The town of Tubac is a fas­ci­nat­ing tourist spot and a per­fect lunch des­ti­na­tion.

Known as an artists’ colony, Tubac has dozens of gal­leries, bou­tiques, and shops.

CYN­THIA MCFAR­LAND PHOTO Kathryn Wade aboard her Paint Horse geld­ing, Joe, cross­ing the Santa Cruz River along the Juan Bautista de Anza Na­tional His­toric Trail.

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