I’ve lived in Tucson for nearly 10 years but I’ll never be of the West. Back East, specifically as a New Englander, it’s always about us. American history is about the Pilgrims, Ben Franklin, the Adams boys, Crispus Attucks and Molly Pitcher thrown in for a little diversity.
Oh yeah, we were taught about, and I brought up in my classes, the purchase of Seward’s Icebox/our acquisition of Alaska, the Lewis and Clark expedition and the Mexican-American War of 1848. But I always added the story of Henry David Thoreau’s protest of said war. He refused to pay taxes to support it. Thoreau was thrown into prison in Concord, Mass. When his pal Ralph Waldo Emerson visited, asking, “Henry, what are you doing in there?” Thoreau, replied, “Ralph, what are you doing out there?” I always liked that.
Sure, we’re all more connected to where we’re from; I’ve clearly been New England-centric my whole life. Yesterday provided me with a bit of historical mind-expansion, for which I’m grateful.
I discovered the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail in Noglaes, Arizona, or rather, my friends Arlyn and Cate, led our book group on a field trip to water.
Natural wetlands in Arizona? Yup. Imagine life in Arizona 250 years ago (as crazy as Arizona is today at least we have indoor plumbing).
It was 1775. “Everyone mount up!” Anza called out every morning for nine months to nearly 300 men, women and mostly children (119!), a walking village herding 1,000 head of cattle to San Francisco.
At the same time that easterners were rabble-rousing, preparing for the American Revolution, Anza was leading this “traveling Safeway” — as Cate said yesterday — across the west.
The Nogales campsite, Las Laguna de Anza wetlands — said to be the first campsite north of the border for Anza’s treksters — sits between a major road and a giant industrial warehouse.
Thanks to the clean-up efforts of high-school students and many other volunteers, the dedication of Arlyn Johnson (Santa Fe Ranch Foundation) and Cate Bradley (National Park Service), the campsite is now a haven for birds and modern-day nature-lovers. Arlyn recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to receive a national award for making it possible to enter this Arizona portal of history. Thank you, Arlyn, for taking us to the water and encouraging us to drink.