Tuesday, March 11, 2008


In February of 1540, Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, several priests, over 300 Spanish soldiers, several hundred Mexican-Indian allies, and 1,500 stock animals set off on an expedition to discover the "Seven Cities of Cibola", seven "large cities, with streets lined with goldsmith shops, houses of many stories, and doorways studded with emeralds and turquoise."

His unsuccessful search went from present day Mexico, through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Kanses, ended in disgrace two years later, and he died in obscurity. Yesterday, on a perfect Arizona winter day, we went to explore the national monument dedicated to Coronado and his exploration.

Joe's Canyon Trail starts near the visitor's center, and we stopped in to check trail conditions. My favorite part of the intrepretive center are the helmets and chain mail that can be handled and tried on. Nice hat, huh? The matching chain mail is so heavy I can't lift it - I can't imagine traveling through the desert (or anywhere) thusly garbed.

Joe's Canyon is just the kind of hike I like. At 6 miles round trip, it is long enough for good exercise, but not exhausting. The climb (1,300 feet) starts gradually - a nice warm-up - climbs reasonably steeply for a sweaty, aerobically-challenging distance (1,000 ft in the first mile), then mellows to a nice ridge-top ramble with great views all around.

Coronado National Monument is smack up against the AZ/Mexico border, overlooking the San Pedro river, supposed to be the route traveled by Coronado's expedition. Half a mile from the top end of the trail, Joe's Canyon runs into the Yaqui Ridge trail.

Yaqui Ridge trail is the southern end of the 750 mile Arizona Trail, which runs from the AZ/Mexico border to the AZ/UT border. From the junction, Yaqui Ridge drops 700 feet in 1 mile to a border marker - perhaps another day for that one!

It was t-shirt weather, the temperature cool enough that the sunshine felt great on our backs and arms. A few bees were bumbling around, big and noisy (where do they spend the COLD winter?), and flocks of quail exploded underfoot a couple of times, making my heart pound. We saw only two other hikers on the trail.

I took this photo from our lunch spot. The Yaqui Ridge trail ends in this valley, and we ate lunch gazing deep into Mexico and contemplating Coronado's search. WOW!

1 comment:

  1. Oh how fun!! I want to hike this some day. So if I understand correctly, one could actually hike the AZ Trail from Mexico all the way to Utah? Hmmmm Very interesting!