It is almost unbelievable to us that we are to arrive at San Diego today.
We arise early (probably due to excitement), grab an easy breakfast, then pile into the Suburban and drive back to the intersection of I-5 and I-805. Peter and Virginia Guilbert, Bob Tingey, Denny, Jerry and I make up the group as we start. We don’t hike the interstates, of course, but the original route is so closely aligned with the modern highways that we have to work at finding a route we can hike. There’s only thirteen miles remaining for us into San Diego.
Terry Wirth has previously scouted the area for us, finding an open dirt road leading from Soledad Valley up onto the mesa so we can follow local roadways. It’s a good route, leading us past the LDS San Diego Temple at the four mile mark.
Jerry and Virginia drive ahead to the temple in hopes of arranging access to the grounds for some photos. This week the temple is closed for cleaning. Not to be deterred and using her womanly charms (although I suspect there’s an outside possibility she may have also threatened a lawsuit), Virginia manages to strike a deal with the guard for us to spend a few minutes at the entrance gate area.
In a way, it seems symbolic that the temple site sits almost astride the original Battalion’s route. In fact, we’ve noted that a number of LDS buildings along our route are very close to the trail. Makes one wonder if that’s a purposeful choice when property is purchased.
As we finish the morning section at nine miles, some of the Sierra-Nevada Mormon Pioneer reenactors arrive to hike the last section with us into Old Town. Jerry Gardner, Smokey Bassett and Jonathan Taylor join in the fun. They get into their period correct (PC) gear and soon we’re off for our last five miles. Their website is at: http://1846history.com/
Jon specializes in singing “The Girl I Left Behind Me” – adding a nice touch as we tramp along since we don’t have fifes or drums. Our time is spent getting to know each other. Bob Tingey’s 26-star US flag leads the way and Bob shares the opportunity to carry the colors.
Virginia Guilbert points out that back in 1847 the women would not have been permitted to carry the flag – that, “It’s not PC” (period correct). Virginia is right, but we’re not attempting to make an accurate portrayal in every 1846-47 detail. Our goals include the opportunity for the women’s voices to be heard in ways that they weren’t in 1847. In today’s Army, women DO carry the colors and do many other things that were previously limited to just the men. Society has changed in many ways – some good, some not so, but overall, we live in a world of nearly unlimited opportunities compared to those who went before us.
Parading down Moreno Boulevard with the colors flying brings honks from passing cars. San Diego is still a town with deep military roots. The Spanish Presidio was here. The US Navy and Marines are major influences today and there are many DOD suppliers, so we’re happy to wave back at folks as they support us along our route.
Approaching Old Town, we can plainly see in front of us the hill upon which the Spanish colonial presidio was built. It’s there that Company B was quartered from mid-March through mid-July of 1847. Our little group marches into Old Town State Park just before 4 PM. We parade around the plaza coming to a halt at the State Park Information Center. Over the next half hour, we answer questions from some of the tourists, take our photos and bask in our individual feelings.
People ask if I’m elated, nostalgic or sad it’s over. Mostly I’m peaceful – mellow. There’s an element of satisfaction – completion, at least for this part of the Trek. There’s more ahead of us to accomplish, but for today, this is enough, quite enough.
It is almost unbelievable to us that we have arrived at San Diego today.