Jerry drives today so we can all hike. It’s much more enjoyable. The route follows CA-76 and the San Luis River down canyon towards the Mission. While there are homes, businesses and farms all along the river, we are excited to see some friends; lots of very large hawks; fifteen of them today and of all things, a coyote loping along.
There’s a horse riding stable in the area and a horse trail has been cut near the river. I decide to hike a section. The river bottoms are full of cane grass and the wild assortment of southern California exotic species that didn’t exist here in 1847. We’re too busy to followup on so many details. Maybe someday someone else will scour the available research about plant species the Battalion would have encountered. They do mention “oats” and some other plants, but not many. The Spanish archives will probably be a gold-mine of information about these things if someone bothers to go research them.
The road crosses the river to the south side and into town – San Luis Rey. Off to our right, the whitewashed walls and red roofed restored Mission beckons as do the barracks ruins. But, like the Battalion, we hurry on past, intent on reaching our goal in San Diego. We will stop by late next week on our way up to Los Angeles.
Another half-mile westward, we turn left onto historic el Camino Real, “the Road Royal”, the “King’s Road.” Padres, natives, soldiers, traders, women, children, donkeys, wagons … I see them all in my mind’s eye and imagine I can hear them as we go south and start up the first big hill of el Camino Real. It’s the last historic road we will tie into and it completed the Battalion’s task of connecting the east with the southern west coast.
Then, off to our right, peeking through the “V” shaped notch formed by the valley walls, we catch the first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. We’re here earlier in the day than the Battalion was, so the sun doesn’t glint off the water for us. It’s a little harder to see through the smog, but still, the blue-gray visually filling the notch to the horizon line is clearly the ocean. We pause to remember their wonderment, then press on.
If you want to see the view – poor resolution though – go to Google Maps and paste the following intersection:
S El Camino Real & Vista Oceana, Oceanside, CA 92054
Once there, click under the small photo to activate the “Street view.” Rotate the view to look west and that’s pretty close to where the Battalion first spied the ocean. Doesn’t look anything like the July 2007 Ensign cover does it?
We proceed south, passing Cannon Road near the sulphur springs that gave Agua Hedionda stream its name. According to Fetzer (see yesterday’s post), when the Mexican government granted Juan Maria Marron a land grant in 1842, Marron preferred the name Rancho San Francisco over “stinking water ranch”. At almost each stream we can look westward to glimpse the ocean. The marshes have been heavily modified, filled, dredged and diked against the ocean waves. Still, one can get a glimpse of what the coast line may have looked like; green salt grasses, the tidal flats and estuaries all warmed under the January blue skies and cooled by gentle sea breezes.
Peter’s wife, Virginia, drives in from northern California. They haven’t seen each other since December 17 back near Tucson Arizona. Military families and missionary families share such events in common. It is another connection to the original Battalion enacted before our eyes – husband and wife reunited after a long absence. Surely it’s a glimpse at reunions on the other side of the veil.
We end the day just east of Palomar Airport, then hustle back to Temecula. Susan Billings has asked to get a Mormon Battalion primer of what we’ve learned along the route and the unit’s history. We finish up about 10:30 PM and have a wonderful evening of friendship.