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Bicycling de Anza’s Trail

Tucson is one of the nation’s best cities for bicycling. Great weather all winter long, generally flattish trails, plenty of scenery and lots of bicycle-friendly areas. We grabbed the two folding Birdy bikes and Emma’s $39 Wal-Mart special, to take Emma on her first bike path ride ever.

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The trail we chose today runs along both sides of the Santa Cruz River near downtown Tucson. The Santa Cruz, like all the riverbeds in this area, is dry most of the year. The scenery varies from bad to great. Our starting point was at 29th St near the Pima County prison, so the view started with razor wire and guys playing basketball in orange jumpsuits. But it quickly got better, with a nice view of A Mountain, and lots of little critters along the path (ground squirrels, a large lizard, roadrunners).

Tucson Santa Cruz bike path.jpg

The Garden of Gethsemane is a nice stop along the trail. An artist named Felix Lucero dedicated his life to sculpting religious statues, and he made a set of them from concrete with sand & rock taken from the Santa Cruz river bed in 1945. The statues are in rough shape from weathering, floods, vandalism and other attacks, but undergoing restoration. Their present location is a lush garden inside a tall iron fence, free to the public.

Tucson Gethsmane.jpg

Emma’s first major bicycling outing was a success. Yes, she managed to stop every 300 feet for one thing or another. Everything got her attention and called for a pause in the action: birds, dogs, amusing signs, itches, wedgies, plus multiple stops for water and snacks. But at the end of about five miles she was still lively and said, “That was awesome!” when we pulled into the parking lot. I expect we’ll be doing a lot more cycling as a family in the near future.

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This trail is officially part of Tucson’s linear Santa Cruz River Park, and is also part of the historic Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. We last encountered the story of de Anza when we were at Channel Island National Park in California over a year ago. His voyage to scout land for the Spanish crown is an incredible story, ranging from present-day San Francisco south well into Mexico. I would like to find a good book on that tale next time I’m prowling through a NPS bookstore.

One Response to “Bicycling de Anza’s Trail”

  1. Bill Doyle Says:

    As you know, I am a living history docent at Cabrillo National Monument (NPS). Two years ago I picked up a good reference book from their Visitor’s Center of this time period:
    “Lands of Promise and Despair – Chronicles of Early California, 1535 – 1846″, Edited by Rose Marie Beebe and Robert M. Senkewicz, 2001, Santa Clara University, Heyday Books, Berkeley, CA.

    This book has five pages of information on Juan Bautista de Anza who was commander of the presidio at Tubac, south of Tucson, in the 1770’s. He received permission from the Spanish viceroy Bucareli to attempt to forge a trail to Alta California.

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