Old Spanish Trail
Where you are standing, Antonio Armijo and 60 men once ventured from New Mexico to California hoping to find a new trade route in 1829. Following established Native American trails, the explorers traveled through dry, rugged country for 86 days until they reached Gabriel Mission near Los Angeles, on January 30, 1830.
The trip turned out to be a lucrative endeavor. Armijo and his men traded woolen goods for horses and mules. Upon their return to New Mexico, the men sold their stock at premium prices, encouraging other traders to seek their fortunes the same way.
Subsequent expeditions to California took more northerly routes with better water resources. The various route, including Armijo's original, together were designated as the Old Spanish National Historic Trail in 2002.
Antonio Maria Armijo
At just 25 years old, Antonio Armijo was recognized as a successful trader after his expedition of 1829-1830. Hoping to capitalize on his success, Antonio talked his parents into returning with him from New Mexico to California in 1831. Shortly thereafter, he married Dolores Engracia Duarte y Peralta, the daughter of an influential California rancher.
Utilizing his new family connections, Antonio and his father obtained a 13,000 acre land grant for a ranch near Napa in 1840. As a wealthy landowner, Antonio was awarded the title of Don, establishing himself as a true Califórnio until his death in 1851.
A Better Beast of Burden
Contrary to romanticized illustrations of early traders and settlers traveling the Old Spanish Trail in wagons, most caravans (1829-1847) used pack mules or horses to traverse the rough and difficult terrain. Of these two choices, pack mules ere favored for their ability to haul heavy cargo in adverse conditions.
The mules' agility, strength, and surefootedness allowed them to navigate the highly varied terrain. Carrying loads up to 300 pounds each, a hundred of more of these animals formed long mule-trains, bringing goods and good neighbors to California.