alifornia’s 21 missions were founded by Franciscan missionaries and built by Indians of highly diverse tribes during the Spanish colonial era. Dotting the coastline from Sonoma to the Mexican border, these missions form the state’s first and most significant historic backbone. We asked ourselves what would happen if we rode from mission to mission on horseback. Could it even be done today? We decided to find out. And to make an educational documentary film about the journey.
Today, with all their complex history, the missions remain very much alive. Some are busy state parks. Others are monasteries. All are explored by over 5 million visitors each year. On any given day, people crossing paths up and down the mission chain include park rangers, men and women of the cloth, students and teachers, and tourists from all parts of the world. There are also archaeologists, historians, animal tenders, bingo players, horticulturalists, artists, musicians, soldiers, and descendants of Spaniards and Indians who made the missions.
Approaching the missions on horseback, we’ll explore perspectives of life and land in California from angles rarely appreciated since the advent of the automobile. All along the way, we’ll use this site to chart our progress; to post information about special events and people; to blog about the journey; and to ask you to help us look for answers to questions big and small about California and Californians.
Our ride takes place in two stages, North and South. The North Ride begins in Sonoma on August 18, 2012, and ends in San Miguel on the mission’s fiesta day, September 16, 2012. The South Ride will pick up in San Miguel in mid-August of 2013, and we’ll try to reach San Diego, and then the Mexican border, by mid-September of that year.