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Arizona 4x4 Adventure - The Ghost Trail

Driving Through Desert
Larry E. Heck | Writer
Posted April 1, 2008

Near Tucson, Arizona

During the 15th century, the Spanish Empire laid claim to most of North America calling it the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Explorations of the new territories were funded, and missions were established. A myth materialized by word of mouth about the existence of "The Seven golden cities of cbola."

The myth is based on an event from a time in the 11th century when Muslims conquered the city of Mrida in Spain. Supposedly, seven priests fled the city taking sacred religious relics to a faraway land and established the cities of cbola and Quivira. For centuries, the location of those cities was unknown.

In 1539, a man named Fray Marcos de Niza crossed into Arizona and became the first European to explore the territory west of the rockies. A monument can be found at the border- crossing town of Lochiel, Arizona, recording April 12 as that day in history.

De Niza discovered the Zuni people living in seven cities throughout territories now in the states of Arizona and New Mexico. The Zuni are believed to be descendants of the Anasazi cliff dwellers. Whether or not they lived a peaceful life prior to de Niza's visit, there would be nothing but trouble to follow.

De Niza was not allowed into the cities. He observed them from a distance and imagined they were hiding many treasures. His claims developed into rumors that the Seven cities of cbola had been found and were filled with riches beyond anything ever known. Other explorers, eager to claim the treasures, ventured into The territory. Some never returned, and others who did return embellished the stories that great wealth was there to conquer.

Those stories evolved into the myth of the Seven golden cities of cbola.

In anticipation of claiming the treasures protected by the Seven cities, another explorer named Coronado assembled an army. He conquered the Zunis and was soon in control of the Seven cities but found no treasures. The myth was dispelled and de Niza was dishonored for his false claims.

The Spanish Empire retained control of territories in North America until the 18th century when its dominance began to crumble. Mexico declared its independence in 1821, and the United States took the rest of the Empire's claims in North America in 1898 as a result of the Spanish-American War.

The crossing used by de Niza to enter Arizona continued to be a popular trail. During the 1880s, a community consisting of a few hundred people sprung up at the crossing to support mines being worked in the nearby hills. Smelters, boarding houses, saloons, and numerous stores made up the community that eventually became Lochiel, Arizona.

Even the famous outlaw, Pancho Villa, used the crossing. His banditos would cross into Arizona, steal as many cattle as possible, then run back through Lochiel into Mexico. His visits were a tense time for the citizens of Lochiel. Although he might spend money during his visit, he might take back more than he would spend.

Modern-day Lochiel is a ghost town. The area around it is best known for drug smuggling. If you visit the area, mind your own business and do not stop to visit with anyone except those in border-patrol vehicles.

Lone Writer and Happy Jack left Tucson early one Sunday morning to visit the country where Spanish explorers and Pancho Villa spent so much time. Their first stop was the town of Patagonia.

Patagonia is a quiet ranching town. It was founded during the 1880s to serve ranches and mines in the outlying mountains and grasslands. It was the supply point for those who defended what little they had from roaming banditos.

A hitching post still spans the front of the Stage Stop Inn, which is a complex including a motel and restaurant. A boardwalk shadowed by a porch covering the full length of the building could have come right off the pages of a Wild West novel.

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