The King's Highway on the Baja California peninsula of Mexico, also known as El Camino Real or The Royal Road, connected the early Spanish Jesuit and Franciscan missions. Harry W. Crosby crossed El Comino Real many times during his expeditions in search of painted caves. The rock art and cave paintings are now termed the Great Murals of Baja California.
El Camino Real - The King's Highway
Between 1683 and 1834, Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries established a series of religious outposts from today's Baja California and Baja California Sur (Lower California South) into present-day California.
El Camino Real, Spanish for The Royal Road or The King's Highway, connected from north to south - from San Diego to Loreto - the missions, sub-missions, presidios (a Spanish fortified base), and pueblos (stone and adobe communities) over a distance of roughly 600 miles. It was also referred to as the 'California Mission Trail'.
Camino Real became a generic term for any road under the direct jurisdiction of the Spanish crown, but once Mexico won its independence from Spain, this practice ceased.
Tacho Arce guide to Harry W. Crosby searching for painted caves in Baja California
Harry W. Crosby crossed El Comino Real during his expeditions in Baja California
El Camino Real - The Royal Road
The term "El Camino Real" had its origin in medieval Spain where it was used to distinguish the principal routes in each district as a route of passage for royal orders or royal arms, and patrolled to for safe passage from bandits. Over time, it became a generic term for the principal road between any two major centres.
In Baja California, the Jesuits used El Camino Real as they travelled through the region evangelizing the indigenous population. Generally, existing Indian trails were used as the basis for the new trail, which was cleared for pack and riding animals. The trails in the north of the peninsula were generally better than in the south due to the difficult terrain and the hostility of southern tribes; other means of transport such as sailing were still more attractive.
With the lack of standardized road signs at this time, it was decided to place distinctive bells along the route, hung on supports in the form of an 11-foot tall shepherd's crook, symbolizing a Jesuit's walking stick. Moreover, the missionaries are said to have sprinkled mustard seeds along the trail in order to mark it with bright yellow flowers.
Harry W. Crosby (Author) The King's Highway in Baja California
During the 1970's the photographer Harry W. Crosby set out to explore the central mountains of Baja California by mule and pack burros, crossing back and forth over El Camino Real, in a systematic search for rock paintings having been drawn to the art during an earlier expedition seeking the El Camino Real. The El Camino Real expedition led to his publication 'The King's Highway in Baja California' whilst his subsequent expeditions in search of cave paintings, or the 'Great Murals', led to his publication 'The Cave Paintings of Baja California: Discovering the Great Murals of an Unknown People'.
Baja California - In Search of Painted Caves - Documentary Film