Day Tripper: Mission San Antonio De Padua

All too often we overlook local destinations as an enjoyable way to spend a few hours on a weekend getaway. For me (Cat), the forgotten gem is Mission San Antonio de Padua, the third of 21 missions established in California by Father Junipero Serra on July 14, 1771. 

Wooden statuette of St. Anthony de Padua on the steps outside of the church, facing into the courtyard. 

Wooden statuette of St. Anthony de Padua on the steps outside of the church, facing into the courtyard. 

As the crow flies, the mission is only a little over 14 miles from where I have lived for most of my life. When I was a very young child, I remember driving by the mission on my way home from a day trip to the Indian Caves (official name La Cueva Pintada, now protected and listed on the National Register of Historic Places) on Fort Hunter Liggett. The route that we went that day was part of the old route used by Father Serra and others living in Jolon, which was up Pine Canyon Rd. to the end of the road, which was a non-locked gate leading into Hunter Liggett.

My first actual visit to the mission itself happened in the spring of 1965, as part of the 4th grade history curriculum. I have a vivid memory of riding the school bus up the harrowing Jolon Grade (which has since been bypassed), and the first glimpse of the mission while the bus driver was careful to adhere to the speed limit. After all, the mission is located on a military base and the MPs love to make civilian traffic stops! 

This is Rosario, the Mission's official cat. You can learn more about him at Rosario the Cat or at his Facebook page. He spent some time with us in the church. 

This is Rosario, the Mission's official cat. You can learn more about him at Rosario the Cat or at his Facebook page. He spent some time with us in the church. 

I remember being fascinated by several things that first visit, factoids and sights I can easily recall. I remember being so interested in the fact that human beings were buried under the steps leading into the church, and that there were five priests buried underneath the altar in the church.  Horse-crazy me remembers an exhibit of a late 19th-early 20th century antique saddle and brands used by each mission. We walked the grounds and I wondered how old I had to be to help excavate the foundations of long-gone buildings that were plentiful on the mission’s grounds. I still would like to participate in an archaeological dig! 

A replica of a hat worn by vaqueros during the Mission period.

A replica of a hat worn by vaqueros during the Mission period.

There are all sorts of websites you can find that give a history of the California missions, so I won't bore you with a history lesson. This article is intended to be all about the photographs. What makes the photographs so unusual is that they were taken in July, during an obviously unseasonable heavy rain during a several-year drought in California. 

This photo was taken from the steps of the church , facing into the Padres' Garden. You are looking at a sundial and a wooden statue of St. Anthony, the saint that this mission was named for. The courtyard is planted with all colors of roses, and have been lovingly maintained by a local lady in her 80s. Every year toward the end of January the mission sells cuttings of its roses as an ongoing fund raiser for the mission's seismic retrofit. In the distance you can see the Santa Lucia coast range, very much covered by the rain clouds. 

This photo was taken from the steps of the church , facing into the Padres' Garden. You are looking at a sundial and a wooden statue of St. Anthony, the saint that this mission was named for. The courtyard is planted with all colors of roses, and have been lovingly maintained by a local lady in her 80s. Every year toward the end of January the mission sells cuttings of its roses as an ongoing fund raiser for the mission's seismic retrofit. In the distance you can see the Santa Lucia coast range, very much covered by the rain clouds. 

This is a view of the altar of the church, which has a small but devoted parish. At the foot of, and below the main altar, are the graves of Padre Buenaventura  Sitjar, who helped found the mission, and who lived from 1739-1806;  Padre Francisco Pujol, 1762-1801; Padre Juan Bautista Sancho, 1772 or 1776-1830; Padre Vicente Francisco de Sarria, 1767-1835, who died of starvation at Mission Nuestra de Soledad and was carried by Indian to Mission San Antonio for burial; and Reverend Doreteo Ambris, who arrived at the mission in 1851 and who died there in 1882. Each was a very accomplished man—look them up!  The church is in the middle of a seismic retrofit. July 2015. 

This is a view of the altar of the church, which has a small but devoted parish. At the foot of, and below the main altar, are the graves of Padre Buenaventura  Sitjar, who helped found the mission, and who lived from 1739-1806;  Padre Francisco Pujol, 1762-1801; Padre Juan Bautista Sancho, 1772 or 1776-1830; Padre Vicente Francisco de Sarria, 1767-1835, who died of starvation at Mission Nuestra de Soledad and was carried by Indian to Mission San Antonio for burial; and Reverend Doreteo Ambris, who arrived at the mission in 1851 and who died there in 1882. Each was a very accomplished man—look them up! 

The church is in the middle of a seismic retrofit. July 2015. 

This is a shot of the restored mill house, taken from the mission via a telephoto lens, which is a short walk at a slight incline . The low adobe fence you see in the middle of the photo is part of the Indian cemetery that was established in 1804 and is the resting place of over 4000 human beings. It is one of the most peaceful places on the mission grounds, and for me there is an otherworldly stillness there. 

This is a shot of the restored mill house, taken from the mission via a telephoto lens, which is a short walk at a slight incline . The low adobe fence you see in the middle of the photo is part of the Indian cemetery that was established in 1804 and is the resting place of over 4000 human beings. It is one of the most peaceful places on the mission grounds, and for me there is an otherworldly stillness there. 

In keeping with this blog's theme of "all things wine," the Mission hosts an annual "Evening in the Garden" fundraiser in the Padres' Garden, featuring Mission-era live music, gourmet food and local wines. This year's event will be held on Saturday, November 7, from 4 to 8 p.m. Tickets are $50 per person in advance, $60 at the door. There is a limited "sensory package" available for $120 where participants will be guided through the wine tasting experience. Participants in the sensory package will receive a special branded Mission San Antonio set of wine glasses. Weather in November is still nice, though a sweater or light jacket is all that is required for comfort. Please call 831-385-4478 ext. 10 for more information or to reserve your spot in this very special event!  

For information about the Mission, upcoming special events, and lodging or retreats at the Mission, go here

Getting here:
From San Francisco, take Highway 101 South into the Salinas Valley. Take the Jolon Road exit (if you get to King City, you went one too many exits!). Follow Jolon Rd. until you see signs for Fort Hunter Liggett, which will be to your right. Turn right at St. Luke's Church. Be careful of the speed limit, as you are on an active-duty military installation! Follow Mission Rd. and the signage to the Mission.

From Los Angeles, take  Highway 101 North. Go past San Miguel (San Luis Obispo County). Just past Bradley (Monterey County), take the Jolon Rd. exit. Follow the road to Ft. Hunter Liggett and follow the signage to the Mission. 

Where do you go when you only have one day and need to escape from the rest of the world? Have you been to one of California's missions? If so, which one is your favorite?