Take a walk of about twenty-five hundred miles— and never leave your seat. That’s what I did when I read the eye-witness account of the 1540 expedition led by Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, written a mere twenty-some years after the event.
The Pedro de Castañeda de Nájera Narrative of the Coronado Expedition may have been composed as a result of renewed interest. Research from Dr. Richard Flint and Shirley Flint allege a certain Alonso de Zorita asked the King of Spain to mount another expedition. A veteran of the first expedition would have been able to furnish invaluable details of the trails and people he met along the way.
Captain Juan Jaramillo, a compatriot of Pedro de Castañeda also wrote a chronicle around the same time, but I have read only excerpts. (If you know where I can get a copy in English, send me a comment.)
To get a contemporary feel for the lay of the land, there is more than the aforementioned 475-year-old accounts. Dust on the supposed Coronado trail (the exact route is not verifiable) has been kicked up by several authors, and there are two that I have found instructive and enjoyable.
When I want to exert some mental muscle, I read The Journey of Coronado 1540-1542 by George Parker Winship (click the title for the free online version).
And when I want a less strenuous itinerary, I curl up in a cozy armchair with my copy of Cities of Gold by Douglas Preston. This author recounts his own expedition when he traveled a portion of what probably was the same trail as Coronado’s; some parts of his story are very funny, but on the whole it is a poignant portrayal that I highly recommend (and plan to re-read in 2015).
Best wishes to you for a Happy New Year!