This was a return visit to Almaden Quicksilver County Park in South San Jose. After a previous loop hike earlier in the summer, I returned to hike the Bay Area Ridge Trail segment, which coincides with a portion of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail.
My two hikes actually only overlapped for about 0.5 mile near English Camp. There are several other trails in the park that remain for future exploration. Although I didn’t start my hike until nearly noon, the temperature was only about 72 degrees. By the time I finished hiking nearly 4 hours later, though, the temperature had risen to 87 degrees! I was grateful for several areas where there was nice, cool shade.
The trailhead was at the Mockingbird Hill park entrance. Sure enough, as I walked along, I heard bird songs that were most likely mockingbirds. After an initial relatively flat section of 0.5 miles, the trail climbs about 1000 feet over the next 2.5-plus miles.
About 1.3 miles from the trailhead, at the junction of the Virl O. Norton and Hacienda Trails, there is a nice view of the Santa Cruz Mountains to the south, including Loma Prieta.
A short distance later there is a view to the northwest, with the Almaden Valley in the foreground and downtown San Jose in the background.
The route takes the Capehorn Pass Trail to the Mine Hill Trail, which goes through the heart of the park. The Capehorn Pass Trail goes over a couple of rises with a dip between. I’ve not quite figured out which low point is the pass, but the trail makes a pretty sight viewed from the Mine Hill Trail.
The route turns from Mine Hill Trail to Castillero Trail to pass through English Camp, which used to be a mining town. There are numerous abandoned mine shafts in the park, all of which are closed off for safety reasons. Here is one just outside English Camp.
On this particular day I noticed quite a few interesting clouds. This one reminded me of a galaxy.
About 0.4 mile past English Camp the route turns onto the Woods Road Trail on the way to a western park entrance. From this trail there was a great view back generally toward English Camp. On a hillside there is a huge rotary furnace and condensing system, built in 1940 and used until 1976 to extract mercury (quicksilver) from the ore.
Along Woods Road Trail you can see Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve and Mt. Umunhum across Jacques Ridge and Jacques Gulch. In this picture Mt. Umunhum is at the left, with the distinctive cube-shaped radar tower on top.
The Bay Area Ridge Trail segment ends at a trailhead on Hicks Road at its intersection with Mt. Umunhum Road. Immediately across Hicks Road is a trailhead for Sierra Azul OSP. I decided to retrace my path from an earlier hike, one of my first Bay Area Ridge Trail hikes, just to the Sierra Azul OSP parking area. As I crossed Hicks Road I was amused to note a multitude of signs alerting drivers to potential road conditions driving down the hill. Perhaps the amusement arose, at least in part, because of the juxtaposition of potential vehicle traffic after nearly two hours of hiking in serene isolation through Almaden Quicksilver.
During the return trip there were several other interesting clouds that I noticed. This one reminded me of an airplane.
Near the Mockingbird Hill trailhead the trail passes just behind some houses. As I approached the trailhead, I was startled to see a deer at the park boundary under a large shady tree. I think the deer and I watched each other with mutual curiosity as I walked past.
Almaden Quicksilver has numerous other trails to explore, as well as other reminders of its mining history. The shaded areas were appreciated on this warm day, and perhaps my next visit will be during cooler weather.