Monday, March 18, 2013

Almaden Quicksilver County Park - Santa Clara County, CA

March 16, 2013

Somehow my 31st birthday turned into a 3 weekend celebration that I got to spend with just about all of my favorite people. It started a week before my birthday with a hike at Henry Coe State Park with Ann.  Then my actual birthday weekend was an excellent one spent hanging out in my hometown with my family and my extended non-blood "family."  And then the following weekend Monica visited from Seattle and we spent the weekend hiking with her brother's dog and eating and drinking. I couldn't have asked for a better way to celebrate.

Since neither Monica nor I have spent much time exploring the south bay, we weren't sure where we should hike, so I spent a little time with Google maps searching for parks near her brother's house where we were staying for the weekend.  I found Almaden Quicksilver County Park wasn't too far from the house and after doing a little research on the Santa Clara County Parks website, I decided this was the place to go. Not only could we take the dog on all of the trails, but the park also had lots of trail choices (the website says over 34 miles of trails), some interesting history, and a claim of spectacular wildflower displays. 

We entered the park on the west side via the long and winding Hick's road, which took us past Guadalupe Reservoir and was the type of road I could spend the day stopping along here and there to take pictures.  We then took the Wood Road Trail to the Hildalgo Cemetery Trail, which ended at the Hildalgo Cemetery.  The trail wasn't too difficult and had moderate rolling hills with a few slightly steep parts, but plenty of flat areas to catch your breath on.  The cemetery itself was a bit of a letdown.  It was pretty much just an area surrounded by a white picket fence lined by planted juniper trees. There were no remaining headstones or anything else indicating it was a cemetery. But the views along the trail looked down into the valley below and across to even higher hillsides glowing bright green in the sun.  We were still a little early for the peak of wildflower season, but there were still plenty of poppies and other early bloomers popping out. We also passed by the rotary furnace and a sign indicating the location of a former Spanish town.  After having lunch in the shade near the cemetery (only slightly creepy since it didn't look much like a cemetery), we headed back and took a short loop around to check out some old buildings that unfortunately didn't have any signs as to what they were, and then had planned to hike out to the Catherine Tunnel, but read the map wrong and didn't take a right when we should have, so we just ended up back on the trail to the car.

We had a little more time to spend at the park, so we decided to drive down past Almaden Reservoir to one of the parking lots of the east side and do a little hiking from there. We parked in front of the cute little St Anthony church (which I had to get some shots of) and then decided to hike along the Deep Gulch Trail, which seemed slightly less steep than the Mine Hill Road Trail. Whether or not that was true, I don't know, but we hiked up for about half a mile before I decided my hips and knees were pissed off enough and we should head back down. We also checked out some of the old mining equipment that was on display near the park's parking lot and picnic area. 

This is definitely a park I want to return to. There's still many more miles of trail to explore and  more historical sites to check out. There is also a mining museum that may be interesting.  And I think they might be right about the wildflowers, so I may have to come back sooner rather than later!

 Rotary Furnace (actual)

Rotary Furnace (how I envision it...)


  Almaden Reservoir

Hildalgo Cemetery 

Unlabeled Buildings

One hot pup

Let me go, I'll save you from the fence lizard...


Chestnut-backed chickadee (he was moving too fast to get a clear picture)

Mining Equipment

St. Anthony Church