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19. Mine Hill Loop (10/19/96)

Hikers (3): Eugene, Peter, Russ
Distance: 15 miles
Rating: 3 difficulty, 7 beauty
Park info: Almaden Quicksilver County Park in south San Jose

Write-up by Peter

The book promised burnt ore dumps and hazardous residuals remaining from the mercury mines of south San Jose. All right!! Good thing we got there to breathe the toxic air before they decided to clean up the place!

It was a nice, crisp, autumn day -- just perfect for hiking. We picked up lunch at a Safeway in south San Jose and headed towards Almaden Quicksilver County Park. The directions were not clear, so we ended up at a different park entrance from what the book had written up. No problem -- 1, 2, 3, ... HIKE!

The first part of the trail looped along the inside of the park, along the back of some residential neighborhoods. Someone down below was using a chainsaw to cut down some trees, and it seemed the noise just followed us for miles. Very aggravating!

We finally managed to get away from civilization and headed towards the inside of the park. The three of us had become somewhat spread apart. Rusty was in the lead, followed by Eugene, then myself (I had stopped for a break on a nice little bridge and had been left behind). The leaders had not marked the trail, but luckily we all managed to hook up before too long.

Looking at the trail map, it looked like we were pretty close to the Senator Mines, so we decided to head there to have lunch. We found a picnic table next to a big water trough near the mine and sat down for lunch. It was pretty windy, so we ended up eating mouthfuls of toxic dirt along with out sandwiches. Tasty!

After lunch, we continued on towards the hazardous waste area. The trail had been pretty easy up to this point, so we tried to take the longest and toughest trail possible in order to get a little workout. The only trail which made us huff and puff a little was the Prospector's Hill, but it was only about a quarter-mile in length.

The rangers steered us away from the hazardous waste area, but sensing our disappointment, the head ranger did let us go into one of the closed-up mines. We only went about 100 yards into the hole, but it was pretty cool. The air was thick and musty and you could feel the pressure on your eardrums. We were thinking this wouldn't be a good time for an earthquake to happen!

The sun was going down (it starts to get dark early in the fall) and it was getting pretty chilly, so we decided to head back. The last mile was a decent downhill on a dirt trail (we should have hiked up in this direction). Rusty got left behind on the downgrade (as usual) as Eugene and myself stormed ahead, kicking up clouds of dust on the sprint down towards the car.

All in all, we got in a pretty good day of hiking and saw all the sights listed on the trail map, except for the Buena Vista Shaft (I just love that name). We left that one for another day.



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