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406. Mine Hill Loop (08/07/04)

Hikers (13): Alan W, Andy, Bruce, Bunny, Clive, Elaine, George, Glen, Matthew, Michael C, Ross, Sean, Steve
Distance: 13 miles
Rating: 3 difficulty, 7 beauty
Park info: Almaden Quicksilver County Park in south San Jose

Write-up by Elaine

Since we last hiked in Almaden Quicksilver Park over a year ago, a new trailhead has been added, complete with a new parking lot. Steve decided was time to put that to the test. His promo: "Don't miss your chance to hike right through sections of the park previously labeled "Hazardous Area; Closed to the Public."

Steve's no engineer if he's not accurate. His directions said to go 6.2 miles on Hicks Road: how exact! I'm not used to such accuracy--to the tenth decimal poin--and passed right by it instead of turning left, per Steve's directions. I paid for doubting. As soon as I crossed the intersection, I realized that was the entrance. But I was on a narrow two-way road, so I had to find a wide enough spot where I could see cars approaching from both directions before I felt safe enough to do a U-turn.

When I approached the intersection again from the opposite direction, I saw Bunny sitting on a fence to my left. But wait, aren't I supposed to turn right? The next second, I almost ran into George. Why isn't he at the trailhead already? I signaled that I was turning left, and he signaled that it was the other way, so we were pointing at each other. He rolled down his window and explained that that was where the trailhead was, and I responded that Bunny was over there. "Yeah, but that's where we start hiking." George is always right.

I decided to follow George and turned right, but soon I was enveloped in a cloud. Maybe an angel will appear! Alas, it wasn't my time yet, just a dusty road, and George's car was kicking up all that dust. I spotted Steve and Ross through the dust.

Since this is an equestrian park, signs stated that people should park their cars with headlights pointing away from the space for horses. I was tempted to disobey, but officer Ross caught me trying to break the law!

I was afraid I would be the last, but more people came later, giving me time to hike over to the restroom (at the parking lot where Bunny was) and back before Clive, the last to arrive, joined the group for the INCH cheer.

1-2-3 INCH!

We were off with Steve, Ross, Sean and George leading. I was tired and planned to hike leisurely, but I must've been on overdrive from the night before and caught up with the front hikers. This is a first! After Wood Road, Mine Hill was on the left with the old rusty mine structure on the left. The guys kept up the chatter. To keep at their pace, I had no energy to spare for chatter.

We reached English Camp and slowed to read the commemorative inscription. Then the trail went down gradually and was rocky, so I slowed down. I'm not as sure-footed as bionic hiker Ross and stepped aside so he wouldn't run me over! Soon other hikers passed me and were out of my sight. I kept going, but was running on fumes. The trail came to an open space and intersected with another trail. Should I turn? Left or right or keep going straight? (This was probably Prospect #3 on the map.) My instinct was to keep going straight since there were no arrows. I looked back and saw Clive approaching. He suggested going straight. The trail was pretty and shady, for which I was very thankful, since I had forgotten my visor. I hit a wall at some point and slowed down considerably. Bruce and Michael had passed me some time ago, and Clive was not far ahead. After more than 1.5 miles, the trail split again. Clive was ahead and wondered outloud which to take. I spotted an arrow made of dry shoots on one trail and a stash of dry shoots across the other. Nice handiwork and great communication! Just when I thought I couldn't push myself anymore, the trail went uphill. "Oh great! When is lunchtime?"

But when I reached the top, I saw the group gathered at Cinnabar. What a relief! Steve was talking about his upcoming trip around the world, specifically measures to prevent malaria. Bruce had taken Mefloquine, an anti-malaria drug, and said he might have experienced vivid dreams, a side effect, or was it going for too many days not speaking English? Both would make a trip even more interesting! Then Steve fessed up that he bought some Skin-So-Soft, now officially known to act as an insect repellent. Hmmm, why not DEET? Is DEET so strong that it repels women too? And would Skin-So-Soft attract them? We'll have to wait for Steve's trip reports!

After Dick, Bunny and Glenn arrived and got a chance to rest, we were off again. Steve announced we were "virtually" done, "virtually" meaning more than half-way, not to mention stretches of uphill with no shade. Most of the guys galloped ahead like a cavalry, leaving me in the dust! I was still dragging, even after some carrot sticks.

I passed a sign with "Providencia" on it and made a sharp left following Clive. After a few steps, he turned around saying he couldn't see anyone ahead. We backtracked and followed the sign for Providencia. Providencia meandered into Mine Hill, which seemed to go on forever. On Bull Run, I saw an intersection ahead and heard the group gathered to the right, under the shade, near a water trough. "Did everyone take a wash? Is that why the water's so dirty?" I quipped. "No, just Steve," came Sean's quick comeback.

We discussed the wedding of the decade, or more accurately, the wedding that waited a decade to happen. George commented how E2 had shone as best man, and several young women had paid compliments to E2. When George complimented him, however, E2 was downright rude, as if he had used up his goodness quota on the speech! George then related that he had asked The Man's mom why Peter relished making and seeing other people suffer. "He's a masochist, that's why!" was her simple unedited answer! Mom's always right.

With no sign of Bunny, Glenn, Dick and Michael, Steve decided to hike to San Cristobal Mine, guessing that we might meet up when we backtracked from the Mine. I volunteered to stay and wait, but Steve wouldn't hear of it. You'll suffer with the rest of us. Thankfully, the Mine wasn't far and the trail was shady.

"DANGER. KEEP OUT." But the guys disobeyed, including officer Ross, who had caught me earlier! George stayed outside with me and looked for a higher spot. But this was it, said Steve, when he came out, and we all headed back to Bull Run.

The hike back was uneventful, along Castillero and then a right on Wood Road, where we passed the old rusty mine structure again. We all made it back, resting in the shade as we waited for others. Now, we're done, not just virtually.

Matthew's 10th leaf

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