Quicksilver Trails

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Californian-PoppiesA new day, a new California State Park: This time, the Almaden Quicksilver County Park. Owing to sore thighs from the previous day of kayaking, I chose a small round trip of approximately 6km, but it had all I could ask for, and more:

First, the approach: drive south through San Jose on Almaden Expressway, then turn off into Almaden Road, following signs to New Almaden. It’s Silicon Valley at first with 4 lanes each direction, then a small town, and all of the sudden it’s rural California. Just like so. It’s astounding.

At the Hacienda Entrance, I found ample and free car parking space, a couple of shaded benches, and the usual information board with maps and warnings of poison oak, mountain lions and bobcats. My 6km hike through the park took me through the most beautiful landscape, and across the occasional reminder of the mining past: the area used to be one of the richest quicksilver mines of the world, owing to the high concentration of mercury in the bright red local cinnabar. Until the 1920s, this mercury was mostly used to extract gold from ore, and enabled the Californian gold rush.

The trail also featured some of the steepest inclines I have ever walked; in comparison, the way out of the Poverty Flats in the Henry Coe State Park is almost a walk in the park. Thankfully, those in the Almaden Quicksilver Park were pretty short, as I begun to feel my sore thighs at that point.

I was glad that I chose this short loop, but was even happier that I did get out there in the first place. I didn’t see any landbound animals, but birds of prey, and flowers everywhere. The bright orange Californian Poppy and some tall yellow flowers similar to Rapeseed brightened my hike and my day.

On my way out, I stopped at the Quicksilver Mining Museum, where a friendly and most enthusiastic park ranger talked me through the collection and answered most of my question. Free of charge, friendly, with a smile and an if there is anything else… Wonderful. US park rangers are always super.

The only question the ranger left unanswered was about the etymology of the word quicksilver itself. I find the similarity with the German Quecksilber startling, and wondered if quicksilver is an anglicised version of the German word. One Internet source claims the roots go back much further, reporting a common root in the Middle English quyksilver, from Old English cwicseolfor.


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2 thoughts on “Quicksilver Trails

  1. Ah, nothing beats local advise; cheers Darron!

    Actually, the step part I was referring to is on the Hacienda Trail, a mile or two before returning to the Hacienda entrance. Pretty short but incredibly steep climbs, crossing a couple of sharp wrinkles in the land.

  2. So – we live 4 miles from the Hacienda entrance, 2 miles from the Mockingbird Hill entrance, and 3.4 miles from the McAbee Rd entrance. It’s a huge park – I’ve been all over it over the years. It’s great having such a rural frontier so close to home – but without actually living in it (among the coyotes, wild pigs, turkeys, bobcats, etc.). And yes, that climb out of the Hacienda entrance is a killer – the park is full of these old mining roads that just go straight up!
    Cheers – Darron

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