Rainy day adventure

IN THE ELEMENTS The view from Guadalupe Trail as it edges up Capitancillos Ridge.Photo: Ron Erskine

When my daughter was very young and the first drops of rain began to fall, she would scramble for her rain boots and slicker, and run out the door. Most of us view a rainy day as time to hunker down, but Vanessa knew it was a perfect occasion to play outdoors. Count on the wisdom of youth to turn a rainy day into an opportunity for adventure.

Recalling my daughter’s childlike ways awakened the same impulse in me. With rain in the forecast, I grabbed my rain shell and set out for Almaden Quicksilver County Park.

Named for a mercury mine in Almadén, Spain, the New Almaden Mine in south San Jose held vast amounts of quicksilver ore. When converted to mercury, it was use to extract gold from ore during the California Gold Rush. High demand drove tunnels one hundred miles into Capitancillos Ridge and 2,300 feet below the surface. No California gold mine equaled the richness of the New Almaden Mine.

Drawn by the remnants of mining history (the Mercury News took its name from this mine), I have always started my hikes at Almaden Quicksilver County Park near the main park entrance in New Almaden. But it is an eight-mile walk from one end of the park to the other, putting a round trip loop from New Almaden to the far end of the ridge well beyond my day hiking appetite. Thankfully, the northwest portion of the park is accessible through a secondary entrance.

I turned off Camden Avenue onto McAbee Road, which ended quickly at the park entrance. Striders tied snugly and fanny pack secured, I hopped on Guadalupe Trail and edged up Capitancillos Ridge. Gray skies; no rain yet. It seemed so strange that while I walked through church-like stillness, trees rocked furiously on the ridgetop high above.

Once I reached the crest, I stepped into the bluster I had seen from below, and the rain began to fall. Now, the high wooded slopes the Santa Cruz Mountains came into full view. I descended the trail down to the edge of Guadalupe Creek just born on the slopes of Mt. Umunhum and followed it up the trail to Guadalupe Reservoir.

Beyond the dam, the trail rose up the slope once again to the top of the ridge. Five miles out, I turned toward home on the Randol and Mine Hill Trails. Here on the north side of the ridge, I exchanged a wild mountain landscape for ever-changing views across the Santa Clara Valley to landmarks as distant as Mount Tamalpais.

I returned to my car wet, rosy-cheeked and invigorated. My daughter hardly ever cleaned her room, but she sure knew what to do on a rainy day. I think you’ll agree. When the next storm comes, grab your rain gear, and take a walk on the wild side of Almaden Quicksilver County Park.

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