English Camp, 


Bay Area Hiking


Almaden Quicksilver County Park

Van Tour 11/17/01

On November 11, 2001, a small group of people, including members of the New Almaden Quicksilver County Park Association and the Friends of Santa Teresa Park, took a tour of Almaden Quicksilver County Park. There were two vans provided by the County Parks Department. Docents from the NAQCPA drove the vans and talked about the park's history and historical sites. 

The tour began in the morning at the New Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum in New Almaden. It was a cloudy day, but luckily no rain was in the forecast. Sunny weather was predicted for later in the day. Here are some pictures from the tour:

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In the Mining Museum, Mike Boulland, president of the Friends of Santa Teresa Park is discussing the whaling pot used for early mercury extraction. The pictures on the museum walls show what life was like in the mines and some of the really huge mining equipment they used.  We got in the vans and drove to the Hacienda entrance to the park, where we gathered to hear an introduction to the park's history. Mike opened the gate to the Mine Hill Trail at the Hacienda Entrance. We drove up the Mine Hill Trail, then turned to go up the steeper English Camp Trail
We stopped partway up the English Camp Trail to look at a concrete circle in the hillside. This is a blocked-off mine adit, or opening. Holes allow air to circulate.  Here is our group stopped along the English Camp Trail. Kitty Monahan, in the blue sweatshirt, drove the white van and helped narrate the tour. We drove further up the trail, then turned left at an unmarked junction. Up on the hill behind us was an old tin shack that was used as a tool shed. Rocks excavated from the nearby mines formed huge piles on the ground.
Kids love rocks, so they were fascinated. There were all kinds of colorful rocks here. We were looking out for cinnabar, but we didn't find any.  We took a narrow footpath through the bushes and came to the unmarked sealed opening of the Cora Blanca Mine. The holes in the grate allow air to circulate and bats to enter and exit. Passing by English Camp, we headed up the Castillero Trail on the upper slopes of Mine Hill. Clouds were just skimming the tops of the hills. We got out and looked down. The clouds partially blocked our view, but we could look down and see the site of the Yellow Kid Tunnel. Below us, out of sight, was the entrance to the Main Mine.

After we crested the Castillero Trail, we could see the west side of the park, including the Guadalupe Creek watershed, Jacques Ridge, and the Sierra Azuls. We dropped down the hill and stopped at the Mine Hill Rotary Furnace. The old furnace is dangerous and is fenced off. Normally, you can only see it from outside the fence. We were allowed to go inside the fence and get closer to the furnace, but not too close. The furnace could process 50 tons of ore at a time, but normally handled 35 tons. It was in operation until mining ceased in 1976.

 Here we are, heading towards the furnace. We stayed safely behind a wooden fence and listened to an explanation of how the furnace worked. 
Cinnabar ore was dumped into the top of the building, which held an ore crusher. 
This is the top end of the rotary tube. Crushed ore was heated in the slowly spinning tube, evaporating the mercury. 
This is the bottom end of the rotary tube. The tube used to be covered by a sheet metal building, but the walls were pulled down by vandals.
 This is a closeup of the ends of the condensing towers. At the bottom of the tubes are funnels where the condensed mercury vapors were collected. There's some old equipment here. In the back, along the hillside are the collapsed remains of a wooden tower.  Behind us is one of the service buildings.  This is a small retort, buried in the ground. 

After leaving the rotary furnace area, we headed north along the Castillero Trail. We joined the Mine Hill Trail at Bull Run, then turned right onto it. We stopped to explore the San Cristobal Mine. After that, we drove down the April Trail past the Powder House and the April Trestle. We came up and returned to English Camp, where we had a picnic lunch. About then, the sun came up. We explored the buildings before returning home.

Here is our group about to enter the San Cristobal Mine tunnel.  This is a view looking down into the tunnel. After a short distance, a gate blocks further travel.  The gates has gaps at the top to see through and to let bats come and go. Using flashlights, we could see way down the tunnel. Outside the tunnel is a granite block. The miners used it for drilling contests.
Here we are at English Camp, preparing for our picnic lunch As we were eating lunch, the clouds started to clear, and the sun came out. We had a good lunch of sandwiches, fruit, chips, and drinks, provided by the NAQCPA. We got some blue sky. On the Church Hill behind us are some old mine office buildings.
Here's our group heading down the Castillero Trail near the old schoolhouse site This is the mine map building, which is in better shape than most of the other buildings in the park. Here we are looking at the old wooden garage building at English Camp. We looked at the big old sheet metal garage building.

After this, we headed back down the Mine Hill Trail to the park entrance. 

Created 11/22/2001 by Ronald Horii