Jacques Ridge
Mine Hill

Fri, Aug 26, 2016

With: Steve Sywyk
Tom McClaughry

Etymology
Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile
Mine Hill previously climbed Fri, Apr 24, 2009

My pal Steve works four days a week and looks forward to getting outside on his Fridays off, his preferred form of recreation involving a modest hike in the local hills accompanied by a picnic lunch on which we eat cheese, fruit and other snacks while consuming a bit of wine. He had started this ritual with another pal, Tom, and they had settled on a bottle of wine to share between the two. When they began inviting me, it was required to recalibrate the appropriate amount of wine for three to share. Clearly, a single bottle wasn't enough. We started with two bottles and after a few weeks began to wonder if that was really enough. After all, Tom is irish and the irish really have no limits, we were told. So the next week Steve brought three bottles, and unbeknownst to the others I had a fourth stashed away in my backpack. Long story short, all four bottles were consumed, and as is customary, all before enjoying the picnic lunch (to maximize the effect, the irishman instructed). This had the result of sending Steve and I to the ground, myself puking my portion of the picnic lunch in the process, and more than an hour of dizzying nausea that kept me from getting up from the dirt I lay in. Tom, having consumed as much or more than Steve and I, calmly stood over us, shading the blazing sun from my face, while texting, sending emails and otherwise behaving as any irishman would who'd had a bit of the vine and found himself disappointed with his weak companions. Turns out two bottles was the right number.

Today we headed to Almaden-Quicksilver park in South San Jose to tag a most minor summit, Jacques Ridge. ListsOfJohn had sometime in the past year or so added features with names ending in "Ridge" to its database. Many of these are of exceedingly low prominence and not worth the effort, but I had dutifully copied them all to my own database and now had more places to visit close to home. From the trailhead off Hicks Road, Jacques Ridge highpoint is a mere half mile away. We had hardly started our hike when I announced I needed to "wander off into the brush, looks like there's some poison oak here." Tom smartly declined to join the off-trail bit, Steve coming along when he concluded the poison oak didn't look abundant. We found the top amidst a clump of oak trees holding the earth together here, no views at all. Steve thought the shady summit area might make for a nice picnic spot but I suggested we could probably do a lot better.

To get a bit more exercise we continued on the trail ENE towards Mine Hill. Steve and I had visited this highpoint of the park seven years earlier, but neither of us could remember any of the details. SE of the highpoint is located the rusting remains of the rotary furnace that once powered one of the largest mercury mines in the world. Otherwise harmless cinnabar ore was crushed and heated to vaporize the mercury it contained which was then distilled and collected. Working in these furnaces were some of the most dangerous jobs one could take and typically one did not last long before succumbing to lung injury from inhaling the vapors. Fortunately for the mine companies, there was no shortage of uneducated workers willing to step into these high-paying jobs. The highpoint lies above the fenced-off area, one side of which has been quarried. Several use trails can be found leading to the summit. A collection of rocks formed into a semicircle marks the highpoint with decent views overlooking the southern Santa Clara Valley. It was a little too warm and exposed here to enjoy our lunch, so we returned to the furnace site and walked another 1/3mi SE along a trail before finding some nice rocks under some shady oaks that would do nicely. The two bottles were consumed along with our picnic lunch, all courtesy of Tom this trip. An hour later we were back at the car, having covered under 5mi in about 3.5hrs, a rather leisurely way to spend an afternoon...


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