A few weeks ago, I hiked at Almaden Quicksilver County Park which is nestled in San Jose’s rolling hills. During my visit, I not only enjoyed stunning views of the Sierra Azul and Diablo Mountain ranges but I also learned a lot about the history of the area.
I started on Mine Hill Trail, a relatively wide trail that leads up the ridge. Immediately, to my left, I saw an entrance placard introducing the park’s history and its significance not only to Gold rush miners but also to the Ohlone Indians—historically, they used cinnabar, a form of mercury, as a decorative pigment and as a trade item. Although, at first, I viewed the red ore on the sides of the hill simply as rock, as I learned more about its history, I began to appreciate its value, and I could almost see the miners sifting through the ore and the Indians bartering for animals. As I progressed on Mine Hill Trail, I saw the Reduction Works to my left, a massive yard that holds many mining artifacts, including a large pump that juts out. Initially, I wasn’t sure what the pump was for, so I took a quick detour to Deep Gulich Trail, and I learned that the pump was used to carry water out of the mines. It was interesting to look around the old structures and absorb what it must have felt to be a miner back then. As I finished my tour of the Reduction Works, I hiked back on Mine Hill Trail and passed by the old tramway, which was used to transport ore down from the mountain. Even though the cart itself is now long gone, the rocky hillside is still there—along with its essence. As I stood in front of the hillside, I felt more like a part of history rather than a bystander, and I wanted to learn more about the tramway.
In school, we often view history as a thing of the past—a thing so static that nothing can be done to change it—and we sometimes lose sight of the connection between the past and the present. Thus, history can seem dry and insignificant. However, by learning through the senses, history comes alive, and what happened in the past holds more meaning in the present.