A two-hour-plus hike up to the rim of a canyon west of San Jose. Here’s the basics, from the park brochure:
From 1890 to 1932 the park was a nationally known health spa with 27 mineral springs containing seven different minerals.
The springs are enclosed by these elaborate stone archways.
Inside, the water burbles out through the cliff wall. This one had the smell of sulfur (which is to say, rotten eggs) and we wondered how it was that people once thought bathing in this stuff was healthy, let alone non-lethal.
The springs are also variously “flavored” with iron, magnesium and CO2 (natural soda water).
For a quarter, you could ride from downtown San Jose to the park on the Alum Rock Steam Railroad. The park charmed its visitors with mineral baths, an indoor swimming pool, a tea garden, restaurant and dance pavilion.
No visible traces remain of the indoor pool or other facilities, except for these mineral baths. You took the steps down about 12 feet below ground level.
There are about 13 miles of trails, ranging from a relatively flat one along the Penitencia Creek touring the springs, to challenging ones that take you up to the rim of the surrounding canyon.
Here’s C. on one of the original stone bridges that cross the Creek.
These were on the hillside and in garden plots near the visitors’ center. Lycoris squamigera or the “Surprise Lily.” Very beautiful and unusual.
The South Rim Trail
From outside the park you get a good sense of how high these mountians are. While they’re not the Sierras or anything, they’re significantly more imposing than anything back in New Jersey.
The trail took us up about 600 feet over the canyon floor via a series of sharp switchbacks.
Starting from the bottom, we’re in nicely shaded woods for a while. All the way up the fragrances of the eucalyptus trees and sagebrush was exotic (remember, we’re from New Jersey here) and refreshing.
Further along, the trail runs right along the edge of a steep cliff.
Not for the fearful of heights. I didn’t mind standing at this spot myself, but after a few seconds of seeing C. stand there I asked her to come away a little.
Far below, center and just a bit to the right, you can see the stone footbridge pictured above.
We thought this trail was going to take us to a promontory we’d been looking at the whole time, but it stopped short. Nevertheless, the view across Silicon Valley to the distant Santa Cruz Mountains was impressive.