Place: Alum Rock Park, San Jose, California
Coordinates: 37.396132, -121.801633
Length: About 3.5 miles
Considering how old is this park (the oldest municipal park in California) it is surprising how long it took me to find it. I knew it was there because I saw the signs every time I drove down I-680 past that area, but I never took the time to check it out before. Not until last winter when I was looking for new trails for our 4-H Hiking Project. And from the first few steps on the park's trails I was completely taken by it.
It was May already when I finally got to lead our 4H Hiking Project on the trail I checked last February. The masonry still looked the same, but everything else changed with the season. Most of the photos here were taken during the May hike (some by Pappa Quail and the elder chika) but a few are from the February hike.
Alum Rock Park has a rich history of human indulgence. Once discovered, the Pentensia Creek mineral springs became a hot sensation among spa seekers, attracting visitors from all around.
|Penitensia Creek, the mineral springs area. May 11, 2019|
|Mineral spring grotto, May 11|
|Mineral spring grotto, February 26|
|Black-headed Grosbeak, May 11|
|Black-headed Grosbeak, male, May 11|
At its prime, Alum Rock Park had a Natatorium with an indoor pool, a zoo, a carousel, and many other attractions. A railroad connected the park to downtown San Jose and thousands of people visited it every year. Much of the masonry from those days is still present, rendering the area a look of a reconstructed archeological site.
Across the bridge there is a narrow trail following the north bank of the creek back to the road and the parking lot area. We crossed and continued west along that trail.
|Mineral spring pool, February 26, 2019|
|Mosquito larvae at the sitting pool, May 11.|
|Checkerspot, May 11|
|Pale Swallowtail, May 11|
|Mourning Dove, May 11|
|Wind Poppy, Papaver, heterophyllum, May 11|
The surrounding hills looked like an image taken from The Sound of Music. All that was missing was Julie Andrews dancing on the ridge.
|Creek Clematis, Clematis ligusticifolia, May 11|
|Lazuli Bunting, May 11|
|Red-tailed Hawk, May 11|
|Buckeye, Aesculus californica, May 11|
|Coastal Bush Lupine, Lupinus arboreus, May 11|
|Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum, May 11|
|'Alum' Rock, May 11|
After nearly a mile of a pleasant walk westward on the North Rim Trail we took the turn south to go back down to Penitensia Creek. The trail drops sharply right to the access road and crosses the creek on the old railroad bridge.
At its prime, thousands of people would visit Alum Rock Park each year. In time the facilities could not be upkept anymore and the city scaled back on maintenance. One by one the recreation facilities closed and dismantled and the park was put on the long and continuous path of nature restoration.
After crossing the creek we turned left and followed Penitensia Creek on the nicely shaded South Rim Trail close to the running water.
On my February solo hike there were only a few wildflowers blooming along that trail. Of those in bloom the most common was the milkmaids.
|Milk maids, Cardamon californica, February 26|
|Common Gumplant, Grindelia camporum, May 11|
|Onion, Allium sp. May 11|
|Chinese Houses, Collinsia heterophylla, May 11|
|Fairylantern, Calochortus albus, May 11|
|Tree Swallow, May 11|
|House Wren, May 11|
|Cobweb covered in willow seeds, May 11|