TITLE: Almaden, Deserted Village of Spanish Days Nestles Dreamily Up Among the Quiet Hills AUTHOR: By PAUL E. SPRINGER,
Of the many lovely springtime resorts hidden in the lower folds of the green-clad Santa Cruz mountains available to motorists, that of Twin Creeks most excels upon the point of ancient setting and prominence in the historical weave of the Golden state's early history.
The creeks come swiftly down from the steep mountain flanks that run up to lofty Loma Prieta (Spanish for narrow, black mountain), and where they are joined and leave the shadowing ledges to enter the valley's level floor, their liquid music lulled to undertone the hum of myriad bees, there is forlorn, grass- grown and soon to be forgotten, the state's first quicksilver mine, the New Almaden.
Approach to the sleepy village by the old mine gates is over a country lane, dusty and winding, shaded by trees that have overgrown the road far aloft. At the left, and with back yards that run down to the creek, are numbers of tiny homes, some of them adobe and obviously bearing the weight of years, where formerly the Mexican laborers had their simple domiciles. Some of these early style dwellings have been modernized, but they strive to retain their air of long ago by Spanish names above the doorways.
Chimneys Like Solitary Sentinels Stand
Only when the bridge is crossed, passing the narrow, sun-scorched hotel building, so familiar to travelers in the eighties, does the full force of the abandonment strike the eye. The wide area of the old mill yard is spread with piles of the strange, red ore that yields the precious mercury. Its surface is riven by cuts and pits where the mine buildings once stood, a desolate expanse. Old wooden chutes down the mountainside are like whitened bones amid the underbrush. Yawning black holes among the green bushes tell of former mine entrances. And tall, red chimneys still stand over the mountainside like far-spaced, solitary sentinels.
Above the mine the hills close in until the creeks run in mere crevices and the narrow mountain road clings along the edge, winding from point to point. Each little widened spot has its group of picnickers, grouped by the automobiles. Blankets laid upon the ground in the filmy shade of the trees give rest and ease to the elders; the children, cheerfully voiced and bare of limb, disport upon the rocks in the stream or somewhat shrinkingly invade the cold, swift-running water.
This is the spring time and the fishing laws only just suspended. Each deep pool has its fisherman, clad in most proper sporting style-khaki, hip rubber boots - equipped with the best of tackle. A hundred of them must have been, upon that stream, just as thick or thicker than the no trespass signs that hung above the course, for this is California, a youthful place and still reluctant to believe its angling must be curtailed by private ownership. In all that angler array I saw but a single fish, for already the first-day enthusiasts had skimmed the cream.
The approach to this place along the New Almaden road puts before one's gaze the sharply beautiful outline of Loma Prieta and the narrow mountain ridge from which it is sprung. The view is one strange to coastside people. The height is nearer and the view from the side that is most precipitous. Indeed, the drop from that old volcanic lip seems almost vertical, and yet a green vegetation has foothold and climbs; even trees are outlined upon the deep blue of the heavens where the lofty mountain ridge becomes a horizon. When this old cone, that has still on its summit cinders like on Lassen, was pouring out the molten flood that made the curious formations upon the plain by Gilroy, and mineralized for New Almaden, what a magnificent panorama must have flashed before the wondering eyes of long-forgotten Indian tribes.
The Wild Defeated Them
Only brush and low-growing trees cover these mountain sides where forests should be growing. Wild flowers are in profusion upon the sunny spaces where forest fires have raged, and in those slowly vanishing, melancholy spots where long ago hopeful tillers of the soil made clearings, founded homes and struggled on to defeat from the wild. These flowers have earnest friends in San Jose, who earnestly try to protect them, especially the brodea, the mission bell, the harebell, the columbine and most precious of' them all, the Mariposa lily, that ethereal loveliness which moved the Spaniards to call it butterfly. I hope these kindly people will soon include among its proteges the trees, first of all the kingly redwood, but not forgetting the pines.
Alas, our California forests and our brushy hills stand in a silence like that of death. Walking alone under the leafy ceiling, threading the canyons, no sound is heard. The huntsmen have exterminated the cheerful quail-stilled his clear, far-carrying voice. Of all the feathered tribe none is there to give one cheerful welcome to the woods save an occasional flicker, now only an infrequent visitor with his lively hammer and his one bell-like note.
|Cataloged by||Boudreault, Art|