Birthday Hike with Wife and Madonna

So, turns out the US was nice enough to have a holiday for Mrs M’s birthday this year, and she decided what better way to start the day than an nice gentle hike. Unfortunately actual Madonna was busy, so instead we chose to hike at Mt Madonna. We have been to Mt Madonna before, which mostly involved hiking in the clouds, so this time was quite different. Thankfully the trails are mostly sheltered under the canopies of the <insert correct tree type here, I’m not sure exactly what they are but they are big> trees, and with it being another scorcher of a day here in the Bay, it was a little cooler up in the mountains, and a perfect day for a hike. We set off early and collected our fearless leader D’Ivy [Dog Ivy, as opposed to our human friend of the same name, H’Ivy]. After a windy (that’s winding roads, not a blustery gale) drive up Pole Line Road from Hecker Pass Hwy, we reached the main entrance. Expect to pay $6 to the friendly Park Ranger Person, and then be on your way. We parked by the Amphitheater and made sure to start our various FitBits, watches and phones to record our progress.


Setting off along the Upper Miller Trail, we joined Blue Springs Trail and continued to descend (much to Steph’s delight) to meet Pole Line Road. More shady downhill sections followed as we took BlackHawk trail along the creek (which, unlike its name suggests does not contain any actual water). BlackHawk Trail is only partially open, as landslide activity has permanently closed a large section of the trail after the junction with Contour Trail. This diversion means taking Contour Trail towards Ridge Trail, where there are options for a long loop (continuing to Sprig Recreation Area and the start of the Merry-Go-Round Trail), or a shorter alternative via Tie Camp Trail.


Opting for the shorter route, as things were hotting up and we didn’t fancy the full extent of the climb back from 560ft, we continued our Hike along Tie Camp Trail,  starting at around 1000ft and winding its way slowing back along the ridge under the trees to intersect Merry-Go-Round at around 1400ft. Here the climb becomes a little more exposed… IMG_2192

After a half mile, we took Loop Trail heading south until it meets the cut-off, which was our only option at this point as the main Loop Trail was closed. After a short but fairly steep climb up Loop Trail Cut-Off, we reached Lower Miller Trail, and soon after the car park was visible again. Clocking just about 5 miles, and nearly 1000ft descent/ascent, we totally deserved a Stack’s brunch, so we set off back down the mountain and headed to Campbell to continue Wife’s birthday celebrations.


Lindsay’s Notes: I would recommend doing this hike backwards, particularly on a warm day, as the later portion of the hike is much more exposed, so better to do this going downhill than to have sunshine and incline, and then the uphill hike will be nice and shady 🙂

Old Haul Road Trail from Wurr Road to Portola Redwoods State Park

For Andrew’s birthday this year, I bought him a book on mountain biking in the Bay Area, along with the promise that I would come out for a ride at least once.

(I generally have a fear of proper mountain biking, I don’t feel like I have the skill or balance or coordination on two wheels that I have on my two feet!)

This ride came from that book, and seemed like a good starter ride for those none too confident in their bike riding skills (like myself).

The ride took us along the Old Haul Road trail from Wurr Road right into Portola Redwoods State Park.

The parking lot on Wurr Road

The view from the parking lot on Wurr Road

You can get the park brochure here. You follow Old Haul Road right to the SP boundary, where a signpost directs you into the park.

Portola Redwoods State Park

The book quotes the ride as being 12 miles, but as you can see below, Endomondo disagrees a little.

15.06.21 Endomondo Data

As you ride into the park down a steep bit of trail, you come across the remains of the Iverson Cabin. It had stood from the 1860s until Loma Prieta finished it off in 1989.

Iveson Cabin

The sign reads:

“At this site stood the cabin of Christian Iverson, the first european settler of record. Built in the 1860’s, the cabin was constructed of hand split redwood and had two rooms. It stood until the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989.

Iverson made his living in this area splitting redwood shakes, working for local farmers, doing road work, and other odd jobs. Iverson had an eventful past working as a pony express rider and as a stage coach shotgun guard.

The famous of these events was a shoot out with Captain Harry Love in the streets of Santa Clara. Captain Love was the former head of the California Rangers, who were responsible for the capture of the famous outlaw Joaquin Murrietta. At the time of the shootout, Iverson was working as a bodyguard and foreman for Mrs Love, much to the displeasure of her husband. Harry Love attempted to ambush and kill Iverson, but in the ensuing gun fight Iverson received only minor wounds. However, in the exchange of gunfire Iverson shot Harry Love who died from his injuries. Mrs Love died later of gunshot wounds she received during the fight.”

Hmmmmm…. perhaps he wasn’t a particularly good bodyguard. But I do love it when there are random historical artifacts and structures along the way 🙂

There is a visitor center in the park, along with restrooms and water, but the restrooms we went to beside the visitor center are closed to conserve water, so just behind the visitor center, there are instead portable toilets.


I recommend you take some wipes or sanitizer for your hands!

The trail is pretty smooth as is a road used by park trucks, and previously used to haul logs out of the woods in bygone days. It is also nice and shaded, which keeps things nice and cool.

Tree face

Overall it was a nice intro for me….. but I am still scared of going down hills!

Happy Birthday Andrew!

Andrew + Trees

Note: you can also hike the exact same route, and there are some extra trails off the main trail that are closed to bikers, but open to hikers. Also, if any bikers fancy it, you can lock up your bikes at the visitor center and take a short hike to see some mighty big trees!

Almaden Quicksilver County Park: Hacienda Entrance

Almaden Quicksilver County Park is pretty much our favourite park to hike. The facilities are great, the trails are varied, it is pretty close, and the parking is easy and free. It also has lots of old mining buildings, structures, and equipment dotted around the park, which I find pretty interesting to look at.

Almaden Old Structures

The park is mainly dry and crispy right now, but the occasional area is green and covered in trees.

Tree Lined Trails

Also there are still some beautiful wildflowers around:

Almaden Wildflowers

You can find the complete trail map for the park on the website here.

We had Andrew’s parents visiting from the UK, so wanted to keep the hike reasonably short and not too strenuous.

Trail Map

We parked at and entered through the Hacienda entrance and followed:

Mine Hill Trail – English Camp Trail – English Camp – Yellow Kid Trail – Yellow Kid Trail (past the Rotary Furnace) – Wood Road Trail – Castillero Trail – English Camp Trail – Deep Gulch Trail.

Here is the route as tracked using Endomondo:

2015.06.13 Endomondo Data

2015.06.13 Endomondo Speed and Height Data

Some of the trails are strictly hiking trails, and a little overgrown with vegetation, such as the Yellow Kid Trail as pictured below:

Yellow Kid Trail

But all the yellow flowers are pretty, so I can’t be that sad about it.

The route was partly shaded, but mostly exposed, so we were glad we went earlier in the day when it wasn’t as warm. Even so we ended up feeling pretty hot and sweaty by the end of the hike.


One added bonus was that we saw two deer in the trees!


They were kind of photo shy.

We finished off our morning with a quick look around the Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum, then a well earned Brunch 🙂