So, my dad and my son and I went to the New Almaden Quicksilver Mine that overlooks Silicon Valley.
You might not realize that one of the world's most important Mercury mines is here in Silicon Valley. It's where our local newspaper (San Jose Mercury News) got its name.
Today it's a stunningly beautiful place for an afternoon walk.
After our walk, to one of the mine shaft entrances (all of which have been capped), we visited the local museum.
We learned that more than $75 million in mercury was pulled out of the hills and that the mine ran from the mid-1800's to the mid-1970's.
Miners (most of whom were hispanic) spent 10-hour shifts working in the 50-miles of tunnels (all of which were hand dug). The deepest shafts were about 2000 feet underground.
My life has been easy compared to those who work in mines. I can't imagine drilling for 10 hours a day in a small, cramped, space. Not to mention that cinnabar dust would almost certainly give you mercury poisoning after a few years (the museum has some ore where you can see the mercury literally leaching out of the rock).
This mine played a major part in the gold mining in California as well. Mercury is used to separate gold from quartz ore.
Anyway, if you're looking for a nice place to learn something about California's history as well as get a nice walk in away from the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley, I highly recommend checking out the New Almaden Silver Mine.