(Penitencia Creek Trail- Switchback Trail- Penitencia Creek)
Once again, I am overcome with admiration for little Alum Rock Park. This park is a gem of San Jose, and I heartily recommend running its few but worthy trails.
I started again outside of the park entrance, so I did not have to pay the parking fees, and then ran along the Penitencia Creek trail. This trail alternates between paved and trail, so if you are trying to save your joints, pay the parking fee and cut off 2 miles to get straight to the trails that climb out of the canyon.
As I've said before, Penitencia Creek trail (and indeed, Alum Rock Park in general) puts me in mind of Sycamore Canyon in Santa Barbara. Running along next to the creek, shaded by oaks and sycamores feels like being back home again.
This time, I went farther along the trail until I reached the Mineral Springs Grotto. The history lesson from the posted sign informed me that there used to be bath houses on the site, and that from 1892 to 1902, the springs were touted as having "beneficial health qualities" by medical doctors, and many people came to rid themselves of "kidney and stomach troubles, rheumatism and malarial afflictions." All that is left today are some grottos, but it put me in mind of Alvarado Park near my house, which used to have a dance hall and a roller rink-- at a very similar time in history.
From the Mineral Springs Grotto, I took the Switchback trail up toward the South Rim trail, but since a) I hadn't looked at a map, and realized I could keep running and eventually make a loop back to the parking lot and b) I didn't think I had enough time to run all the way up and back, I stopped and came back. However, the Switchback trail up to the South Rim trail is tough enough that a real workout can be had and also full of amazing views as you climb up the side of the canyon, finally getting a view of San Jose and the Bay beyond.
I most definitely want to explore other trails next time-- but once again, Alum Rock Park surprised me with its beauty and accessibility.
Unfortunately, no dogs are allowed at Alum Rock Park--on leash or off...