The Eighth Annual BAOC Golden Goat

An Orienteering Adventure Race

November 23, 2003

Almaden-Quicksilver County Park, San Jose

Course Setters Notes


Welcome to the 2003 Golden Goat at Almaden Quicksilver! From Santa Clara County:

"Almaden Quicksilver County Park once was one of the largest mercury mines in the United States with an on-site population of nearly 4,000 residents. Mining operations ceased in 1976. ... The Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation Department purchased most of the former mines in two separate purchases, in 1973 and 1975. In 1993, the Department acquired the Jacques Ridge property, adding another 372 acres to the park for a total of 3,984 acres."

Almaden Quicksilver

The park has a unique character. The hillsides are steep and bear abundant evidence of mining operations. Several areas have numerous large cliffs and boulders. The views from Capitancillos Ridge are stunning; barring fog or an early DNF, you'll be treated to vistas of all of San José and most of the Valley, Sierra Azul and Mt. Umunhum (the one with the large box), Loma Prieta (the one with many antennas), Mt. Hamilton (the one with the telescopes) and the Diablo Range in the distance, and the Guadalupe and Almaden reservoirs below.

A large portion of the land is open. Some of the open is heavily overgrown with chaparral, poison oak, and thorny stuff. The woods can be best described as  patchy . Most of the race is in the open and in the nice woods of Jacques Ridge.

The weather is likely to be quite cold (upper 30s) in the early morning, warming up to high 40s by the start of the race. If it is a sunny day, by afternoon it could feel really warm in the open. Drink plenty of liquids. You may want to bring your own energy bars or gels (only plain water will be provided, approximately every 1.5 km of straight-line distance).

The Skip, the Fork, and the Window

On the Goat course, there will be a fork. The fork is Control 7. There will be two Control 7's marked on every Goat map, 7A and 7B. You only have to go to one of them. Purple lines will connect 6–7A–8 and 6–7B–8.

On both the Goat and the Kid, there will be a window. The window consists of five controls, labelled A..E, and a purple pentagon "window" enclosing those control circles. The window controls, A..E, do not have purple lines connecting them. These controls can be taken in any order. These controls also have normal codes (such as 170). The regular control numbering (on your map and on the description sheet) stops at the control preceding the window (let's call it X; X is a number, for example 10), and resumes at the control following the window (Control Y = X + 6, for example 16). The first of the window controls must be taken after X, and the last of the window controls must be taken before Y.

You can skip (omit, not go to) any two controls for the Goat, and any one control for the Kid. For the Goat, the two skipped controls can be consecutive, and can include controls that are parts of the fork and the window. For example, the following are all legal Goat skips:

The Goat has 24 controls (1, 2, ..., 6, 7A/B, 8, ..., 24). You should arrive with 22 punches. The Kid has 15 controls; come back with 14 punches. Punch controls into the appropriately numbered box on your card, leaving boxes that correspond to skipped controls empty. Punch the window controls in the order you find them.

The Goat and the Kid are both mass-started at the same time. They share a lot of controls. Only one course, the Goat or the Kid, will be on your map, according to the option you chose at registration. This marks a departure from previous runnings of the Goat and the Kid, when the Kid was a shortcut and you didn't have to decide until the end of the Kid loop whether you were in shape enough for the Goat, or would just call it a day after the Kid. The reason for the departure is that the finish is at the very bottom of a large steep hill, with only one reasonable "orienteering" way to get up or down. Running two loops out of the start/finish area would have required reuse of the same terrain and excessive climb, or really long trail runs and excessive climb.

The one-control skip has long been a tradition of The Original Billygoat, held every year in the US Northeast. At some point, the fork was added; some of the latest editions of the Billygoat had the fork and some, didn't. (Of course, the Golden Goat has always had one- or two-control skips). The Rocky Mountain Goat favors skip-twos, although their rules specify non-consecutive skips. The window has been introduced into the mass consciousness by the Susquehanna Valley and Delaware Valley O-clubs as a part of their annual Susquehanna Stumble.

The Goat and the Kid

The Goat is a different race from a "regular" A or B meet course. The difference is not just in the mass-start-and-skip format. For the Goat and the Kid, I tried to create a serious physical challenge with intermediate-to-advanced (mostly intermediate)-level navigation, and with a strategic-planning element not unlike that in a rogaine. The physical challenge presents itself in that you'll climb up Capitancillos Ridge. I wouldn't kid anyone saying that all of the course is runnable. Most of it is, though. There is little of all-fours climb, but rather gradual, protracted, and unrelenting elevation gain on some of the legs. There will be many trail route options at your disposal.

I estimate the winning time for the Goat to be about 105 minutes, and for the Kid, about 90 minutes. The winner is likely to be decided on the following qualities, listed in my perceived order of importance:

  1. Correct skip, fork, and window strategy. A good strategy will not only minimize the length or climb, but will also take into account the vegetation you'd have to contend with, the option of "easy running" on trails, and how difficult the climb would be. I.e. is it faster to get through a certain number of contour lines with head-on climb, and then level running, or with gradual climbing all the way?
  2. Overall running ability and endurance.
  3. Good route choices.
  4. The ability to run up gradual hills.
  5. Fine navigation.

The course parameters are as follows:

Course          Length, km      Climb, m        Controls (before skip)

The Goat        10.00           890             24
The Kid         7.38            610             15
Yellow          2.58            190             10 (no skip)
White           2.05            125             7  (no skip)

How these lengths and climb were calculated: The course was laid out with no skips, the shorter fork (no fork for the Kid), and the optimum (fastest) window. The climb was then calculated along the shortest sensible route. Omitting two controls can save as much as 100 m of climb for the Goat. However, the resulting course may not be the fastest. In the "real" Billygoat, the course statistics are adjusted after the race to reflect the course actually taken by the winner.

The Map and Special Symbols

Quicksilver is not one of BAOC's best maps. It is a busy map, full of contour detail; it took many hours to survey the large, steep area. The survey did not seem to allow much time for depicting the small detail, especially rock and vegetation changes.

The map was made in 2001 and originally used for the 2002 Quicksilver O'Quest A meet. Kent Öhlund and Craig Murray, the course setters, put in uncountable hours just fixing the map around the "corridors" the A meet runners went through. As a result, in some (few) areas you'll find good map accuracy. In other areas the quality is uniformly unremarkable. I fixed all of the areas around the Goat and Kid controls. I did not do any other map corrections. Hence, in the middle of a leg, you may find yourself working with pretty atrocious stuff. A few ground rules apply:

The drafting is accentuated by generous overuse of the "distinct vegetation boundary" symbol. In the terrain, you will generally not find distinct vegetation boundaries that would involve the undergrowth.

Vegetation described with double vertical green lines, "Undergrowth: Walk", is chaparral and thorny vines, and is actually "Undergrowth: Crawl, Curse, and Bleed". More often than not, you can see clear across the stuff, making the experience even more frustrating. The map legend says "Impenetrable" for the dark green. It is correct.

Curious black circles are "Lone trees in the brush". Some of black X's (man-made features) are abandoned mine shafts.

Most of the map imperfections should not affect the outcome of the Goat. With good skips and route choices, you'll stay out of just about all unpleasant vegetation.


This is one of the poison-oakiest parks we use. The stuff is literally everywhere, except for the open fields. Poison oak composes most of the light and medium green on the north-facing slopes, and is mixed with the chaparral in the fields. Tecnu is the standard solution.

Some of the cliffs in the park are enormous. Exercise caution when it seems that ahead of you may be an abrupt break in the ground.

Remnants of mining activity include steep earthbanks and mine shafts. Most of the shafts have been capped by the park. I've heard of one unmapped shaft that hasn't. I haven't seen it.

I saw a rattlesnake right in the middle of one of the preferred routes. Be careful of exposed rock faces, and try to avoid being the third runner in a pack.

The NW part of the park had warnings posted about mountain lions. If you don't go on the course with a small dog, you'll be OK.

Areas marked out of bounds are those of slope restoration, private property, hazmat cleanup, or  unique rock features . These are not marked in the terrain! Please exercise good judgment and stay out of those. Our continued use of the park may hinge on us following the instructions of the park rangers.

Event-Day Logistics

The start is 0.61 km and 85 meters of climb from the finish, all on a trail. The mass start for the Goat and the Kid will be at 10:30 am. Courses close at 2:00 pm, giving you 3:30 to finish the race. If the start is delayed, you'll still have 3:30 to finish your courses. The course closure time will then be announced at the start. Please be back by the course closure time, or a search party will have to be sent out for you, and mountain lions are hungry at night.

White and Yellow courses start at the same place as the Goat and the Kid. The start for these courses opens at 10:30 and closes at 12:30.

There will be restrooms at the finish but not at the start. There will be ample water at the start, the finish, and on the courses.

Public Transit

The finish/parking is reachable by VTA bus 13. There is exactly one bus to get to the park in the morning, and two buses to get back in the afternoon. The bus arrives at the park at 9:28 am. The #13 connects with VTA light rail in the South Bay. You can take a 6:00 am Greyhound bus from San Francisco and connect with VTA light rail in downtown San José; you'll have about an hour layover for a leasurely breakfast. There are no connections that would get you there on time from East Bay or the Peninsula, but there are to get you back.

Private Cars

From CA 85, take Almaden Expressway south for 4.4 miles. Take a right at Almaden Road and follow Almaden Road for 2.9 miles through the town of New Almaden until you get to the park entrance. There are no parking fees.