Saturday, January 02, 2010

1/2/10 Lick Observatory

I wanted to take the kids on a real outing today, but a nasty head cold dampened my enthusiasm for the first idea we'd kicked around: Gilroy Gardens (formerly known as Bonfante Gardens).

Besides, I'd actually have to get out of bed before 10 to make that happen and worthwhile. Not to mention some advance planning and finding discount tickets. One full-price ticket for ages 7-64 is over $40!

Plan B was the Lick Observatory, on the top of Mount Hamilton. I've been up Mount Hamilton road many, many times on my motorcycle, as it's a popular "quick fix" if you need a morning of twisty riding. (I used to challenge myself to ride all the way down without using my brakes, and mostly succeeded, riding more safely and smoothly than when I was grabbing them at every turn.) Mount Hamilton road is a fabulously tight and twisty road, and if you're able to stop and look, with fantastic views. There's a reason they put a telescope on top of it, after all.

Not unlike our recent trip across the Golden Gate Bridge, the weather threatened again to foil our plans. As we approached Quimby Road, the fog was so low and dense it appeared we'd just be driving into total soup and wouldn't be able to see anything. I mused at how the one other time I've driven up Mount Hamilton in a car, with my mother some years ago, it was also so fogged in we couldn't see a thing.

But we got lucky -- we drove up, down, and then out of the fog. It hadn't made its way over the foothills yet, and we were faster. This made for a real visual treat, seeing the fog slowly flow across the foothills.

The kids loved the drive, as usual. In general, we've found that the tighter, twistier, trashier and less paved the road, the more into it they are. Mount Hamilton road never disappoints. (You can sort of see the road in the distance in this photo.)

Katrina was asleep when we arrived, so the boys and I poked around the beautiful views of the clouds below us from the observatory's parking lot.

We went inside the observatory building, and caught a tour of the 122-year-old 36-in telescope, the first one up there. The old photos around the building showing the road and how they hauled the equipment up the steep road by horse are amazing.

Not surprisingly, Julian was the most riveted by the short talk, and though the guy was talking pretty fast, Julian caught that there's yet another much larger telescope in another building.

Katrina loved the photos of the moon and planets.

Mount Hamilton actually has a small community, even with a school. Its tiny post office is in this building.

We got into the car and started driving back down, but Julian was frantic about visiting the other, larger telescope, in another building a short walk away. So we turned around, parked, and went to the Shane telescope, taking in more beautiful views along the way.

An impressive dome, but a unimpressive inside overall. Inside, there was a glass gallery that let us see into the more modern and much bigger telescope, but it was dark and obviously set up for real scientfic observations, not tourists. Still interesting though.

The walk back down was unbearably adorable -- Katrina insisted on holding Gabriel's hand, and he gladly complied. It doesn't get much more heartwarming than this, they were so cute together.

(Meantime, Julian was working on moving a rock onto the roadway...great.)

We drove back down into the clouds, went through some very very low-visibility fog, then just regular old clouds. I was happy to get home and be reunited with my Sudafed.

We don't get a lot of overcast days in the Bay Area, it's ironic that we picked one to rise above it.


(Note that I also wrote about our weather-challenged outing across the
Golden Gate Bridge, but posted it to 12/31/09, the day we did it.)

1 comment:

Louise said...

So glad you were able to get above the fog! Great shots down the mountain. I miss riding that road. When do the kids get to ride on the back of your bikes?