Monday, March 17, 2014

Mt Hamilton

My latest trip took me to Mt Hamilton in Santa Clara which overlooks the Silicon Valley. On top of the mountain stands the Lick Observatory.

The Lick Observatory

We were a group of 7 who met at a Subway parking lot in San Jose. Packing a sandwich for lunch, we headed on our way. Driving along Highway 130, our first stop was the Grant Lake. To stretch our legs & to get a better view of the lake, we walked along the small trail for about a 100 meters which was a pleasant walk. I hear there is a much longer trail with an elevation of over a 1000 feet which gives a very nice view of the lake but we did not go on that trail.

The Grant lake

Continuing on Mt Hamilton road which is a 19 mile windy road we saw many bikers and motorcyclists enjoying the drive. It is said that the road has as many as 365 curves! One cannot drive faster that 25mph. The scenery along the way is beautiful. Since we went just at the beginning of spring, there was greenery everywhere. The road is usually closed when it snows at the top.

View from the top of Mt Hamilton

After a 45 minute drive, we reached the Lick Observatory-the world's first permanently occupied mountain-top observatory that houses the 36 inch telescope. There is a small museum inside the observatory with various images and a few artifacts. Since I wasn't too keen on it, I just took a quick glance through it. There are washrooms, a gift store and a nice open air space picnic area where we ate our lunch.

Picnic area behind the Lick Observatory
36 inch telescope at the Lick Observatory

One of our group members who is very familiar with the area gave us interesting historical information about the place. Back in the day, when the observatory was being built, horse and mule driven carriages were used to carry stones from the bottom of the hill to the top. In order for the animals to be able to walk the steep hill, the roads had have a low steep grade. Hence the windy and sinuous road. He also pointed out  an area near the Grant lake which had the brick kiln for the observatory. Another story he shared was of the plane that crashed into the main building of the observatory during 1939. Luckily there was no fire or damage to the telescope and the staff was not in the building as they were attending a conference elsewhere.

I loved this spontaneous trip with a group of lovely people.