Wednesday, September 22, 2010

CA-130 - a breathtaking drive

I have always found it captivating to climb up to an elevation and gaze at the city or city lights or expansive countryside at my feet. Perhaps it is because of Amar Chitra Katha stories I read as a child where kings had outposts atop hills to watch for the approaching enemy or it may be because of my frequent trips to Moti Dongor (a hill in my hometown named after the 'Moti' [jasmine] flower that grew there aplenty in yesteryears) from where one got a view of the entire city. As a teenager, a few of us friends would cycle up to the top of the hill and perch ourselves atop a boulder on the eastern side of the hill to take in the unhindered view of the town at our feet and the open countryside beyond it.

On Sunday evening last week, my wife had to attend to some chores. Not having to multi-task to satiate our toddler son's ever-growing inquisitiveness would have been a great help, so I decided to take him and do something that I would love doing but my wife wouldn't quite enjoy - drive up to Mt. Hamilton.

A picture of the observatory
as shown on their website
 At 4,300+ feet above sea-level (about 3 times as tall as the Empire State Building in NY, but half as high as the Western Ghats in India) Mt. Hamilton is the tallest peak among the hills that surround Silicon Valley and is home to the Lick Mill Observatory (a mountain-top observatory that provides state-of-the-art research facilities and includes a very powerful telescope).

One has to get on to CA-130 from Alum Rock to get to Mt. Hamilton. The 30+ miles from my house takes a little about an hour (took even more for me since I was enamored by the view and often stopped to take pictures) and is filled with breathtaking views of the city and countryside.

The road itself is a narrow two-lane road (one lane in each direction) and  in many places (like the picture above) treacherously borders some precipices that made even me sit on the edge of my seat at times.

As I climbed higher, the scenery got more breathtaking. Here are a few pictures that captures a fraction of what I saw and experienced:

If you look closely at the picture above, you will see a house in the distance. The picture below is a close-up of that house.

Since I had left late, the light started fading even before I had begun the ascent to Mt. Hamilton.

But that diminished neither the beauty of the drive nor my enthusiasm - though there was a tinge of regret that I hadn't left an hour earlier. But I now have an excuse to drive up there again.

By the time I started approaching the Observatory, it was around 7PM and an eerie fog was beginning to creep in. Had the road not been so totally deserted, it might not have seemed as eerie...

Finally, 3 miles before the observatory - and perhaps just under 4,300 feet above sea-level - the fog got pretty thick and visibility reduced. With an energetic toddler in the back-seat - whose patience had surprisingly and mercifully held up till then (and thankfully, stayed put till I got back home! Thank God!) - there was no way I driving any further.

At this point, I turned back. The picture below that completely blanks out the view of the countryside far below should give you an idea of how thick the fog was.

A few 100 feet below, the air was still clear and I got an excellent view of a rather pretty sunset.

And lo & behold! Civilization at last!

Until next time. Which I hope will be soon.


No comments: