Sunday, May 17, 2009

Vacation Mind

This morning, the family piled into the car, turned up the tunes, and drove up to nearby Mount Palomar. I've lived here for twenty-five years, with this amazing place almost in my backyard, and I've never been there before. The observatory is at about 5,000 feet, in a mixed forest of oaks and spruce. The dome is quite a sight.

Right outside the building, the forest falls back from a small field studded with little, fine-leaved ferns. I don't know what kind they are (Julia?), but I think they must be fairly rare. There are signs all over the grounds, and in the nearby State Park, warning visitors not to pick them.

The ferns are home to all kinds of local critters. We saw lots and lots of ladybugs, for instance.

This grasshopper was the only one we saw, but there must be more. When (s)he posed so nicely on the little piece of wood, I had to take it's picture. Gotta love that Macro mode.

But my favorite thing about these ferns is their "understory." "Understory" is a bit of a grand word for a plant less than two feet high.  But the deep dark beneath these densely snuggled plants looks like primeval forest, full of miniature mystery.

After walking the grounds for a while, we took a quick peak inside the observatory. The telescope itself it huge. The main mirror is 200 inches across. For eighty years, it was the largest telescope in the world. It's still in active use, with astronomers at the cameras on every clear night. It's quite a piece of engineering. We missed the guided tour, but happened to be sharing the gallery with a visiting astronomer from somewhere near Los Angeles, who had worked at Mt Palomar in the past and was a font of information.

We were up on the mountain to celebrate the birthday of my mother-in-law. After the observatory, we pulled up a picnic bench and dug into the cupcakes we'd brought. We had a really nice day, then headed home. A little way down the mountain, my wife suddenly exclaimed, "Hey, we're listening to the wrong music!" A quick CD change later, and Sheryl Crow was singing us down the winding road through the forest. Last year about this time, Sheryl Crow was the soundtrack to our trek through the redwoods in Northern California. One song into the album, with my family in the car and the road sidling back and forth, and Vacation Mind was in full effect.

Food log:

Breakfast: pancake with strawberry jam and ground flax seeds, cherries, and a glass of milk.

Lunch: half a peanut-butter and honey sandwich on whole grain bread, blueberries, strawberries

Dinner: Home Town Buffet...yuck! Salad, bites of several dishes that were terrible, apple crumble with vanilla frozen yogurt, two pieces of fudge.

Snack: cupcake, and a few crackers


  1. I dont know what fern that is in your area. I would have to look it up and see if it is different from Nor Cal. But maybe they are just trying to keep people from picking everything. Soemtimes people just denude areas of all nice plants!

  2. Could be, I suppose. They _are_ really pretty.