(2008) Mt Hamilton

Up and Over Mt Hamilton

STN rider Bill was still in town and invited me out on another ride, this time to the Lick Observatory on Mt Hamilton. After our last ride it was hard to say no to new roads and sights. So I agreed to me with him and one other rider (Chick, who’s a guy) and head east this time.

September 26, 2008
Total Miles: 180 miles, give or take
Mountain View, CA to Mt Hamilton Observatory
Map Link

We met at Chick’s house in Los Gatos, a quick 20 minute ride down the highway from me for our short ride into the mountains. Chick tried to lead us on a “back road” only to discover that the road didn’t actually go through. No mind; it was a beautiful day and the detour was pleasant. We took the turnoff from 101 onto 130 and I was instantly reminded of the canyon roads that lead out of the Wenatchee Valley in Washington State. A narrow canyon with a road that clings to one side as it works it’s way up and out of the valley. I stopped for a photo of San Jose behind us, only to drop my bike when the sidestand sunk into the gravel. Oh well. I picked it up quickly, took my pictures and then raced to catch up with Bill and Chick.

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Riding up and away from San Jose

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More canyon riding to come

Near the top of the canyon was a dirt bike park. At first I was pretty excited to see it, as it’s relatively close to me and dirt riding is hard to find in the Bay Area. But then I realized that the trails featured at this park were better suited for small off-road bikes, not larger dual-sports such as mine. Ah well, I’ll just have to ride further.

The landscape was typical for California: rolling hills covered in golden grasses, interspersed with deep green trees. Typical, yet always beautiful. This ride I’d stop and take some photos, despite having riding companions and despite the fact that it looks like the last three rides I’d been on.

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Metcalf Off-Road Park

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A barn sits nestled in rich grasslands

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Our path to the observatory

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A little color just to liven things up!

Route 130 is a pleasant, two lane road that takes the path of least resistance to the top of the Diable Mountain Range. The route could have easily been done in a more direct manner, but this was the route planned and used in order to move all of the materials needed to build the Lick Observatory at the top of Mt Hamilton. And those materials were moved by horse and wagon, so despite the numerous curvers, the grade was never more than 7%. This arrangement suits motorcyclists quite well, too.

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Continuing along Mt Hamilton Rd

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The view along the way

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Many curves and easy grades

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An early sighting of the observatory

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Dappled shade as the road cuts into the hillside

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Looking back down on the road

Near the top, a bit of road construction greeted us and gave us caution, as the trucks were spewing dirt and dust all over the road surface, making for trecherous corners. I was now very far behind Bill and Chick, having stopped a couple of times for my photos, but Bill waited for me at the top to indicate a turn off I might have otherwise missed. We were now at the top of Mt Hamilton and all of Silicon Valley lay stretched out before us. Bill pointed out the vaguely recognizable buildings of San Francisco, far off into the distance. It was a beautiful, if not hot, day and we took refuge inside the observatory to explore further.

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Lick Observatory on Mt Hamilton

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The view across Silicon Valley

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The 36″ telescope, put into use over 100 years ago

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Hydraulics raise and lower the entire floor

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The dark interior did not take my flash well

Once we had sufficiently checked out the buildings and read about it’s history it was time to move again. The air was hot and the parking area was crowded with bicyclists. I admired their willingness to not only pedal the 18 miles of constant uphill grade to get here, but to do it in this heat. Kudos to them, I thought, as I put on my black gear and sat on my bike in the sun.

Rather than retrace our steps back down the west side of the Diablo Range, we would continue east and drop down the other side of the ridgeline on San Antonio Rd. Still hot, but at least moving and enjoy the self-made breeze, we took off into a different type of landscape. The plant life on the east side of the mountains was quite different than what I had experienced on the way up. There was a lot of brush and low-growing plants that gave the landscape a lot more variety, both in texture and color. The change was appreciated.

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San Antonio Road

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A closer look at the road to come

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Sweet, smooth corners

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A pleasant valley along the descent

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More fun corners and interesting plant life

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Lunch stop at “the Junction”

We stopped for lunch a few miles later at a place called simply “the Junction”. There was one building here, and they had food. It was a nice place to stop and the breeze kept us comfortable as we sat outside under the shade of a tree. There was another ride already there and we struck up a conversation with him while we ate. After our meal it was time to head home. Today’s route would be a loop and we’d now continue north to Livermore and then disperse to our own homes. The road north of the Junction was most enjoyable, with Mines Road carving itself delicately along a riverbed. Our lunch guest left with us, but his self-professed “slower pace” was indeed slower and it wasn’t long before he dropped out of sight in my rear view mirrors. He met up with us one more time as we all stopped to catch up with each other just before we started our final leg into Livermore. A quick stop for gas and a good-bye and off we split, with me heading home via the highway while they sauntered their way home via Calavaras Rd, a route I had taken just a few days before.

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Mines Road; bright sunlight and high contrast

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Mines Road – gravel in the corners, just for added excitement!

Tell me what you think! I want to know!