October 18, 2008 —
While waiting for me this morning as I ran in to pick up more water at the store, Carl was looking at the map and came up with a great idea for today’s adventure:
Take a drive to Kitt Peak National Observatory.
Kitt Peak was selected in 1957 as the location of the first national observatory and today it is the home of the largest astronomical telescopes in the world. Visitors are encouraged to take free self-guided tours of several of the telescopes. They have guided tours too, but by the time we made up our minds to go, it was too late to take the tour.
So, we packed our lunch (a sandwich picked up at the Whole Foods store), water and headed down I-10 and then east on route 86, a whole new road we had not yet explored. This road heads into the lands owned by the Tohono O’odham Nation, of which the observatory leases the land from the tribal council. Unlike Navaho lands, this is fairly green, with nice vegetation.
And of course, to reach the observatory at the top of the mountain, we had to drive up another switchback road. You would think that I’d be used to these by now, but for some reason, today’s drive unnerved me more than any of the others. Carl thinks it’s because when you get to the top (6875 ft), there is nothing but open space clear down to the valley. Yeah, that could be it.
Close to the top they had a nice picnic area — lots of tables and views — so we had our lunch here.
We checked out the museum first. I admit that I’m not as wowed about all this as Carl. He was a kid when this place came into inception and he followed its progress. It was a place he’s wanted to visit for nearly 50 years. So, my fun was in seeing the kid in Carl today. We walked up to the Mayall 4m Telescope and took the elevator to the Telescope Catwalk. We had opened it would be an open catwalk, but soon discovered it is enclosed. So, no good photos from here. I did try to take a photo of one of the telescope inside, but that is also through glass, so it didn’t really come out well.
Now what would be really interesting is to come back at night and to look out at the stars. We are going to add this to our list of things to do.
As I say, I don’t have a strong background in this but apparently it is in my blood. Until now, I had forgotten that one of my ancestors is Alvan Clark. Now, that I remember this, we need to go back to Flagstaff and visit that observatory.