Saturday, December 6, 2008

Colonel Griffith J. Griffith's Observatory

This afternoon, after a long bout with stomachache and lost keys disease, we rode our bicycle machines up Edgemont Avenue to the Ferndell entrance to Griffith Park. There we locked up and hit the wide, beige path that leads up the little mountain to the observatory. I'd only been there once before, and I didn't realize there's such an extensive museum open to the public. I'd figured you had to pay for a planetarium show to do anything. Wrong! There were many models to behold!
Some delights:
-a Tesla coil that, when sparking, also lit up a neon sign that said "TESLA COIL" in a rainbow of colors
-very nice old bathrooms, with tiled floors and walls and original wooden stall doors (an Adonia favorite)
-a sphere filled with orange goo that you could spin, simulating the storms covering the surface of Jupiter
-a seismograph
-the old planetarium projector, which looked like a giant mechanical insect
-this is a good one: a timeline of the universe represented by a wave of celestial-themed jewelry. Star brooch upon star earring upon moon pendant covered a wall along a long, curving, sloping hallway. Compliments of Kara Knack, a member (living or deceased?) of the observatory's friends society
-wonderful metal lightboxes that identified the various parts of the roofscape of telescope buildings
And, of course, the glorious sunset in progress when we arrived added to the dazzling view of the metropolis sprawled out below us.
After we did a quick scan of the museum exhibits, we decided to head back down the hill. It was dark at this point, but we figured our bike lights would be sufficient for the 1/2 mile trail. Once we got started we realized that the glow of the city was enough to make the path safe, even the steepest bits, for our passage.
The question remained whether we were putting ourselves in the way of bandits, etc. It was one of those situations where you're like, "I know this is possibly dangerous, but is it really dangerous?" I got a little nervous toward the bottom of the path when I saw some dark figures, human or otherwise, enter a wash near us, so I started running. We passed two silent people sitting on benches slightly apart from each other. By running loudly past them with my backpack jangling around I figure I either
a) saved some young men from having our mugging on their consciences, or
b) destroyed the atmosphere for two people in the throes of meditation on the passed sunset.
Anyway, once back on our bikes we were not ambushed. Bobby checked around the internet when we got home, and found only positive accounts of hiking in Griffith Park either by day or by night. I highly recommend a night stroll down that path; you can see the city so brightly as you reenter it from your brief sojourn to the peak of the observatory and its stairways to the stars.