Picnic with the stars on Mount Hamilton

Sunset  –  June 3, 2005

The pleasure of picnics lies in their variety. I like olives, pickles, a couple of cheeses, wine plus iced tea, and lots of cookies and cake.

The summer concerts at Mt. Hamilton’s Lick Observatory, 19 miles east and 4,200 feet above San Jose, provide a perfect picnic opportunity. Not just for a meal with a great view but for the evening’s sampling of activities― an experiential smorgasbord.

We started with the noshing and the view, devouring all the treats as we watched the sun sink behind the Coast Range. Then we settled into the hall of the 117-year-old observatory building for a concert of Celtic classics, music that felt appropriately ethereal. Afterward, a researcher told us about exploding stars, and we got a clear, closeup view of the moon through the 36-inch refractor telescope.

On the winding drive down the mountain, with the streets of the Santa Clara Valley glittering below the stars, my husband sighed: “What a nice mix.” Exactly. Music of the Spheres (concerts Jul 29-30, Aug 26-27; from $40, shows usually sell out); Summer Visitor Program (astronomy talks and telescope viewing, Jul 15-16, Aug 12-13, Sep 9-10; $5, tickets distributed by lottery; call for details). Observatory is on Mt. Hamilton Rd. (State 130), 19 miles east of San Jose; www.uco lick.org or 408/274-5061. ―Lisa Taggart

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