I worked in Temecula today, and spur-of-the-moment decided to drive up Palomar Mountain.
S-6, "The Highway To The Stars", is a lovely drive, a seven mile long, winding, steep climb to over a mile above sea level. The perfect challenge for a V-8 Caprice SS. During the summer and on weekends, the road is host to hundreds of motorcyclists and sports car enthusiasts, but during fall and spring weekdays, it's almost totally deserted.
I was surprised how few people were at the observatory. There were just two cars in the parking lot when I arrived, and by the time I left, I was the last person there. It was nice and quiet. Lots of trees. Even more squirrels.
From a distance, the main dome doesn't look that big, but once you're inside and look up, it's easy to get dizzy from the sheer size of it. The Hale Telescope has a 200" mirror (that's almost 17 feet wide!) and is still one of the largest telescopes in the world. Unfortunately, visitors are confined to a tiny glass room in one corner; you can't get a close-up look at the equipment and you can't look through the telescope (since it doesn't have an eyepiece, there really isn't anything to look through anyway)
The museum was quite disappointing, consisting of ancient photographs of stars and galaxies and the like. And the gift shop is only open during the summer and on weekends. The other telescopes (there are 6 total on the mountain) are off-limits to the public, although the Interferometer is visible just off the trail. Did I mention the squirrels?
The drive back down the mountain is as much fun as the drive up. :)