I’ve been flying out of Hollywood Airport on-and-off for a good while now, and frequently putting down at Honah Lee field as well, so you’d think I’d be familiar with the majority of Blake Sea and the vicinity. But it wasn’t until a recent flight that I spotted the huge dome of Palomar Observatory on the horizon (how I’d missed it before is probably down to having draw distance turned down to assist flying – or that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!). It immediately went down on my list of places to visit as and when time allowed.
However, plans changed when I received an IM from MarkTwain White extending an invitation for me to pay a visit to the observatory, based on our common interest in astronomy. So I took advantage of another lull in real life and dropped-in on the Honah Lee group of islands (specifically Honah Lee Point), to the south of Blake Sea and had a little bit of an explore.
Now, it has to be said that these islands are steeped in legend, so when you visit, it’s really worthwhile taking time to follow the trails on foot or horseback – you can obtain a horse at the start of the trails – and avail yourself of the signs along the way; they’ll tell you a lot of about the legend, which may well have been handed down over the years until it reached the ears of Peter, Paul and Mary…
The trail leads around the main island, made up of six regions, taking you first south along one side of the central mountain ridge, offering a chance for the traveller to visit a number of famous and sometimes mysterious landmarks along the way.
The first of these is Puff’s Lagoon, where it is thought that large land and sea creatures may once have been seen, far back in ancient times, giving rise to the legend of the magic dragon referred to in song. Just off the coast of the lagoon is a strange artefact, apparently millenia old, carved in stone, yet strangle unaltered or weathered in the passage of time. Facing out to sea, the Dragon Mother has no identifying tale associated with it and its purpose remains as much a mystery now, as when first discovered; and no-one knows whether it is somehow tied to the legends of the ancient creature said to have once roamed here, or something else entirely…
Further to the south of the island sits the Honah Lee Marine Nursery. Once a major tourist attraction and centre for marine studies, it has over the years become a much smaller facility than in its heyday, and marked by a small church and a wooden pier. Between it and Puff’s Lagoon are a number of places where tourists can rest awhile and watch the boats out on the water – but do be aware that there is also a private house sitting between the lagoon and the nursery.
The nursery is also where the trail divides – you can carry on around the island, or climb up to the plateau above and ride to the observatory. Taking the former option will bring you around to the east side of the island, past a couple more private residences and to Puff’s Meadow, an upland area of long grass again immortalised in song. A gazebo at the headland of the meadow offers a view out over the broad ocean.
A little further north from the meadow is another part of the Puff legend – a deep cave and cavern. According to my guide notes, this has recently been the subject of some controversy between the islanders and a film corporation which had used the cavern as a theme park for a time. Those who don’t mind the dark can take a path through the cave and cavern before returning to the horse paddock – there are some novel sights to see if you do. Those who don’t can continue on around the island’s north end to arrive back at the horse paddock, facing Honah Lee Surf airport across the water.
The observatory up on the plateau of the island is a reproduction of Caltech’s Mount Palomar observatory dome in California. While not as big, scale-wise, as its namesake, it is instantly recognisable (hence my surprise in not spotting it sooner!).
The climb up to the plateau brings you to a rocky path leading to the observatory, which provides some fine views of the dome and the surrounding islands. The observatory looks to be undergoing update at the moment, as there are still some displays to be added, but upstairs under the dome itself is a slide show featuring some of MarkTwain White’s excellent astronomical photographs which, for anyone remotely interested in astronomy, make this a more than worthwhile visit. Each image is beautifully presented, complete with explanatory text in chat.
I could go into a lot more detail about the island – but why spoil your visit by doing so. Whether you’re interested in astronomy, fancy a horse ride or want to brush-up on more of SL’s legends, Honah Lee makes a charming and engaging place to drop-in on.
- Honah Lee Point SLurl (Rated Moderate)
- Palomar Observatory SLurl (Rated: Moderate)
- Puff’s Meadow SLurl (Rated: Moderate)
And for those who are forever young at heart, here’s a reminder of the legend referred to in the text:
With thanks to MarkTwain White. Please note that there is on-going work within the Honah Lee regions, and items described here may be subject to change.