We didn’t see any monarchs at the butterfly sanctuary, but we saw lots of things with representations of butterflies on them, which is kinda what I’m always after anyway. Afterward we thought we’d just drive to the beach, and when I opened my maps app to get us to the water, I saw that we were heading right toward the John Denver memorial, which my mom had mentioned to me a few days before and told me I should go see for her (she is the world’s biggest John Denver fan and the beach is the site of his fatal plane crash). We ended up scrambling on the rocks for a long time, watching giant waves and sea otters and looking for crabs. Then we picked up dinner and ate in our really lovely hotel room. Definitely going back to that place again and again forever and ever.
I loved this museum! I think I found out about it by browsing Roadside America and seeing the “dead gray whale monument” that’s located outside. But then I also remember learning that Pacific Grove has one of the largest monarch overwintering sites in America, and there’s monarch viewing at the museum and a sanctuary a few blocks away, so it all kind of got wrapped up into this must-experience destination. Anyway, what I loved about the museum was the really beautiful, unique displays (“Sands from all over the world!” The “examples of protective coloration” case! Small dioramas of individual reptiles that you view from above!) and displays that looked old and gorgeous, the focus on monarchs, and the incredible Birds of Monterey County exhibition (featuring 291 bird species and 409 mounted birds, including a Passenger Pigeon – one of only about 30 on public display west of the Mississippi). Not just visiting natural history museums but photographing in them makes me happier than maybe anything else on earth. I had a truly wonderful time.
When we decided to take a three-day weekend and go to San Jose, we said we would basically only do the Winchester Mystery House and maybe a National Park since it was supposed to be a small, inexpensive trip. But then we got to looking at what was reasonably nearby, and we decided to spend a night in Monterey, and Nathaniel said we had to go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I was not crazy about spending $50/person on tickets, or going to a huge, famous aquarium on a Sunday during spring break (on St. Patrick’s Day!) and it was a madhouse, but it was cool. I really loved the birds, and the jellyfish, and the Kelp Forest, one of the tallest aquarium exhibits in the world (28 feet), with its huge schools of sardines.