If you think science is sexy, then the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco has the date night for you! Every Thursday, Cal Academy hosts NightLife from 6 – 10 pm for a 21+ crowd.
Not only are NightLife guests able to wander through the exhibits with cocktail in hand, but every week there is a different theme with special events and guests. So far I have heard Adam Savage speak, watched a movie with Mystery Science Theatre 3000 and watched Lower Dens play.
But my favorite part is how intimate each of the exhibits feels after hours.
The rainforest exhibit is a sealed off area that retains humidity and feels like a futuristic greenhouse
Butterflies flutter freely
Terrariums house amphibians and camouflaged reptiles
This is not a two headed monster: just a gecko and his reflection
Then there are the aquariums
And the dioramas
10 out of 10 recommend
When I was learning the state capitols in 5th grade, I remember wanting to travel to all 50 — even despite the knowledge that Sacramento was far from the most exciting city in California.
15 years later, and I’ve still only been to 5 state capitols.
Visiting my friend Kate in Helena, Montana this summer provided an excellent opportunity to add another capitol to my list — only 44 more to go!
While exploring Helena, I paid a special visit to the Montana State Capitol Building.
The first thing I noticed about the building was its intricate door knobs.
And this beautifully carved bench was in the ladies restroom of all places.
My favorite painting by E.S. Paxson in the building shows Sacajawea directing Lewis & Clark.
“Welcome to the House of Representatives”
If you look closely at C.M. Russell’s painting, you can see a wolf snarling just above the Speaker of the House’s podium.
My shoes matched the carpet.
If there’s anything I love more than breakfast food, it’s my friend Kate’s pictures of breakfast food.
In her reluctant hometown of Helena, Montana, Kate has captured some of the most delectable pictures of dark diners I have ever encountered. For years I have lusted over her beautiful photographs — which you can find on her blog Ze Photographist — but it wasn’t until this summer’s road trip that I was finally able to experience her favorite haunts first hand.
Behold, No Sweat Cafe, with its handwritten menus, motown music and strict “no cell phones allowed” policy
This breakfast table was crowded with multiple cameras and good friends.
The most picturesque buttered toast I have ever seen.
Walking away from the cafe, Kate pointed out downtown Helena’s restored brick wall advertisements and the spot where the used bookstore leaves free romance novels out on the street.
Once Philip and I found the best campsite in Yellowstone (see Day 4), it was hard to face that we would have to leave the park.
Here are some photos from our last full day, which we spent hiking and fishing. We had no luck with the fish, but we did spot a buck and wrangled a small snake!
Read my other Road Trip Travelogues here:
Finding an available camping spot in a National Park during peak season may seem impossible, but Philip and I proved through experience that you can get one of *the most beautiful* campsites in Yellowstone, even when you fly by the seat of your pants. I would say third time’s the charm, but in our case it was our fourth night in the park that we found campsite W6 at the Norris campground.
After days of finagling last minute reservations with confused concessioner campground staffers, we finally decided to give the first-come-first-serve campsites run by the National Park Service a go.
We woke up early, drove to Norris, parked in a line of cars and waited in front of the camp office. Even though we were sixth in line, the wait was long. It turned out to be well worth it when the woman helping us beamed and said, “Can I offer you the most beautiful campsite in all of Yellowstone?” Walking out to our site, we could see exactly what she meant: a winding river and open meadow invited us to set up camp and enjoy the scenery. Perched on the edge of the campground we felt like we had the meadow to ourselves. The sounds of the river and singing birds overtook the chatter of nearby campers. I was so happy, I changed into my “cute camping” outfit to celebrate.
The day’s first order of business was paying Ol’ Faithful a visit. I didn’t take any pictures of that geyser but I did document some of the other geysers we saw.
Chromatophores or colorful bacteria give this hot spot its vivid colors.
I ate a tiny pizza, this seemed noteworthy.
When we returned to camp, Philip decided to go fish along the winding Gibbon River. I went out with my camera to capture the last bit of daylight. Even the scary bear signs looked more picturesque at this campsite.
The camp office looking very much like a cozy cabin.
A peek at the Gibbon River.
The meadow catching the last bit of light. I think it was nearly 10 PM at that point.
The view from W6.
Thank you Yellowstone Firewood!
Philip’s hat on our campsite picnic table.
Read my other Road Trip Travelogues here:
After saying an abrupt goodbye to my college friend Kate in our second year at Franklin College Switzerland (now University), I wish someone could have told me that I would be reunited with her in Yellowstone 5 years later! It wouldn’t have softened the blow of her absence, but it would have given me something to look forward to, aside from her amazing blog post updates.
Kate’s stories about her home in Montana had always captured my imagination, and I knew I wanted to visit her there long before I made the trip a reality this summer. But before Montana, there was this little pit stop Philip and I wanted to make at a place called Yellowstone. So Kate and Logan, her gentleman caller, obliged us by meeting us for night of camping and a day of hiking in Wyoming!
After a night of catching up over s’mores and Montana brews, we ventured into the Northern reaches of the park. We stopped by Tower Roosevelt for a peek at the falls and some incredible basalt formations. Then we went on to hike the Lost Lake trail. Our first inclination was to hike towards a waterfall. When the trail petered out, we doubled back to find the Lost Lake, but not before catching sight of the fall we sought.
Kate took photographs on this hike as well, which you can find on her blog Zephotographist under “Foxes, Frogs, and Hiking: A Day in Yellowstone.” I think it’s really interesting to compare the different subjects we chose to photograph on the same hike! She’s much better at taking photographs of people!
After Kate and Logan left, Philip and I continued on to Mammoth to see the hot springs. We stopped to eat ice cream on a patch of grass not occupied by lounging elk.
We also ate some pretty disappointing food in a cafeteria. Luckily, these old pictures of tourists in Yellowstone hanging on the walls more than made up for the bland meal.
After a long day of driving around the park and spotting wildlife (a mamma black bear and her two cubs!) along the roadside, we settled into yet another new campsite. I found this little face on a log and it made me smile.
It was a great day.
After driving into Yellowstone park in the middle of the night and cuddling my bear spray all night long, I had no idea what to expect upon waking up. I know it definitely wasn’t Philip telling me we had to move our tent because the campsite we had snuck onto was reserved for the day.
Luckily, the nice folk who worked at the Madison campground were able to find us another reservation at the Bridge Bay campground. After setting up our tent and making breakfast, Philip and I set out to take in the park. Driving past Yellowstone Lake, it was hard to believe that what we were seeing was real.
And it didn’t become any more real after we saw our first bison. They may look like lumbering creatures, but the alacrity with which they crossed this river, proved just how swift they really can be.
There is nowhere else I have experienced such wide open expanses. What struck me most about Yellowstone was the grand scale of this wide open nature. You really did feel closer to the clouds at this elevation.
Our first hike was a loop through the back country starting by Artist Point at the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, where there are beautiful views of the falls.
In the back country they tell you to hike in groups of 3 or more, make noise and carry bear spray. Thinking about all of this while walking a trail close to the edge of canyon made me a little nervous, but the views were worth it.
Luckily, there was a loud prepubescent boy walking on the same trail with his family, so all that made me nervous was watching him walk too far out onto the cliff’s edge.
After noticing trees with scratched and worn away bark, I began to realize that Yellowstone may be the first place I have ever been to that has been shaped just as much by wildlife as it has been by humans.
If you look closely, you may seem some hairs sticking to these claw marks. Philip and I assumed at the time that it must have been grizzly bear hair, but it could have been brown bear or even another animal altogether. I like to think it was grizzly though.
Later, we would learn from my friend Kate that the larger markings were most likely created by a horned animal like a bison or male elk.
We also saw some tracks! A Google search leads me to believe that these are Bison tracks, feel free to correct me in the comments!
As we followed our trail loop away from the canyon we entered a wooded area towards Clear Lake. And of course I had to stop to take some pictures of the wild flowers.
It was pretty marshy where we were headed.
We could see the natural gases bubbling underwater. And when we arrived at Clear Lake, the water was a vivid turquoise blue caused by chromatophore bacteria.
I really liked the driftwood on the beach of this small lake. Philip and I sat for a minute on one of these logs but were driven away by the pungent sulphur smell.
Shortly after, the landscape changed completely and we walked along an ashy white plane with very little growing. We walked past this hole in the ground and listened to what sounded like boiling mud. We tried recording the sound but it was too hard to capture the fullness of each plop.
Overall, it was an amazing first day in Yellowstone National Park!
CA > NV > ID > MT > WY
5 States – 1 Day
Destination: Yellowstone National Park
Breakfast: scrambled eggs & homestyle potatoes
Departure: 5:30 something AM
First Stop: Black Bear Diner in Fernley, Nevada
Unplanned Stop: adjacent casino in Fernley, Nevada
Philip’s Winnings: $12
Number of Photos I Took in the Casino Before Being Told Photography Was Not Allowed: 6
The Best Photograph of Those 6:
Places to Pee in Nevada: Casinos
Places to Order Starbucks in Nevada: Casinos
Places to Lose Your Hope for Humanity in Nevada: Casinos
Where We Did Not Stop for Gas in Nevada:
The RV Model’s Name: “Honey”
How I Fought Boredom While Driving Through Nevada: eating sunflower seeds and spitting the shells into a paper cup tucked into my seat belt
Number of Prisons We Passed in Nevada: 3
Number of Hitchhikers Allowed to Pick Up: 0
How Many Snakes We Stopped for in Idaho: 2
My Impression of Idaho:
Where We Ordered French Fries in Burley, Idaho: MacDonald’s, Burger King, Jack in the Box
MacDonald’s: salty, greasy, too crunchy
Burger King: delicious when hot, too potatoe-y
Jack in the Box: perfect amount of salt and grease, good when cold
Winner: Jack in the Box
Camping Advice from a Walmart Employee in Chubbuck, Idaho: “Keep the fire going all night… Do you have a gun?”
Camping Reservations Made: 0
Arrival Time in Montana: 12:30 something AM
Number of Grizzly Bear Warning Signs at Lonesome Hurst Campground in Montana: 3
How Long it Took to Decide to Keep Driving After 18 Hours on the Road: split second
Arrival Time in Yellowstone National Park: 1:00 AM
When We Snagged an Empty Camp Site at Madison Campgrounds: 1:30 something AM
When We Learned We Would Need to Move Our Tent: 8:30 something AM
Follow my blog here on adrienneblaine.com for more posts about my 10 Day Road Trip!
The salty air from the beach and San Francisco’s perma-fog make my backyard a utopia for tenacious ivy and rust. I wouldn’t have it any other way.