Thursday, March 3, 2016

Monarchs in Mexico with Mom

Mom invited me to join her on a trip to Mexico to see the wintering grounds of the Monarch butterfly.  It is something she has wanted to do for a long time, and it sounded like an amazing trip.  With news that the monarch migration population has dwindled in recent years, Mom decided we really should go while there was still something to see.

And boy, was there ever something to see!

We signed up for a tour with Natural Habitat, and let me say that our experience with them was first-rate.  Professional, comfortable, caring, environmentally responsible, delicious local meals, and with many little happy "treats" and surprises from the first day to the last.  Our guides Astrid and Melissa were wonderful.  No one paid me to say this, I just feel like raving about it  :)

On to the butterflies!

We rode in open-back trucks from the hotel up to the refuge called El Rosario.  We thought this might be a dusty, bumpy ride, but the road is in great condition and not problem at all.

Tours a la Monarca:

The welcome arch at the sanctuary:

Most of the group rode horses up the hill, but I jumped at the chance to walk up a bunch of stairs through the woods and get a bit of exercise.  Up at 9,000-10,000 ft elevation, it was a short but intense workout.

Meeting the group in the field at the top:

A first look at the colorful monarchs perched on colorful flowers:

On our way up the last part of the trail to where the bulk of the colony was staying:

It was quite impossible to capture the experience to somehow explain it, but our group did our level best to try.  I promise I tried to cull the sheer number of photos, it's just that I wish there was a way everyone could just be there and see this.

One small part of the landscape around us:

Butterflies soaking up the last of the sun's rays for the day:

Trying to show the scale, the massive number of monarchs in the trees, but it turns into trees with orange tint, like autumn leaves in Vermont:

A close-up shot of one of those million:

It was late afternoon for our first visit to the sanctuary, so many of the monarchs were already finding places to stay for the night.  Here's the part that is most impossible to explain (without better equipment) - those dark clumps are large bunches of butterflies, grouped together and clinging to branches.  The first time we put our binoculars up to check it out, everyone went "oh!!" and "Wow!" because the sight is so amazing.

An idea of what we were looking at (this is what I mean by "better equipment"):

Me and Mom with butterflies floating around us like snowflakes:

Watch where you step...

Another attempt to show the monarch clumps:

View from below - can't imagine how many monarchs are in this one photo alone:

Butterflies swirling about, again like autumn leaves except defying gravity:

This one liked Mom's shoe:

Hey, this one likes my shorts!

Admiring my new friend:

Finally it was getting colder and it was time to go.  Wow, that was quite an introduction, stunning in the sheer numbers we were seeing.  So happy Mom picked this year to go!

Our group stopped at an overlook on the way back to town:

The quaint village on the hill:

And - for good measure, a beautiful sunset!

Quite a day, one we will not soon forget!

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