I have noticed quite a few monarchs passing through my garden heading north already. Do they know they shouldn't be going yet? Usually it is the end of March after the jacaranda trees have started to bloom. The jacarandas, a beautiful lavender- colored tree, are prolific in San Miguel and in Mexico and the monarchs love to suck the nectar from the lavender blooms. It is quite a sight.
So, about this time last year, I traveled to Chinqua with friends to see the sanctuaries where between 200 million and 500 million butterflies "winter" each year. Weather is the determining factor of how many get here. We drove about 3 hours through absolutely majestic country of lakes and hills and beautiful forested areas. We reached 10,000 feet where the firs are as thick as any forests I have seen in the USA. Upon arriving, there is a feeling of "sacredness" here. No car headlights are allowed and people greet you to rent horses to you so you can get up to the areas where the butterflies are.............this was an adventure I had NOT counted on! These were BIG horses with wooden saddles. Not my idea of luxury travel, but not wanting to be a "spoil sport" I hoisted myself up (with the help of several Mexican men) onto this giant beast. It took us about 45 minutes to get to a place to "dismount" and then we hiked through very, very silty soil for another 30 minutes or so at 10,000 feet and by the time I saw the butterflies I was ready to see anything! It was magnificently beautiful and so quiet that you could hear their wings............they were fluttering everywhere as it was a relatively warm day and it looked like orange and yellow raindrops. I sat on a log by myself and they came all around me as though I wasn't even there. A "once in a lifetime" experience. I hated to leave for a couple of reasons, One being the beauty and TWO being that I had to get back on that horse! But, I did and returned to the tiny village where our van was parked. Our driver Arturo Morales had brought fresh eggs for the children because he says that is protein and that the families need that. I wish you could have seen those children gently carrying those eggs to their cabins. And then I always travel with granola bars or toys that my grandchildren save for me to bring to Mexico. I had teletubbies and all kinds of Disney characters and dinosaurs for them. The grins on their faces to get a toy was "priceless".
Some facts about the monarchs, the amount of butterflies in the trees of the sanctuaries could cover 15 football fields and it takes six generations for them to migrate to the US and return each year..............notwithstanding "facts", it is one of the great joys of life to enjoy these miraculous creatures every year.