High up in the mountains east of Morelia, Mexico, is where one of the great mysteries of the natural world takes place. Every year, hundreds of millions of Monarch butterflies migrate 4,000 km from the North and Eastern United States to a breeding grounds in Mexico.
The whole journey takes 3 or 4 generations of butterflies. How do they know where to go? Or for that matter, how do they pass on that knowledge to the next generation? It is an amazing journey. It takes place from October to March every year, so we caught the very end of the season
We made a visit to the El Rosario nature reserve with a tour group out of Morelia, Mich Mex Guides for 550 pesos each (~ $44 USD.) Normally I shun tour groups like the plague, but it took much less time and cost less to go with the tour than going with public transit.
The four hour journey from Morelia ends at the parking lot of the nature reserve, which is full of local vendors selling everything from blackberries to corn on the cob to butterfly earrings. The parking lot is already at elevation, about 3000 meters. It takes another hour of hiking, up another 300 meters or so, to get to the butterflies. Two of the older folks in our tour opted to go up on horseback for 80 pesos each, one way. We did the hike, which was not difficult at all, and enjoyed the soft trail through the fir forest
As fate would have it, the day we made this trip was 4 or 5 degrees C cooler than the day before, so the butterflies weren’t that active when we got to the site. Hanging in huge clumps on the fir trees, they moved little, if at all.
Then, suddenly, as the clouds parted and big rays of light permeated the forest, the clumps exploded into a frenzy of color and motion as the butterflies took flight. It was truly magical, and we were speechless in the midst of it. The pictures speak for themselves, although it is really impossible to capture the majesty of it all
I can only imagine what it would be like on a hot day, when the butterflies were a bustle of activity, but it was magical as it was.