Five of these colonies are open to public viewing.
We've been to two other locations previously, so we're glad that yesterday's trip was to a different one.
The bus picked up our group just after 8:00am, and we took off for a two and a half hour trip into the mountains of Michoacan, Mexico.
The Sierra Chinqua Butterfly Reserve is located at 3,230 meters (10,600 ft) altitude. It was chilly up there! The temperature was only 10C (50F) and it was overcast. In fact, we saw a couple of snowflakes!
It was after 11:00am by the time we got to the area where the horses are. You have the option of taking a horse part of the way, or walking. Later is actually better because as it warms up the butterflies start to fly. When it is cold, they remain clumped in groups trying to stay warm.
Our group, getting on the horses.
They were pretty efficient getting our group of 19 people all settled on their horses. It's a good thing we were there during the week, because it wasn't at all busy. Entrance fee is 45 pesos ($3.60 CAD) per person and it cost 150 pesos ($12.00 CAD) per person for the round trip on horseback.
This is one of the tours that was included in the price people paid for their caravan trip. We would normally have walked and not taken a horse.
Everybody is saddled up.
Ready to go.
Even though it's chilly at this altitude, I absolutely love the countryside being up in the mountains. The air is so fresh! Sherman would be able to make it up to this particular reserve, and large tour buses regularly drive the route. And, we could boondock in the parking lot. There are a lot of other hiking trails up in the mountains, so one day we will bring Sherman back up here.
Heading into the pine forest.
We were only on the horses for about 20 minutes. Then, a 20 minute hike after that.
At 54 years old, we are the youngest ones in our group. And of course we do a lot of hiking and this walk was nothing for us. But the other 17 people we were with are aged between 59 and 78. And of course we're also at 10,800 ft in altitude by the time we reached the butterflies. But we had lots of time and we weren't in any rush. So we encouraged people to stop and rest along the way as they needed to, and that was fine.
On the hiking trail to the butterflies.
One of the things that is so amazing about the monarch migration is that the colonies are so localized. Walking through this huge pine forest, you'd think you would see a few floating around, but there is very little indication of any butterflies at all. Until all of a sudden, there they are!
You're not allowed to get close to the where they are clumped, so many of these photos are zoomed in. But they are literally covering the main trunks of the trees.
Thousands of butterflies covering the tree.
A monarch butterfly.
They huddle in groups to stay warm.
But the forest floor is littered with many who don't survive the cold night. Some of these butterflies are actually still alive, and will rejuvenate themselves when the sun comes out.
The only disappointment for our group is that the sun didn't come out during our visit. All it takes is 20 minutes of sunshine to warm things up enough for the butterflies to take flight, and unfortunately while we were there it was too cold for that to happen.
Still, it was an interesting visit for those who had never seen it before.
Some of the indigineous people who are employed by the reserve. It is located on their protected land.
We hiked back to where the horses were waiting. We still had a few of our group members bring up the rear and I had seen a sign advertising a mirador (lookout) and I asked our guide how far it was. He said "only five minutes up that trail" and he pointed to a path leading uphill.
I knew I didn't have much time, but I hopped off my horse and headed up the hill. It was quite steep, but I didn't stop and I arrived at the top huffing and puffing.
The view of Michoacan from the pine forest where the butterflies live.
Back in the van, and headed home. But we stopped at a restaurant in the village of Tlalpujahua just to have a drink, take a break, and wander around for a half hour.
The restuarant is on the roof.
We are quite far from some places!
The 16th century church in Tlalpujahua.
Part of our group enjoying the patio.
We arrived back at the RV Park at around 5:45pm. Fortunately we didn't have to cook dinner because Arturo (the owner of the park) had organized a group dinner for us. At 125 pesos ($10.00 CAD) per person, prepared by a professional chef, and including beer. Great food. We had tostados with a special topping of mango, pineapple, and shrimp. And then a hearty filling soup with spinach, chicken, and corn. Not sure of the name of it, but it was a specialty Hispanic dish.
Getting ready for our group dinner at the RV Park.
Today, we do a group tour of the city of Morelia in the morning, and then we're going to a specialty exposition that is being put on to advertise the different Pueblo Magicos in Mexico. There is supposed to be free food samples from each region!
I'm not sure what it does exactly, but it sure looks high tech!