Although it is very nice to be back in Switzer­land for the hol­i­days, and the moun­tains are beau­ti­ful, I am still amazed as I edit the monarch pic­tures. Three of us went to one of the monarch win­ter nest­ing grounds near Valle de Bra­vo in cen­tral Mex­i­co. We aren’t allowed into the state of Michoa­can where the more famous reserves are, but the spot where we went felt mag­i­cal enough that we didn’t feel like we missed any­thing. It was a long morn­ing on two bus­es to get there, so we didn’t get up into the hills to see the but­ter­flies until late in the after­noon on the first day. Dur­ing the steep, approx­i­mate­ly hour-long hike up we were los­ing a lit­tle faith. Espe­cial­ly since we were walk­ing up as opposed to most peo­ple going up and down on horse­back. Peo­ple on the way down promised us that there were either lots or plen­ty of but­ter­flies, so we kept going. When we final­ly made it up to the nest­ing spot, we were look­ing around at the grave­yard of wings on the ground and the slow­ly increas­ing num­ber of dead but­ter­flies, when we real­ized that the trees were cov­ered in but­ter­flies. So cov­ered in fact that the branch­es were weighed down by them. The light was not great, but I took as many pho­tos as I could until the sun was set­ting and the guides were try­ing to ush­er us down the moun­tain.

We had the next day in Valle de Bra­vo as well, and the only thing I want­ed to do was go back up in the warmer part of the day and see the mon­archs more active. The guides said that around mid­day they would most­ly be in flight and not just hang­ing on the trees. I’m so glad my trav­el­ing com­pan­ions were of the same mind. The dif­fer­ence that the day­time tem­per­a­ture made was imme­di­ate­ly appar­ent as the taxi approached the park­ing lot where the trails start­ed. In the air on the road was a steady stream of mon­archs. Our excla­ma­tions of excite­ment start­ed imme­di­ate­ly and didn’t stop for the next few hours as we made our way back up the trail, but with­out any com­plain­ing or lack of faith this time. The trail in mid­day was filled with but­ter­flies. It felt like one was going to run into you every oth­er sec­ond, and you had to be care­ful where you stepped at times. Any spot with full sun was cov­ered in mon­archs. When we got back up to the nest­ing trees, they were still plen­ty cov­ered in but­ter­flies, but the  air was also filled with them fly­ing about. Amaz­ing, fan­tas­tic, incred­i­ble… it just felt like a mag­i­cal spot and very spe­cial to be able to wit­ness. I’ve edit­ed down the pic­tures a lot, but there are just too many good ones. In fact, I did a ter­ri­ble job of edit­ing the num­ber of pho­tos down. If it is pos­si­ble that I need more to ful­ly share the expe­ri­ence, what I still real­ly want is some of Mike’s video to share what the feel­ing of being in a riv­er of mon­archs was like.  I will either get a copy to post here or share the link soon, hope­ful­ly.

The mon­archs win­ter there until the end of March. I can’t rec­om­mend this expe­ri­ence high­ly enough, and I’m hap­py to give advice on how to get there.