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monarch

Following the Monarch butterfly

Last August, two weeks before leaving for our trip, Millie found a monarch caterpillar outside our house in Val-David.  She asked if we could keep it and thinking it a fun idea, we found a good plan online to make a cage to watch it become a butterfly. And it worked!  As it was transforming, we kept up a bit of research…

The most fascinating thing we learned is that every monarch born in Canada in late August migrates to Mexico for the winter.  In fact, they all migrate to just a few acres of mountain forest in the state of Michoacan.   It gave me goosebumps the day we let “our” butterfly go in Val-David – just 2 days before we left, knowing that we were making the same journey to nearly the same location in Mexico…

Two days ago, we made the 7hr drive from our house in Cuyutlan to the butterfly reserve.  It is inspiring to see that the monarch wintering grounds are fully protected by the government and you must hire a guide to even visit the forest.  There are at least 4 entrances to the park and apparently some receive upto 8000 visitors per day.  We weren’t sure which one to go to, but just ended up taking the closest one we found early yesterday morning. This entrance (Sanguio) was our lucky pick as we were the only 4 visitors of the day!

Getting to the butterflies isn’t easy regardless of the park entrance. Our car bumped along a long dirt road just to get to the park entrance. This is where our guide met us and took us in his truck to the start of the hiking path. It was a 45 min ride along a very rough path (can’t even call that a road!).  This was followed by a fairly steap hike of about 30 min to the top of the mountain. At an altitude of 3300m, we were a bit short of breath! This is slightly higher than the 600 metres we are used to in Val-David!

It was all worth it though to finally find the butterflies!  An estimated 60 million of them arrived this year which sadly is still far from the 1 billion that arrived in the mid 1990′s.  However, 60 million butterflies in one place is still pretty darn impressive to see! If you want to learn more and see (amazing) video coverage of the wintering grounds, this 45 min documentary called “The Great Butterfly Hunt” from CBC is worth watching.

Overall we were completely amazed by the experience and I’m sure “our” butterfly was one of the thousands that fluttered by to say hello!

monarch butterfly emerging from cacoon

Our butterfly just emerging from her cocoon 2 days before we were (all) leaving for Mexico.

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A bit chilly in the mountains, so we pulled out the toques!

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This is the base centre that includes an obstacle course, zip lines, interpretation centre and restaurant for busier times.

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Seatbelts? nope. Seats? nope…just the back of a pickup for the 45 min drive up the mountain. Mexico-style!

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Our view on the way up

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And once we got to the end of the road, the rest had to be done on foot. It was actually a pretty good hike up – especially so with 2 little kids.

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At the top and the start of the observation area.

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And we found them! Well some of them…but there must have been millions. All the orange in this picture is butterflies on the trees.

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A closer picture. They were so beautiful!

 

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Our guide said they keep together for warmth.

A quick video to show them flying around us!

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Our picnic spot. After months on the beach, we all we so happy to be back in the woods/mountains. We felt at home!

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A little scenery on the way back down.

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Just had to throw in this photo of our hotel room yesterday. It reminded me so much of our cottages and the loft was perfect for the kids!