Monarch Watch Blog

Travelog: Monarchs in Mexico

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011 at 3:01 pm by Jim
Filed under Mexico | 2 Comments »

As you can imagine, seeing the monarchs overwintering in Mexico really leaves an impression on those lucky enough to make the trip. We receive lots of enthusiastic communications about such trips and here is Don and Mary Bernd’s account of of their recent adventure…

monarch on guide's hat

We had visited El Rosario several years ago in the dead of winter when none of the Monarchs were moving around. It wasn’t all that much fun seeing them clustered in the trees all trying to save as much energy as they could in the cold temperature.

Since then we read the book “Four Wings and a Prayer” which suggests good times to view the monarchs flitting around getting ready for the long trip back north. We decided to try again this year and had a very different experience.

Just getting to Angangueo, Michoacán was a trick for us since we winter in Oaxaca, Mexico like the Monarchs. We inquired about routes through Mexico City and were discouraged until we learned about a newer freeway that skirts Mexico City to the north. We used this route to reach Michoacán and made the whole trip easily in one day from our home in Oaxaca.

We stayed at Plaza Don Gabino where we were made to feel at home by the owner and staff. The food was delightful and the atmosphere very welcoming.

We went first to the Sierra Chincua Sanctuary and when we learned that the hiking trail was 6 kilometers long, we opted for horses. Thankfully the guides and leaders were considerate of our years and took it easy on the trail. Neither of us fell off, but we were glad to get off once we reached the wintering areas.

We hiked to the places where the Monarchs were clustered in the trees and there was an eerie quietness. Nobody spoke – we just watched as the monarchs would leave the congregation and take flight. We could actually hear them flitting around as they were the only thing moving in that quiet sanctuary.

As we walked into a clearing where the sun poured down through the forest and a spring of water rose to the surface, the area erupted with thousands of Monarchs tanking-up after a long winter’s nap. Every blooming flower had a garland of wings covering it with busy Monarch flitting here or there for more nourishment.

After spending some time in this sanctuary we mounted our steeds once more for the journey back to our car and it was with physical relief that we dismounted and planted our feet on solid ground once more. The horses made it possible for us to view this wonder and we were glad for the experience, but we were also glad it was over and we could put the ride behind us.

The next day we headed the other direction to El Rosario where the clustering monarchs are a bit closer to the end of the road. We climbed the seemingly endless stairways, resting from time to time and were treated to the sight of monarchs flying from flower to flower all along the way. There were so many that they became commonplace before long. We allowed our eyes to feast on the beauty, majesty, and quantity of monarchs on the wing there at El Rosairo.

We returned to our hotel tired, but happy and satisfied. We had finally seen the monarchs in profusion as we had read about – a dream of 20 years had finally been fulfilled.

Upon returning to our home in Oaxaca I discovered that my wallet had been lost somewhere on our trip. Bummer! The horse trail was inches thick in black dust and a black wallet would be lost forever in that area. We contacted the hotel and they had actually recovered the wallet and were willing to send it to us at our home in Oaxaca. It took only a few days until I was in possession of my identity documents once again and this closed the chapter of our personal monarch watch.

Our pictures don’t do the monarchs justice, but our memory will forever be etched with the sight of thousands of monarchs flitting from one blossom to another, making ready for their return flight to breeding grounds in the United States and Canada.

monarchs on flowers

  1. 2 Responses to “Travelog: Monarchs in Mexico”

  2. By Millie Janka on Apr 7, 2011

    Reading this account stirred my memory of two wonderful trips to see the Monarchs in their overwintering home. Ever since 1973 my family has been raising Monarch butterflies in our Michigan summers and setting them free. The children were 9,7, and 5 that summer.

    Now one of my greatest joys is to see my grandchildren share in the miracle of metamorphosis. Over the years I have been to schools, churches, garden clubs and more to share the story of the Monarchs and their amazing migration. Summer in my northern Michigan home is always filled with journeys to meadows and milkweed to search for larva and eggs.

  3. By Sharon Burkhard on Apr 8, 2011

    My husband and I made the trip 3 years ago to Angangueo and seeing the Monarchs at El Rosario was fabulous. We are wondering how the town is making out after the devestation that hit it in 2010. Can you give an update?

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