Friday, January 20, 2017

The Monarch Butterflies of Pismo Beach

 Every year thousands of Monarch butterflies flock to Pismo Beach, California. Really thousands.  On the day we went there were 20,000 butterflies clumped together at the Pismo State Beach Butterfly Grove.  You can see these butterflies from late October through February every year.  On February 4th they will celebrate Monarch Day from 10 am to 2 pm.  There will be talks and educational booths with an art project for the children.

When we first arrived we saw cars lining both sides of the street.  Parking isn't perfect there but its worth the bit of walk to see these beautiful creatures.  There is a fence you walk around and then you are there.  The day we went there was a trailer selling all things Monarch.  The trailer is open from 10 am to 4 pm daily and can answer all your related questions.   A few feet from the trailer you walk into a butterfly wonderland.  There is no cost to get into the grove and it leads to a path system you can walk to the beach from.  The path takes you through a small campground with ponds filled with ducks.  It had that familiar stale water with ducks smell too that reminded me of golf courses back in Utah.  You can see the whole place in 30 minutes if you are looking for a quick stop or make it a day with a picnic and a kite on the beach.  The beach is wide and open, perfect for running a kite.  We saw a half dozen or so at any given time.

There are signs from time to time reminding you to look where you are walking.  With 20,000 butterflies around they tend to land in the walking path.  From the path you just look up in the trees.  The Monarch Butterflies cluster together in the limbs of the eucalyptus trees with their wings covering the near by others.  This provides shelter and warmth for the whole group.  At first glance it looks like fall leaves on the trees.  When you look closer you see each golden leaf is really a butterfly.  A few flutter about as you go from tree to tree.

A typical butterfly only lives for six weeks.  The last generation of the year goes into a special phase that can't reproduce until spring arrives.  Because of this they don't use the energy they would to reproduce and they live in a cooler area that slows down their metabolism.  These factors add up to a much longer life for them. These butterflies here can live for six months as they overwinter and prepare for the spring.  At 11 am you can sit down for a quick talk about the Monarch life and the details about the grove.  The volunteer docents are there to answer your questions or just tell you a few facts you didn't know.  We missed the sit down but didn't feel at all like we missed out on information.  There are signs around the grove telling you why the butterflies are there and what you would want to know.  They even have a few spotting scopes out to get a close up view high up in the trees.  Bring a camera and take a lot of pictures.  This feels like a once in a lifetime experience even though you can come back every year.

If you are going to come see these beautiful butterflies plug 400 S Dolliver St, Pismo Beach, CA 93449 into your GPS.  Its not too far of the 101 freeway.  While you're there head on up to the pier.  The pier walks out over the ocean for a view like no other place in the world.  It was a chilly January day when we went and the beach was still active and fun.  When I say chilly I'm talking a light jacket and not a bundled up coat like January generally describes.  We were able to watch surfers riding the waves beneath us as we reached the end.  You can also fish of the pier without a licence.  There is a shack that rents the supplies for a reasonable hourly rate.   That is definitely on my list of things to come back and try.  I could easily spend a weekend there and never get bored.  Pismo Beach is a beautiful place with long beaches and lots of things to do.  Another magical memory made.  On to the next.


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