The monarch sanctuary in Pacific Grove is a great place to take in some terrestrial pleasures in an area that is highly focused on the ocean.
These butterflies spend the winter in this grove of eucalyptus and pine trees after migrating up to 2000 miles. The conditions are favorable for their survival as the weather is tempered by the surrounding sea.
The story of how these beautiful insects arrive here is fascinating.
Address: 200 block of Ridge Road, Pacific Grove 93950. (The real physical address for this parcel is on Grove Acre. However, there is neither an entrance nor parking on this street. A sign on Lighthouse Ave. will direct you to Ridge Road which is located just west of the Pacific Grove Adult Education Center)
Size: Approximately 3 acres
GPS Coordinates: 36.62594, -121.92956
Parking: No fee parking for about 40-50 vehicles beside the Ed Center on Ridge.
Entrance to the Grove: There is a narrow easement back to the grove between two adjacent properties. Marked well with a sign.
Accessibility: Well graveled pathways with moderate slopes throughout the property should provide good wheelchair access.
Season: Late October to mid-February
Times: Daily, dawn to dusk
Docents available: October: Saturday and Sunday 12-3; November through February: daily, 12-3 weather permitting
Number of butterflies: Up to 25,000 at the height of the season depending on the year.
Sponsoring Organization: Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History
The sign next to the Butterfly Grove Inn directs you to the sanctuary.
The pathways to and throughout the grove are well maintained for easy walking.
When you visit the sanctuary, be sure to take some time to read about the monarchs. The natural history of these insects is amazing.
The butterflies that spend the winter here are 4-5 generations removed from the ones that were here last season.
This generation will live the longest with their lifespan being up to 8 months long.
They will have traveled up to 2000 miles to reach this grove, some coming from Canada.
They travel up to 100 miles per day on their journey.
And those facts are just a small part of the story.
The best time to visit is early afternoon, and that on a sunny day. The butterflies don't start flying about until the temperature is above 55°F. Even if your visit doesn't fit those conditions, you can still see them clustered together in the trees.
I like this photo as the lighting shows the three dimensional structure of the veins on the wing. When the butterflies emerge from the chrysalis, the wings actually inflate with body fluids in order to unfurl. A fascinating bit of work these insects.
When I last visited the Pacific Grove monarch sanctuary, the docent had set up a sighting scope to enable the visitors to view a large group of monarchs clustered together in a tree. There were at least several hundred in the bunch.
A lot of work has gone into making this grove a pleasant place both for the visitor and the butterflies.
The trees and foliage are well-maintained as this is one of the main reasons for the monarchs choosing this spot for a winter refuge.