Pacific Grove Icons: Monarchs on the Way

The ocean-sweet town wings-up for a welcome visitor.

NATURE MIGRATION CHART: If you had a giant swath of paper on the wall filled with colorful lines, and each line represented a major migratory season for an animal or insect that entered or departed or passed through or passed by or or passed over California, well... you'd need a whole lot of wall. Our state is flush with beasties making that seasonal journey, the one made by their forebeasties and the one that their progeny beasties will make long after them. We humans tend to be rather on the stay-put side, at least comparatively, but we do have the good sense to be aware of animals' internal clocks and rhythms and the pathways they wend in order to create offspring or cocoon or nest or seek warmer or cooler climes. Natural Bridges State Park near Santa Cruz throws a full-on Migration Festival each winter, in fact, to honor all migrating animals but to spotlight a few in particular, including the state's most famous seasonal winged thing, the Monarch Butterfly. Those colorful wee ones are rather fond of the Central Coast and Monterey Peninsula, and while several villages will throw their own butterfly hellos, Pacific Grove is first out the proverbial gate, in October.

OCTOBER 4, TO BE SPECIFIC: That's the date of the Butterfly Parade & Bazaar, and if you feel like you saw the parade as a kid, you probably did -- it stretches back, like a butterfly stretching its wings, over the last three-quarters of a century. For sure, you'll see tots and a few grown-ups in butterfly gear, but if you want to see the Monarchs themselves, they have a date with various groves and tree tops starting around mid-October. Pacific Grove's Monarch Grove Sanctuary is an excellent look-up-and-point spot, but note that you'll want to keep your pointing finger limber for a few months, as the Monarchs hang around through the middle of February. And, yes, pointing is rude, but if it is up, towards a branch, where a cluster of ethereal wings are slowly moving in time, well... we can be excused. Migrations may happen every year, but that doesn't mean they're everyday or humdrum. They're quite extraordinary and invite our full-on attentions.

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