Mark the return of the Monarch Butterflies on Sunday, Oct. 14 at Natural Bridges State Beach near Santa Cruz. Guided tours of a monarch grove happen through January.
MIGRATORY SOIREE: While autumn is the time when animals retreat to hibernate, prepare for winter, gather and store nuts, or do all the things they've been doing come autumn for thousands of years, there are a few creatures that are very much associated with the shorter days of fall and colder temps, at least around the Golden State. Yes, it is true, many whales are winter time fixtures in our waters, migrating as they do. But on shore? The monarch butterflies return to California on their southward migration every October and fans flit to Pacific Grove, Monterey, Santa Cruz, and beaches in the area to see them. It's such a major rite of fall, the welcoming of the monarchs, that an annual bash is thrown at Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz. The party this year was on Sunday, Oct. 14, but if you missed it, there are other places to commune with the monarchs. And, of course, when we say "commune" we mean watch and observe from a respectful distance, with a camera handy, of course.
GUIDED WALKS: Docents will lead visitors into the Monarch Grove at Natural Bridges from October through January (the first walk is Oct. 21). The walks happen twice daily on Saturdays and Sundays. If you can't visit the area during those months, note that there's an annual migration party every February. Monarchs are celebrated, of course, and whales, too. We love the pairing of butterflies and those most mammoth of mammals; there's something charming about the fact that they are two of our state's biggest migratory superstars.