09 January 2016

Flying To The Mountain

I know this hasn't much to do with cycling:  the destination and winter haven of  monarch butterflies.

So why am I writing about it?  Well, for one thing, I suppose most of you like the orange-and-black creatures.  Also, one of the most unforgettable sights I encountered on a bike ride was a flock of them lifting off one early fall afternoon at Point Lookout.  If you've ever seen them take off, you know they truly deserve their name.

Forty-one years ago today, western researchers found the "Mountain of Butterflies" in Mexico.  Five years later, it officially became the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.  The site encompasses 56,000 hectares; however, the butterflies--over a billion of them, by some estimate, live on less than five (yes, five, not 5000) of those hectares.

In the language of the local Purepucha people, the name of the Monarch means, "harvest butterfly" because it always arrived when they harvested maize, which was to their diet as rice is in much of Asia.  When Spaniards arrived early in the 16th Century, they noticed that the butterfly and harvest came around El Dia de los Murtes (Day of the Dead) in late October, so the Monarch came to be associated with that day's festival.

Google "doodle" commemorating the discovery of the "Mountain of Butterlies"

The Monarch is always on a journey.  So are we.  I think the luckiest of us are privileged to make significant parts of ours on our bicycles.

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