Humans and birds aren’t the only creatures who flock to warmer climates when cold weather sets in… butterflies are also migratory, and their incredibly special migration habits make for an interesting and one-of-a-kind seasonal attraction near California’s Oceano Dunes Natural Preserve at Pismo State Beach. Every year, without fail, thousands of the black-and-orange-winged beauties return to the same eucalyptus grove just off Highway 1 to wait out the season.
It’s one of the largest Monarch butterfly colonies in the country, but scientists aren’t totally sure why the butterflies know how to make their way to this same grove generation after generation. The butterflies may have a genetic homing system that guides them to California from their homes. And that’s not the only unique feature that these butterflies boast; the Monarchs that winter in San Luis Obispo County (SLO CAL) are special in that their lifespan is about 6 months… far longer than the average Monarch, which usually lives for about 6 weeks. Even the way the butterflies group together in dense clusters on the branches is special; they arrange their wings in a shingle pattern to protect each other from the rain and the cold, and the clusters weigh the branches down and keep them from blowing around too much.
The majestic migration dovetails perfectly with Highway 1 Discovery Route’s annual Coastal Discovery & Stewardship Celebration, which, for 2018, is taking place between January 13th and February 28th. Throughout the six-week celebration, Highway 1 Discovery Route in San Luis Obispo County is partnering with organizations like California State Parks and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to put on about 40 events aimed at immersing travelers in activities and opportunities that protect wildlife, natural attractions, coastal heritage, and cultural sites.
Whether you’re just passing through or you’re a local, this is a great time to visit (or revisit) some of Highway 1’s best-known icons, as many will be hosting special events. Stop by Hearst Castle to catch the Coastal Discovery & Stewardship Film Festival’s feature, Disneynature Oceans and then set out to observe marine life in person. One great way to see the wildlife here? Catch whales at designated sites along the Whale Trail, a nonprofit partnered with loads of national marine conservation organizations to educate the public about whales and the best places to see them.
Or, head to the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery to see the quirky creatures on the beach and chat with a volunteer about the animals. Home to 24,000 animals, this is the only elephant seal rookery in the world that is easily accessible, free, and open to the public every day of the year! If you prefer your stewardship with a side of vino, then head to the 4th annual BlendFest, the country’s only wine festival dedicated to blended wines. It’s taking place February 9th-11th in San Simeon and Cambria along the coast, so stop by for some of the events and enjoy San Luis Obispo County’s finest wines finest wines! There are plenty of other activities to enjoy during the Celebration, so take full advantage. And, of course, the Highway 1 Discovery Route promotes stewardship travel all year long; it’s just one of the many ways they make visiting San Luis Obispo County a special experience!