On Saturday, October 7, I gave an evening slide presentation and talk at the Julian Price Park amphitheater. The beautiful park with a 47 acre lake is at milepost 297 of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Elevation, something like 3400 feet. The presentation was not particularly well attended, but it was worth the trip, nonetheless. Afterward I camped overnight, sleeping in my 4Runner, parked in the drive of an RV spot. Oak trees kept dropping acorn bombs on my roof and that made it hard to stay asleep. They sounded like bombs, or rather gunshots. At about midnight, I moved the vehicle to the empty neighboring campsite where the acorns fell less frequently.
On the way to the event, I drove up the parkway from Asheville, stopping at likely gaps to see if monarchs used them to cross the ridges. The absolutely best place was the Ridge Junction Overlook. This overlook is about 100 yards north of the entrance to Mt. Mitchell State Park. It has a fantastic long view and I counted 20 monarchs in half an hour, most sailing over. As the temperature warmed, other monarchs stopped to feed on the violet asters along the parking area. Before I left, I did a spot count and got 15. I will definitely be including this location in the 2018 edition of my guide. Further north I counted six at the Bald Knob Parking Area, five on the private land adjacent to Gooch Gap, and two in the meadow at the turnoff to Linville Falls Visitor's center. (I will add milepost numbers later.)
So, get up on the parkway and look for monarch butterflies. The migration will not last much longer!
I plan to create a YouTube video of the slide presentation, which itself contains videos of monarch life cycle transitions. I learned quite a bit during the preparation of the presentation, in particular something of the natural and culture history of milkweed and the overwintering monarch population in California. Mexico has 12 known sites, but CA has 400!
Oh, and why did the government buy milkweed pods in the 1940s? To make life vests from the floss (the silk) for the war effort. More later.