Friday, September 15, 2023

Recently a bookstore in Sylva, North Carolina called and asked me to send them copies of my monarch butterfly guide.  You can see something about the guide in my earlier posts.  I ordered the books to be sent directly from Amazon, and asked only that I be reimbursed for the cost and shipping.  Below is an insert from me I asked the store to put in each copy.

Fall 2023

Dear Friend,

I released the most recent edition of my monarch migration guide a couple years ago.  The plan was to update it every other year or so.  As you might tell, I did everything in the book myself, from writing and photography to layout and publishing.  As it happens, I’m busy with many things and couldn’t keep up with updating it as much as needed.  Maybe next year….

Anyway, when City Lights Books asked me to send them books for this fall I was delighted with their interest, but wanted to include an insert, this insert.

Because the book is a guide, I wanted up-to-date information.  Some of the material now is out of date.  But much of it—the photographs, the monarch life cycle details, and the better locations for viewing the monarch migration around here are all still good.  One of the hiking trails shared, Naked Falls, I would no longer recommend because it is now overused.  One of the retail sources for milkweed plants, Mellie Mac’s, is no longer in business. Some of the educational events are different now.  There are other things, like recent overwintering counts in Mexico, so look online for what’s current.

The book was a detailed snapshot from the past, still of some value, I hope.  I’m not making anything from it, I just offer it as a gift of my time.

The website no longer exists.  I do keep up somewhat with, which covers my writing and projects. You can reach me at

Perhaps I will see you up on the Blue Ridge Parkway this fall.  If you observe anyone looking up, scanning the sky, and especially if there are monarchs about, speak to them.  If it’s not me, it’s likely another person who is fascinated with this amazing creature.

Lastly, I will share something beautiful.  It might appear unconnected except nominally, but beauty in whatever form is universal.  Listen to the Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto, performed by the Singapore Chinese Orchestra with Josh Bell as the violinist.  The piece is based on a Chinese folk tale.

-Mickey Hunt

Thursday, September 14, 2023



(a short, short story)

As a child, our son Timothy told his teachers he was adopted. During adolescence, he wailed in misery, certain that his best friends had moved away. By age twenty, Timothy’s grief sank into glum desolation, and he would lie on the bed all day, bemoaning an imaginary poverty. None of his therapists could free him from his flawed perception of loss.

Saying, “sign up or move out,” my husband Bill and I finally pushed him into enrolling at the community college, where he takes literature courses. Now in his early twenties, Timothy sits at home reading novels or staring into the tropical fish tanks.

One Friday afternoon when I came home from work, I found him eating a bowl of ramen noodles at the breakfast counter.

“How’s your day been?” I asked.

He pushed a paper toward me across the counter. The letter “A” and the word “Incredible!” were scrawled in red across the top.

“You won’t want to read it,” he said in a monotone. “It’s the same stuff about my family and friends who disappeared.”

I had stopped arguing with him years ago — stopped telling him in hysterical terms how we were his natural parents, that his memories were false, that he had not been robbed of a fortune and no one had abandoned him.

“Writing is a healthy outlet for you, Tim,” I said.

He gently cleared his throat. “I suppose.”

“I’d like to read it.”

He just shrugged his shoulders, slid off the stool, and put his empty bowl into the dishwasher.

“Your dad and I plan to see Grandma Ostenson tomorrow at the hospice center,” I said. “She won’t be around much longer. Will you come with us?”

“Grandma Ostenson? Why? I never visit her.”

“You won’t have another chance.”

“I mean, I don’t even know her.”

“My mother was troubled,” I said.

Tim blinked like he usually did before an emotional episode. “She’s barely aware. She’s going to die when we get there, anyway.”

“You’d be keeping us company.”

He looked at me with something like pity for a needy stranger. “Yeah, I would be.”

“Do you have plans for the weekend?”

He whisped air from his nose at my absurd question.

“Well,” I said, “I’m putting my feet up for a few minutes before I start supper. What would you like?”

“Nothing. But thanks.”

I took Timothy’s paper upstairs, thinking that I’d fall asleep during the second paragraph, but I didn’t. Instead, I moved to the window for better light. Ever since he was little, Tim had communicated his delusions, but never with such realism, and never with any rational perspective.

The prompt had been, “Your fountain of joy.” Tim had written about a wife and children, a career as a novelist, acclaim from intelligent readers, pleasure in research and storytelling, satisfaction in hard physical work, and purpose from sharing life with others.

But the ending of the essay… The last paragraph said, “Only recently have I realized that the memories exist merely in my head, fixed there forever, as if a malicious scientist planted them to torture me, which means they will never give joy, but will always burden me with the pain of separation. My hope is that someday the pain will subside.”


When we arrived at the hospice, Mom was propped up on pillows; her eyes were open and her breathing was labored. After a while, she said, “It’s nice to see you.”

I babbled on as if she understood every word. Between her cat-naps she appeared to enjoy our company, especially Timothy, who sat next to her. When I mentioned his paper, she said, “Read it to me, please. Read it all.”

“Sorry Mom, we didn’t—” Bill said, but Timothy was pulling a copy from his pocket.

As Tim read, her mind seemed to open like an evening primrose and when he reached the end, she said, “I remember that story… I’ve seen it before.”

“What do you see, Grandma?” Tim said.

She fumbled and took his hand. “Timmy?”

“Yes, Grandma.”

“Dear child, it’s a gift. Those people and experiences you feel are gone—they’ve not come to you yet. Your memories aren’t memories. They’re visions of your future. I had the same condition.”

“We’re clairvoyant?”

She nodded faintly. “Until I resigned myself to loss, real or not, I couldn’t be thankful for the present… for the people in my life. I prevented my joyful future. Accept your losses, baby, even self-inflicted ones. Give and receive love.”

She drifted into unconsciousness again and then stirred enough to say, “I wish I’d known you, I could have told you before. But, I’m glad… you came to visit.”

Timothy looked at his grandmother and blinked rapidly, her words working in him, maybe re-forming his life as we watched. He then gathered his father and me into his arms and cried unashamedly. We wept with him. At last when all this new grief was purged, we saw that my mom was gone, her breath stilled, her face serene.

We watched in silence until Bill said, “Tim, go tell them at the desk, okay?”

After Tim rinsed his face and left, I asked Bill, “What do you think about the family gift?”

He touched Mom’s hand and sighed. “I’m not sure. You don’t have it.”

I walked to the door. Down the hallway, Tim was leaning against the counter at the nurses’ station.

A minute later he returned, his face wearing an allusion to a smile. “They’ll be here soon,” he said. “No hurry.” Another silent moment passed until Timothy said, “What’s the name of the duty nurse? The young one. Brunette.”

“Margaret,” I said. “She’s vivacious, isn’t she?”

“She looks familiar.”

“She likes good literature, Tim,” my husband said.

Timothy blinked and said, his voice caught between a sob and a laugh, “Yeah, I know.”


Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Nose Prints

Glowing nose print clearly seen at night with headlamp.
 We now qualify for the Big League of vacation rental cleaning.  Because we have discovered a trick for cleaning windows of the most troublesome and annoying of whatever-makes-windows-dirty: the Nose Print.  And not only the nose print, but the palm print, the forehead print, the butt print, and the print of unknown origin.  How do we find these prints?  Not by the usual, flawed window cleaning method of having one person on the inside of the window on a sunny day and another person on the outside.  No.  The best way is to do your window cleaning at night when it is dark outside, and inside, too.  At night.  Use a headlamp or flashlight and simply shine the light on the window.  Prints of any kind will glow like florescent powder under UV, making it possible to see the prints without strain.  

It's fascinating how vacation rental guests seem to be unable to calculate where a window is and mash their noses into the glass as they gaze at the lovely scenery outside. Children love to decorate the windows within reach with their personal oil of palm.  Anthropological psychology questions acide, in this insecure world, we have made it a secondary business to assist law enforcement in the surveillance of our citizenry by collecting these prints of every type, along with the oils for DNA samples, for identification purposes.  Surprisingly, it pays well. 

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Two Wildness Adventures

The florescent orange, highly venomous Araneus marmoreus  
orb-weaver trekking across the Blue Ridge Parkway 
on High Swan, late November, 2022. 
Humans are most alive and joyful, truly joyful, when at home in their natural state of wildness.  Why is that?  Wildness sparks with us a deep survival instinct that heightens our senses, increases our strength and pain tolerance, and gives us an immediate sense of purpose.  Beyond that, it compels us to experience our connection with the wide universe.

We are, however, separated from wildness by the protections and aids of what we call civilization.  Civilization is valuable and now even essential for our survival, but it also is a hindrance to experiencing the most direct connection to the natural world.  Civilization has helped us, but also made us dependent, and thus not fully what we are meant to be. 

When wild, non-human creatures, especially those considered endangered, are injured or as young ones, orphaned, caring people sometimes take over, providing for the needs of the creature, with the goal of reintroducing them into the wild, of possible.  If not possible, then the creature remains in the care of humans, often serving to educate and inform about the needs of the species, and even to install awe and wonder in seeing that creature up close.  Zoos, for example, still serve these purposes.

Humans dwelling within civilization are like the inhabitants of a zoo.  We are dependant.  Different organizations like National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and Outward Bound serve to initiate the reintroduction of humans into the wild, their original environment.  These days, we can only visit the wilderness for short or for some people, longer periods.  We are visitors, no longer natives—perhaps we are exiles.  We carry civilization on our backs in the form of dried food, fuel and stoves, and high tech clothing, shelter and other gear—maybe even a satellite telephone and solar charger. Perhaps a weapon.   In some ways, like an astronaut, but lower tech.

This craving for our original natural state may be behind our, or I should say, my fascination with observing wild creatures.  I watch, listen, and even smell them living their lives and I see how it’s done.  I enjoy wildness vicariously by contemplating those who are still native.  I appreciate their beauty and deceptively complex simplicity.

Today I was outside the Brown House, a place we built on five acres, taking a short break from cleaning for the next guests. Long ago I developed a habit of what I will call, outdoor situational awareness.  It involves an almost unconscious perception of wind and weather, and changes in them.  Anything new or in motion catches my attention.  I am aware of the topography and flora.  Same as a wild animal, I often look up and around and survey my surroundings.

So, during my break from cleaning as I stared out through the leafless trees and brush to the east, I caught the motion of something big, almost frightening, moving at a fast pace, bounding across the front yard of the white modular home up the hill.  My first thought—that it was a large dog—quickly morphed into “deer,” and the way it moved, head erect like it carried a heavy crown, a male deer with tall antlers.  It sprinted down the hill into the field before me. Then it ran frantically back and forth, fervently sniffing the air.  My instincts tuned me into the breeze touching me on my left, so I knew the animal could not smell me, so I watched it run back and forth, up and down, following a scent, until it vanished straight back up the hill.  I was in awe, and blessed to have witnessed this brief demonstration of abundant, passionate wildness.

Later in the day, in the afternoon, I was staining the side of the new woodshed of the Brown House.  As usual and without thinking, I glanced up to survey the long view, in this case north on our property.  You never know what you will see.  And I saw something.  Tall, dark, and moving back and forth side to side into a bush like it was dancing. It was a bear doing something I had seen more evidence of than I wished, but had never observed in person:  Rubbing and reveling in the fragrant foliage of a Carolina Sapphire Cypress tree up in our fruit orchard.

The Carolina Sapphire Cypress was developed by Clemson University as a potential commercial Christmas tree.  They started with the Arizona Cypress and did some tweaking—I’m not sure what this was.  Anyway, the AC and its offspring, the CSC was supposed be drought resistant.  I bought five of these trees at Lowes about 17 years ago and planted them as a screen between our property and the house to the Southeast, a house that had once been part of a whole parcel, but was divided from the land to make it easier to sell.  So, the green screen was in the required terms of the sale.  Problem was the CSC does not like shade, and the trees, then about 4 feet high, were not happy.  I dug them all up and moved them to the top of our land as a screen between the fruit orchard and the road. 

As the years passed, the CSC trees thrived and grew, but so did the bear population, and I began to see damage to the lower limbs.  Chewed, broken, twisted off, piled up.  It was strange.  Then when two of the trees died from unrelated causes, I replaced them with new CSC trees, and smaller.  Those trees got special bear treatment and were continually abused, and it was clear they would never grow tall like their older brothers, who now stand at 30 feet or more.  I didn’t know for sure bears were the varmints, but what else could it be?

An old friend and former colleague of mine was a plant buyer and customer guide at BB Barns Nursery in south Asheville, and somehow the subject came up. She happens to be the only person ever I’ve ever spoken with who also knows about the love obsession bears have with the CSC.  She’d even see them in action at her house.  Her belief was the bears ate the plants seed cones, but I was dubious—still am. 

So, today for the first time I saw a bear bathing himself in the foliage, as much as a bear, or anyone for that matter, can take a bath in a plant.  He was standing up on his hind legs, walking in and out of the poor shrub (only about 5 feet tall—and it would be much taller if not for the abuse) and generally rolling, snuggling, adoring. 

We can only guess why the bears have such an attraction.  Their powers of smell are about 100 times stronger than ours.  Maybe the aromatic volatile organic compounds have some insecticidal properties.  Maybe the transferred scent is an attraction to the opposite sex. Cologne or perfume. Maybe the bears just revel in the smell for pure pleasure.  Imagine that with their extraordinary olfactory senses, the pungent, crisp essential oils provide them a mind numbing feeling of well being.   Bear aromatherapy.

As I stalked closer and closer to the bear, keeping the blueberry fence between me and him to conceal my form, I was aware that the breeze was to my back and it was only a matter of time before he would smell me.  I moved when he moved as he was distracted, not looking around.  Then he froze for a minute.  He couldn’t see me, but he knew I was close-by, and slowly, stiffly he strutted away—that’s what male bears do when they are scared and about to run.  They are trying to scare you, but it’s a bluff.  Suddenly he bolted and was gone, just as I saw one of our elderly neighbors walking down the road to the right.

If you are staying at the Brown House, and if you visually survey the horizon now and then, you might catch a glimpse of wildness.  It might be anything.  Hawks, woodpeckers, the grand vista of the skyscape rolling by in the south, a cloud of nearly invisible insects overhead.  It might be deer and bears.  Or, if you are even mildly brave, you can walk up to the orchard and breathe in the scent of Carolina Sapphire Cypress and imagine for a moment you yourself are again a wild uncivilized native of the forests.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Re-arrangement for the Holidays
Someday I will write the full story about the four-year project of building the Brown House and I'll include photos from the progressing stages of construction.  One aspect of the building I will summarize here is that it cost about 1/3 more than we expected and had in our pockets. So much money.  And we had to go into debt and we knew we'd eventually have to sell a little rental house we owned to pay it off.  The interest on the loan happened to be variable, and with inflation climbing so high and the Federal Reserve Bank raising the rates, the cost was becoming painful. 

So, we sold the rental house (The Grey House) to the tenant and paid the debt off, leaving something extra to invest.  After many years, finally, we are now drawing a positive income, and this is one of the things I am most thankful for this year.  Though it is a lot of work, especially the cleaning.  

To me, clean is clean.  There are no grades of clean. Humanly speaking, however, we can only bear so much tedium. So far we have not been able to find anyone who will clean to my standard. At this point, it doesn't matter who cleans, I will always check afterwards and find "things".  I don't want to get distracted here, because I only want to say I feel we are not so much in the hospitality business with cleaning as a required sideline, but we are in the cleaning business with a hospitality sideline.

It was startling to realize and admit that we are a part of the tourist industry.  But for us, that specialty of the industry—hospitality—is more than providing a roof for an impersonal out-of-towner as much as it is sharing what we love, our home, with a fellow creature, who in turn helps us afford to share.

Some weeks ago a woman booked the Brown House for a full Thanksgiving holiday, and I was happy that we could provide the setting for their special get-together, that we would become a part of their permanent family memory.  All of our guests so far had from zero to, maximum, 10 reviews.  This person had about two dozen perfect 5-star ratings. Royalty. So, I wanted to roll out the red-carpet, or specifically, the fall-themed table cloth.  

As the house construction had moved to the end phases, our plan for the main room furniture layout was to place the dining table in the prime location—the window corner—and, as where we live (the Red House), have the table reach into the kitchen.  But with the furniture we bought, it wouldn't all fit how we liked, so we put the comfy sitting furniture in the prime spot.  It was nice, but the table had been pushed into the less-than-glamorous, relatively dark space of the room that remained.  Back to the present: I asked the upcoming guest beforehand about switching it all around and extending the table to make it the hub. The key to setting all that extra work in motion was if she was going to cook a Thanksgiving meal, or just go out to dinner?  I received the answer when she sent me a list of cooking tools and asked what we had and didn't have. She was thrilled about us switching it all around, and yes, it took a couple extra hours. 

Since the guests would be arriving well after dark we also "left the light on" and that's a post for the future. Hint: we have 116 LED lights associated with the Brown House, not counting the night-lights.

So, after hours of driving, the guest and her family got in late last night. And here is what she sent me just before midnight:  "I forgot to text at 10:15 when we arrived bc we were so enamored with your place!  It's so incredible...sparkling clean, wonderful array of antiques and other gems, and such great workmanship and artistry.  We just love it here and are so amazed at what you created!"

And this is what makes the extra work worthwhile.


Sunday, November 13, 2022

The Artwork at the Brown House

Appalachian Writer James Still's Cabin on Dead Mare Branch
The art work in the Brown House, as are the furnishings & everything else, is highly personal. Much of it has been “rescued” from Goodwill, purchased at bargain prices. Sometimes I bought a print just for the frame, which I then used with another print, poster, or photograph. Most of it is unusual &/or unique. I have two long, crosscut saw blades that belonged to my dad. What follows is a description & known history of the each of the pieces. One of my ideas for art work in the house is that it depicts nothing you can see by looking out a window of the house. For example, I have almost no representational flowers or plants. I didn’t hold to that rule absolutely... 

Friday, November 11, 2022

Eleven Essential, Big Rules on How to Earn a Coveted One-Star Review from Your Vacation Rental Host

Sample of artwork in the Brown House
Everyone is concerned about their online reputation these days. Reviews of you and your conduct become part of your permanent record that, unlike school grades, but like a rap-sheet, is totally public. If you want to really make a statement in virtual-land, and you ever stay in short term rentals, be sure to follow as many of these rules as possible.

1. Don’t pay attention to any of the material your host sends you. This is essential to achieve that one star review for several important reasons, which I will refer to in the list.

2. Remember, a vacation rental in a private home is exactly like a cheap hotel room, which means you can treat the host, staff, and the rental itself with as much disrespect as you can muster. If you see the host, just keep walking and say something, brief, meaningless, and insincere. Never thank them for their beautiful place and hospitality.

3. Don’t bother writing a review of your stay. It’s a waste of your time and no one will read it anyway. And if you do happen to blow it and write a positive review, it will mean the host can raise the rent for next time. Better even is writing a bad review, and especially complain about things that the host told you about in the material they sent you. Like if they say upfront they don’t have a large TV, you complain about not them having one.

4. Show up at least a half hour before the stated check-in time without asking and stay at least a half hour after the check-out time. This will be fun, as the host will be in a muck sweat to clean while you are in the way.

5. Leave all your trash scattered here and there throughout the place, as it suits your convenience. You’ve already paid a huge amount of money for the rent and the cleaning fee, so you are entitled make life easy for yourself. If you clean any of your nasty messes, the cleaners won’t earn their money. For extra points, bring your smelly food garbage from home and stuff it into one of the inside garbage cans.

6. Be sure to bring your pet to the Pet Free rental—they are always cleaner--then when the host later finds animal hair everywhere and asks if you brought a cat, tell them you left it at home with a sitter. Don’t tell them you brought your ferrets. Hosts are sensitive to bad reviews, so you can lie and bully them into submission.

7. If you accidentally or purposefully cause damage, never tell the host. They probably won’t see it until it’s too late, and then will not know exactly who did it.

8. When you make your booking, select dates that begin on a Saturday night or end on a Saturday. You will save money because Friday and Saturday nights are more in demand and hosts charge more for them. This keeps the host from making more money. Another trick is to check out on New Years Eve day, or otherwise cut any holiday season in half, thus preventing someone else from enjoying the whole holiday and the host from making a fortune.

9. Lie, and lie, and lie about everything. Or tell them nothing. Whatever they may say, hosts love not knowing what is going on in their place.

10. When you make a booking, always ask for a discount, inventing a sob story about how you are only trying to have a family reunion with your brother and mom for the first time in 10 years, and everything is so expensive, and that you might have to borrow money to afford the fees. Or make up your own stories. For extra effect, flatter the host. Hosts feel guilty about being rich enough to own a second home, or an extra room, so they always cave.

11. Ask the host all kinds of questions, especially ones they’ve answered in their online literature, and get them to invest considerable time with you. Treat them like new-found friends. Then later on cancel the reservation at the last moment while you can still get a full refund. The downside to this is the host can’t write that one-star review. The upside is that they will never let you book their place ever again and you will save a ton of money.

12. Leave all the lights on, inside and out, even in the daytime when you are out and about. You are bringing light to the world and inspiring the climate activists.

13.  Attempt to break the world record for how many full-garbage-bags/poundage/per day of trash you can leave behind.  Extra credit for whole watermelons and such.  Hint: recyclables add to the bulk, so don’t separate those.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

When Public Reviews & Private Remarks Are Switched

It happened this week.  A guest new to AirBnb loved our place and wrote us a stunningly rave 5-star review.  Problem is: he posted the review as a private message only we can see.  And at the same time, he posted private embarrassing remarks in public so everyone can see. Oops. What do you think?

Public: 'The owners are such a great assets….awesome. They know what they are doing. Awesome, awesome owners is all I can say. They know what they are are doing. This place is the s**t. If everyone on here were as detailed and attentive as these owners then there would be no need for hotels.'

Private: 'This was the best. The cabin was absolutely spotless and stocked with things that I would not have thought (TP, paper towels, shower gel, shampoo, coffee etc) would be there. I definitely cannot say enough about they cleanliness and beauty. The views are awesome and it is literally @8 miles from grocery stores and places to eat but is far enough to put you off the grid and feel tranquil. The “Brown House” is such a nice place and I will 100% book this house again. If anyone is looking for a place to get away and relax then you need to book this place without a doubt. Mick and Edi truly know what they are doing and they carry it out with this place.'

Discussion:  I think the first review was intended for the Airbnb administrators, as a report card. He did try to fix this reversal, but Airbnb doesn't allow editing once reviews are posted by both parties, except to delete the whole review.  And he did book again for a future stay. 

Wood Shed or Woodshed?

Our son built this woodshed at the Brown House last week.  The inside dimensions are 6' x 16' with a variable height, enough space to tightly stack four cords under cover. I cut the seven locust posts on our property some years ago, and stored them under old roof metal. The roof of the woodshed matches the metal siding of the Lower Level of the house.  As you might see, the triangle sections under the overhangs on each end are made from old barn wood that our son brought from his place. We plan to stain the barn wood and posts something clear and oil-based. The pressure treated wood will receive a unique, fanciful color: brown.  A girl who helps with cleaning asked what the shed was for. I said, "It's a woodshed."  She said, "I know, but what's it for?"  I guess her family doesn't heat with wood.


I began writing a novel in the year 2000 and it took about 10 years to complete.  Then, with the encouragement of my wife, who said it would help promote my novel, I began writing short stories.  Many of those stories were published here are there, but for the most part, nowhere of significance to advance a career in writing.  My stories and novel are all available to purchase on Amazon, as is my monarch migration book.  The short stories are available to read here.

My plan was to transition from a decades long career in what I will call "social reform" to writing and selling books and stories, but the writing part never went anywhere, except as a hobby.  As it happened, I didn't have any significant "retirement" revenue. Fast-forward to the punchline: we built a house on about five acres near Asheville, North Carolina, equipped it as a vacation rental, and since the early spring of 2022 we've accommodated guests through the AirBnb and Vrbo platforms.

Those platforms are rigidly designed for formally presenting our place in words and pictures, and booking guests. They have a helpful mutual review process between guests and hosts. As a host, you want 5-star glowing reviews, and you want them as guests, too. Everyone is as polite as pie, typically. What the vacation rental formats don't have in is an environment for sharing news, and frankly, more candid and humorous stories about the joys and terrors of letting complete strangers live in your beautiful new house on your private property.

So, given the economic failure of my writing efforts, and given the success of our modest vacation rental business, I'm transitioning this blog toward, well, telling stories from the Brown House under High Swan.  

Sunday, August 15, 2021

I'm Still Here

For the past couple years, I've been building a house, and this has taken up much of my time and energy. Perhaps I will share more photos of the house, someday. Its theme is 'Outside In and Inside Out", which reflects an effort to merge the design of the inside of the house with the outside natural environment.  I've done a lot with wood and rock, and using free or found materials. If I were to give a name to the house, I would call it Windfall, since the monies for the land and the house were given to us.  I still think about story lines, and every so often I will work a little on Clouds Fall to Earth.  Right now I'm wondering if I should write an article to submit to the Dark Mountain Project, the UK group that published my story, “The Tragedy of Bernie the Homeless.”  The article would be on Sound, and explore Dark Mountain's theme of Confluence. To give you a hint of what the article might be about, I'll share a small but amazing occurrence that happened twice recently.  So, I am working on the house, which happens to be in a semi rural and heavily forested area, and happens often to be under the flight path of airliners flying in and out of the Asheville Regional Airport 20 miles or so south. For me, the sound of these machines, even those that are miles above, is pollution. Unwanted sound that steals from the natural sounds of wind in leaves, rainfall, birds and insects.  An airliner passes fairly low overhead, a plane whose engine produces certain frequencies, kind of a mixed whining and whistling.  And then a choir of coyotes not far up the mountainside joins in with a passionate, sorrowful and multi-voiced descant; both high and low parts merging into a confluence of human genius and technology and the hot blood and passion of a pack of wild creatures.  For now I leave you with a photo of a female monarch butterfly that was feeding on my potted milkweed.

Monday, September 23, 2019

The Southward Migration Has Reached Us

The early front of the southward monarch butterfly migration has now reached our area of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is more or less south of Asheville, North Carolina.  This past weekend, I stopped at various places listed in my guide and saw anywhere from 2 to a dozen monarchs feeding on goldenrod, aster, and one on Joe Pye Weed. On the previous weekend I stopped at the Mills River Gap Overlook and met some of the hawk watchers.  They said they expected a peak of Broad Wing Hawks in four days or so, and sure enough, just five days later, as reported at for the station called Mount Pisgah, they counted 5,781 on Friday, September 20. I drove up on the following Saturday and saw large “kettles” and the birds streaming from it for the first time in my life.  It was spectacular.  You’ve missed main flow of Broad Wings for this year, but maybe you can catch it next year.
 Another migratory creature I observed in large number for the first time was the dragonfly.  Nobody was counting them, but they easily showed in our binoculars.  I guess there were hundreds in the air at any one time, all zooming south over the ridge.  I need to do some reading on them.

I double-checked my book, and the peak day for the monarch migration over the southern Blue Ridge Parkway last year was October 13th.  One observer told me personally she estimated as many as 3,600 butterflies per hour passing overhead at Haywood Gap, which is just parkway north of the Caney Fork Overlook.  I will do my best to witness that spectacle this year.  It has to be incredible. I hope to catch some video. 
Haywood Gap features a Mountains to the Sea Trail crossing and a little parking area in gravel.  The best viewpoint for the monarchs is from the guard rail across from the parking area.  A long band of aster and goldenrod grows just there along the road.

A bit of good news for viewing:  The National Park Service has cleared quite a few trees on both sides of the road just downhill from Cherry Gap Overlook.  They seemed to have done a good job of balancing both opening views and leaving many of the beautiful trees, the oaks and hemlocks.  I think this will make monarch viewing better.  It also will allow for the fall nectar plants to have more sunlight.

My monarch migration guide is available for sale in several locations along the southern Parkway, including the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center, the Folk Art Center, the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center, the Pisgah Inn Gift Shop, and the Pisgah Inn Country Store.  I have updated it for this fall.

About the photographs:  I take a lot of photos of monarchs, so many it’s hard to sort through them and pick out the best.  The ones I select for publication are often either just the most beautiful or instructive I can produce, or else they show some different perspective or detail.  For instance, the first one is both backlit by sunshine and frontlit by my flash.  The second photo shows the male gland (near the end of the abdomen) to be a slit or narrow oval, rather than the usual black dot. I just like the color of the third one, which is from 2018.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

My Milkweed Garden is a Love Nest

click to enlarge
A few days ago I flushed this couple from a large Asclepias tuberosa (orange flowers and often called Butterfly Weed). He flew them up into a pine tree, she hanging beneath and still attached. Later on in the day and several times since, I've seen males patrolling our whole property, flying like mad everywhere and giving special attention to any bright color, especially the orange flags I have out to mark places related to construction and landscaping.

Monday, May 13, 2019

The Migration Miracle Continues!

This is the first monarch butterfly larva I've seen this spring.  It's tiny, hardly big enough to be seen with the naked eye. The tell-tale evidence is the white chewed sections of milkweed leaves. A half dozen plants have larvae so far.  I haven't seen eggs... have hardly looked for them.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

A Big Migration Day on the Parkway

Click to Enlarge
There was a solid stream of monarch butterflies passing over the Pounding Mill Overlook on the southern Blue Ridge Parkway last Sunday.  Here they're feeding on an aster plant at the edge of the overlook's steep bank.

Monday, September 3, 2018

The Southern Migration has Begun!

We found this beauty and a few others like it along the southern Blue Ridge Parkway yesterday. The monarch butterfly migration seems to have begun early this year. I have also seen several in my garden and at various places in Asheville.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Hawk Moth

This a large hawk moth I found last week on our property in western North Carolina, but I don't yet know the exact species. The photo isn't the best and I had hoped to take a good one, but the moth escaped before I had the chance to set it up. This photo is made with a smart phone of an in-law relative.  

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Happy Earth Day!

My monarch butterfly migration guide has been approved for sale in the Blue Ridge Parkway bookstores in our vicinity.  I should have the new edition ready by the end of July.

I've got an orange theme going, and in this photo is the cedar fruiting body of the fungus, Cedar Apple Rust (Gymnosporangium juniperivirginianae).  These hairy, slimy, bright orange balls decorate local cedar trees, making it look like Christmas in April around here.  As its name states, this disease lives in stages on both cedar and apple trees.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Upcoming Earth Day 2018

I picked up 13 bags along a mile stretch of road one Sunday in March
Letter to the Editor

Hey everybody, why not pick up some roadside litter in your neighborhood for the upcoming 48th anniversary of Earth Day? We live in these beautiful mountains, and let’s dress them up for spring. No matter what their politics, all conscientious, self-aware people hate litter, right?  Local environmental groups could get behind this. The big date itself is Saturday, April 22nd, but it might be better for some people to do their litter patrol on Sunday.  If you’re paying for curb service, Waste Pro will pick up as many as a dozen of those white 13 gallon kitchen bags per household, but recycle what you can, especially plastic and aluminum.  Be safe, like wear radioactive green or phosphorescent orange vests.  Watch for speeding motorized vehicles.  So, go out and do something real.

Hunt is the author of “A Pictorial Guide to the Monarch Butterfly Migration over the Southernmost Blue Ridge Parkway.”  The national organizer of the first Earth Day grew up in his small home town.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Our Io Moth

Female Io moth, cocoon on corn leaf, and eggs.  CLICK TO ENLARGE
Remember the giant green Automeris io caterpillar from last summer?  The one covered in poisonous stinging spikes.  (See the September 1, 2017 entry below.)  Here is the moth form of that same individual, and not a fellow as I supposed, but a gal.  I kept the cocoon in a jar on my workbench outside, but when I feared it might freeze, I brought inside and placed it on a shelf on my dresser.  Well, that wasn't good either, because it emerged early when no males were out yet.  She laid her eggs, anyway, unfertilized, and died.  She is still alive in the photo.  

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Notes and Reflections on the Western Monarch Migration

A Cluster Near Light House Field Beach, CLICK TO ENLARGE
During the end of December and the beginning of January we visited seven monarch overwintering sites on 250 miles of the California coast. For the first two we were supposed to count for the Xerces Society for Inverebrate Conservation. What follows are my notes from this trip:

12/29/17 Friday
Arrived at SFO, checked into Westin Hotel.  Took naps.  Not enough time left in the day to scout sites.  The reason is that getting the rental car took a couple hours longer than we expected.  The rental company was supposed to have a car at the Marriot Hotel, and instead we had to chase it down.

12/30/17 Saturday
Visited Stern Grove (1) and looked around for a couple hours. Asked several people if they had seen monarchs and where.  We got no real specific information about a cluster. At last we saw one individual flying overhead, but did not see where it went.  I took a photo of the location.  The temp was 55 degrees F at the car.

Left there and drove north to the Rob Hill Campground at the Presidio (2).  Walked everywhere in that site, on, and pretty much off trail, but found no clusters and saw no butterflies.  I noted that the official naturalist for that site said on the video that the habitat was “sensitive” and visitors should stay on the trails.  The habitat was not sensitive.  The ground was covered mostly by English Ivy, which is not native and is extremely durable.  We had decided to leave, but I wanted to walk one more loop.  Eventually at the top of the hill, near the open, cleared area, we saw a monarch or two.  A man with a mountain bicycle was standing there.  I asked him if he had just seen butterflies and he said, Yes.  That was 2:pm.  He told us of his interest, and while we talked I counted 24. Some of those may have been counted twice, and I’m sure we missed several.  He was originally from the Highlands of Scotland and said his name was Fraser. He did organic farming and sold produce.  Had done “tech” before.  After awhile it cooled some and we saw no more monarchs.  Did not find a cluster, but I think we might have if we had seen before what they looked like and how high they normally were.

We left there and drove to Big Basin Redwoods State Park.  It was a long and confusing drive, and once we turned around and went back because we weren’t sure we had the right road.  We didn’t yet have a California road map, and using Siri on Edie’s photo did not tell us north from south.  We eventually made it and set up our tent in the dark in a redwood grove containing mammoth trees.

12/31/17 Sunday
In the morning we packed up and went for a short loop walk in a redwood grove that featured one tree 60 feet around at chest high.  The state park is a place worth returning to someday.  From the park we drove south and bought a road map at a small town, probably Ben Lomand.  From here we traveled around the outskirts of Santa Cruz to Natural Bridges State Beach (3).  We never actually went to the beach, and the one natural bridge we saw didn’t seem terribly impressive.  We first spoke with a park ranger who told us that the blue jays were attacking the clusters and eating the monarchs, and most of the butterflies had moved south to a different site.  I met a docent who was about to leave for the other site.  She sent me a photo of the cluster at Natural Bridges. The monarch grove at Natural Bridges was down a paved path into a dell.  There were lots of people.  We saw one small cluster and a lot flying.  Two great horned owls tried to sleep in a close-by tree.  I got pictures of them.  I and others speculated that the owls kept the jays away.  I shared with a woman and her husband about the new, southern site, which we left for as soon as we could.  We did not stay for the program.

I believe the other site is called Lighthouse Field State Beach (4), which is in a eucalyptus and Monterey pine grove next to a neighborhood.  I heard from someone (I think the park ranger) that this site contained 15,000 monarchs.  The clusters were certainly larger than anything we had seen before or since.  There were four or five of them in the pine boughs.  I took the best pictures there, though the light was not very good. Actually, I just looked at a map and the site we went to was not at the Lighthouse Field beach, but a couple blocks north, down a residential avenue, just east of the Surfer Sculpture.

We left there and drove down Highway 1 around the Monterey Bay and then slightly north through the town of Monterey, including Cannery Row into the town of Pacific Grove.  The whole area is highly developed.  The Pacific Grove monarch grove (5) is a square of land, covered in trees, in the middle of a residential area.  It features a nice, paved (I believe), winding trail.  Right next door on the uphill side is the pink Monarch Inn, or an inn of a similar name.  We hadn’t made any reservations for the night and we would have stayed there, but it was full.  New Year’s Eve and all. We walked up and down the path a couple times, and while we saw flying monarchs, we couldn’t find a cluster, nor could anyone else we spoke to.  It was starting to get dark and cool, so we left and drove through Carmel and down the 20 miles to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.  Because online it was saying it was full, I hadn’t reserved a campsite, but we found one anyway.  We set up our tent in the dark.  About midnight some of the campers let out a whoop and a cheer, waking me up.  Their new year celebration.

1/1/18 Monday
We had heard that Highway 1 had been blocked south of us, but I didn’t know exactly where.  We finally figured out in the morning that we could not get where we wanted to go without backtracking.  We drove south a ways further just to see more of the famed coastland, and then turned around.  We had passed Andrew Molera State Park (6), said to have a monarch site, in the dark on the way down, but I decided to check it out now.  The park didn’t look like much.  No more than a gravel parking lot, two overbusy outhouses and a trail to the beach.  A good bit of the park was closed due to winter storm damage.  I guessed that the monarchs were in the closed part.  A Hispanic maintenance man pulled up to maintain the outhouses and I asked him where the butterflies were.  He told me that it was up the trail a mile, passed the yellow tape.  He said that it was dangerous to go there and there was no other access, not a road to it from the highway. We waited until he was not visible, ducked under the tape and walked up the trail.  It meandered along a wide creek and in places was washed out, but it was nothing we couldn’t bypass and there wasn’t anything remotely dangerous, unless it was the six-point buck we flushed.  I got some good pictures of him.  The trail led to a large green field that was the park’s campground.  It was a nice place. It appeared that the park was closed due to lack of funding as much as it was to damage. We happened to see no damage to the campground, actually. From the northern end of the campground, I could see a large eucalyptus grove and sure enough, we saw flying monarchs there.  I could also hear bees among the flowers in the tops of the trees.  We walked further until the trail was totally washed away by the stream and the water was more of a lagoon.  We could hear the waves crashing on the other side of the dunes.  We walked a road back to the highway up the hill from the campground and did not return via the trail, proving the maintenance man to be dishonest about the information he gave us. 

From here we returned to Carmel and cut across to Highway 101, taking it south to Atascadero and 46, which crossed a mountain pass and was lined with dozens of well-arranged vineyards.  At Los Osos we stocked up at Ralph’s Grocery, part of the Kroger chain. My camping reservation was for site 42, but after seeing it, I was able to change it with the host to 44 between two giant art pines.  I gathered leftover firewood from the pits of the empty campsites and found a chunk of pitch pine.  One piece of wood was smoldering so I didn’t need a match.  As a birthday party, Edie and I shared a little chocolate cheesecake that we got at Ralph’s. I made a video of it, and me singing Happy Birthday.

1/2/18 Tuesday
We walked on the beach in the morning and got our boots soaked.  We left our tent up since we planned to return, and drove south to Pismo State Beach.  The campground gave evidence of the monarch grove, but it never said exactly were it was.  We had to ask.  Turned out it was a very short distance further south.  I want to write extensively about our experience at the Pismo Monarch Grove (7), so will save it for later and in a more reflective style.  We spent the entire day there.

Written 1/15/18
The Pismo Grove monarch experience, and indeed the whole western monarch phenomenon, is very much different than anything in the east.  For us in the eastern states, we know monarch butterflies in the spring, summer, and fall.  For us the migration, sometimes in large numbers, captures our attention.  When we think of the winter monarchs, we immediately think of Mexico.  Many people here have heard of monarchs and seen them, either in fields or on the move south, but few of us even know of the western migration and overwintering butterflies on the coast of California.  It simply isn’t within our field of vision.  Neither do we in the east have much in the way of organized observations.  Educational efforts, yes, but nothing like what I saw at Pismo Beach.

It stands to reason.  The overwintering season lasts three months or so.  The butterflies hang out within small geographic areas, sometimes in clusters adding up to thousands of individuals.  Many sites are near high density human populations. It makes sense that people would establish preserves and ways for people to see the clusters and the feeding, mating, sunning, watering and anything else monarchs might think of doing on their winter grounds.

The Central Coast Park Association (CCSPA) organization is a private auxiliary to the California state parks.  When I first arrived at the Pismo Grove, I met one of CCSPA’s docents, Jene Schaefer.  She told me that they have 80-90-some docent staff members in the monarch program (120 in the whole district), who explain and interpret the monarch site and happenings to the visitors who flood the grove during the monarch winter season, anywhere from 800 to 2,000 a day.  In 2015-2016, as one of the two docents I talked to said, the total number of visitors was 100,000.  In 2017-2018, 80,000.  They arrive by car or by the busload.  Some, I imagine, camp in the next door state park campground.

The docent who seemed to be in charge that day was Betty Sleeth.  I talked with her at length, though not as much as Jene.  Betty told me about the IMAX film that covered the monarch migration.  Flight of the Butterflies.

The Pismo Grove site has the feel of a small fairground.  Gravel walkways comprise the public parts of the grove and the eucalyptus tree area is protected with a split rail fence.  The grove has no permanent bathroom facility, but a couple smelly outhouses serve the urgent needs of the thousands of visitors.  As with most such places, the outhouses are located right next to the heaviest foot traffic, so if a sense of privacy is needed, forget it.  Those with less urgent need who wish for better facilities may hike through to a campground bathroom to the north.

A small trailer with a large window functions as a bookstore and information center.  The docents use this as their headquarters.  The docent trailer makes $80,000 a year for the monarch program. Nearby is a circle of benches where the docents give presentations twice a day.  They set up telescopes that are focused on the clusters and the docents make sure that no one touches the scopes so as to keep them on target.  The docents seem knowledgeable, though some are more up to date than others. 

The grove is right next to the busy Highway 1, which was crowded with traffic, some of which being heavy trucks.  On the other side of the highway was an active rail track.  During the hours we were present, two, maybe three Amtrak trains passed by.  The grove has only a handful of parking spaces, so most people parked along the road in either direction as they found space, and they have to negotiate their way across the traffic.  There are no crosswalks.  I spoke with two docents about this, and they both had the same response.  The California transportation system owns the road, and the margin of the road, so the monarch people are afraid that if they ask for crosswalks, “Caltrans” will punish them by forbidding parking.  They both said, separately, that they only thing that will change the situation is if a “child is killed.”  Clearly this subject has come up before and the docents have a ready answer.  My response was to say that there was risk either way.  One on hand a risk that someone will get killed, and on the other hand, a risk that Caltrans will be a big butthole.  I wouldn’t assume that such an institution, one with the purpose of serving the public, would act that way. 

The site is far from pristine.  What the monarch situation teaches is that monarchs do not need pristine conditions in order to survive.  Pristine and protected might be necessary for them to flourish and thrive, however.  They are not likely to find those conditions everywhere in western California.  But with 460 sites, as compared to the 20 in Mexico, it’s clear that monarchs are highly adaptable.  It makes me wonder if the decline in overwintering numbers both on California and Mexico is due to the difficulty for humans in finding the sites, meaning that there very well could be many more than 460 and 20.  We certainly had difficulty in finding clusters.  Flying monarchs are much easier to see, but they can be easily missed unless someone is looking for them.

The story told by the park ranger at Lighthouse Field beach certainly testifies to the monarch’s adaptability.  Their traditional site was hostile with attacking bluejays, and the butterflies moved south.  Naturalists responded by putting up a few signs and yellow tape and posting their docents. 

There’s weird irony in the California monarch picture.  So much of the thinking and conversation about conservation centers on preserving the migration and the numbers.  But in California at least the migration may not be natural.  The reason is that it seems the overwintering butterflies depend upon eucalyptus, which is not native at all.  The tree originated in Australia, was brought to California supposedly to produce lumber, blooms in the winter, and provides nectar.  I wonder of the western migration occurred at all prior to when the tree was introduced.  I’ll have to look into this more, to see if historical records give evidence of the monarchs spending the winter in the region.

The public viewing groves for me are more like zoos.  The monarchs are protected, as they should be.  But the setting is far from ideal.  I’d personally rather experience the butterflies in wild places and apart from crowds of people, if it is all possible.  The public groves are a place of intersection.  They are where people can see the monarchs without going to too much trouble, because most people aren’t going to take a lot of trouble.  For them, visiting the monarch grove is one event of what is likely a busy day with a number of goals, or destinations.

We, even visitors to the crowded groves, think of the monarch migration as a wonderful, natural event or process, and it is.  Quite possibly it’s been going on for thousands of years.  This seemingly frail, small creature embarking upon and completing an epic journey while encountering unthinkable obstacles.  It’s almost supernatural.  For me it’s like contemplating anything that resembles the eternal.  Like gazing at the stars or a wild land or seascape.  When we take time for this, when we allow our minds to rest in the vastness of the created universe, we feel at home.  We see that we have a place.  The troubles and conflicts of our lives seem small in comparison, and from that perspective.  We might feel cold and lonely with this contemplation.  And yet, I don’t.  I feel at such times that I am part of the eternal, and this gives me comfort.

Note: Part of our trip was to visit a relative who was dying. The relative, however, sustained an injury and died while we were looking for monarchs.  We changed our homeward flight to be able to attend the memorial service.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Discussion of "The Cruller Twist"

Welcome Christ Community Church, Montreat.  Leave your comments below. Thanks!

P.S. If you want to share the story, a link to it is in the right column.

Sunday, October 15, 2017


Monarch observers have reported on Journey North some huge numbers crossing the southernmost Blue Ridge Ridge Parkway yesterday, October 14, and the day before.  As many as 2000 or so an hour at Cherry Cove Gap and perhaps that many at Haywood Gap.  Edie and I stopped at the latter today and witnessed a short flurry of heavy traffic.  Though we didn't count, we saw dozens flying right over our heads in a few minutes.  This is the heaviest flow I have ever seen.  It's possible tomorrow will be quite heavy.  Haywood Gap is at Milepost 426.5. This is not an official overlook, but you can find a bit of parking on gravel and there is some space in the grass.  Sit on the guardrail along the south side of the road.

UPDATE for 10/16, 8:00 am: The high temperature today in Asheville is expected to be 55 degrees F.  Monarchs can only fly when their muscles reach 54 degrees, and it will be cooler than Asheville at higher elevation, so the flow might not begin again until Tuesday or later. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Go up the Blue Ridge Parkway NOW!

    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.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Monarch Guide Update

Goldenrod and a solitary female in flight near the Pisgah Inn.  10/4/17
October 4, 2017

The NC Arboretum’s annual Monarch Day is over for this year.  I had been invited to set up a table to sell books and talk with people.  Along with me was a National Park Service interpretive ranger.  I brought a flower arrangement I made with zinnias, goldenrod, and a American beech branch from which I hung three chrysalises to show.  I also brought a couple hundred almandine garnets I had collected locally to give away to children. (The garnets happened to be more popular than my book!)  The arboretum sold milkweed plants, some having live monarch larvae on them.  I thought that was great.  I didn’t mention it in the book, but the arboretum has had an ongoing live butterfly display for several months.  It’s called Winged Wonders and lasts through October 29.  Next year the Monarch Day is set for Saturday, September 8, but as the date nears, check the arboretum’s website to be sure it is still on, because there is some discussion about only holding the event every other year in the future.

The Cradle of Forestry’s monarch event also is past.  Next year check their schedule for the time and date.  I went this year and learned a lot from the speaker.

Observers reporting for Journey North’s Monarch Peak Migration Map say they’ve seen monarchs this fall at the following locations not given in my book. I’ll be including these southernmost Blue Ridge Parkway places in the 2018 edition.  To locate specific overlooks, zoom in and click the splash symbols on the BRP Road Closure Map.

The entrance road to Mt. Mitchell
Hornbuckle Valley OL
Woolyback OL
Scott Creek OL
Woodfin Valley OL
1 mile south of View Mt. Lyn Lowry
View Mt. Lyn Lowry
Roy Taylor Forest OL
Double Top Mountain OL, (mm 435, 100+ monarchs, 9/29)
Cradle of Forestry OL

One of the most interesting entries is this filed by “Keith.”
Date: 09/29/2017   Location: 35.33, -82.87
Number Sighted: 1000
Comments: Two miles north of the Blue Ridge Parkway, in Pisgah National Forest, 1:00-2:00 pm EDT, partly cloudy, 55°-60°, Monarchs feeding below Tennent Mountain on the Graveyard Ridge Trail between Ivestor Gap and the Mountain-to-Sea Trail.

Below is the report I filed at Journey North.  See all the Peak Migration Map reports and the accompanying photographs at:
Date: 10/1/2017
Number Sighted: 95
Comments: On Saturday, August 30, we drove between the Mills Gap Overlook and the Caney Fork Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway and didn’t see but two monarchs in five hours. On Sunday the following day we counted 95 in the two hours between 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm at the Cherry Cove View, milepost 415.7. Most didn’t stop to feed. Plenty more came over afterwards in that location until it got colder at about 6:00 pm. I drove up and down on the parkway, but didn’t see any monarchs at any other places and times. The weather was mostly clear to partly cloudy. A light breeze drifted from the north. The temperature midday was about 70 degrees F. Cherry Gap is where the National Park Service placed a monarch migration informational plaque. A dozen or more monarch watchers gathered there throughout the afternoon, including Jennifer who had lost a newborn son 20 years ago to the day. She had come to release a butterfly helium balloon at sunset in his memory, and she found support and fellowship in the company of other monarch lovers who she had just met. That morning a female monarch had eclosed at my home and I gave it to her to release.
                                                                                                        Mickey Hunt