We took a day trip with my parents to Natural Bridges in Santa Cruz, CA to see the tide pools and monarch butterflies!
Natural Bridges: where thousands of monarch butterflies spend their winters, and where you can find entire worlds when it's low tide. We'd been planning to go, but weather kept us away until we finally made it the other day. The monarch numbers peak around Thanksgiving, so I was worried if we waited much longer they'd have moved on.
Natural Bridges is named for the strange way the large rocks on the beach have been sculpted by the sea; at one point there were three arches that made a bridge, now (see above) only one remains and the bridge itself has fallen.
It was low tide when we arrived, so Ali and I climbed up the hill from the beach to the neighboring houses, and walked through the cutest neighborhood back down to where the tide pools were on the other side. Even though my camera was in a padded bag, I was still extra careful when we were climbing slippery rocks that had footholds pressed in from decades of explorers.
When we finally reached the tide pools, we started on the edge we had just climbed up to. There were little snails, and plenty of barnacles, but not much else. Ali loved the "families" of snails all huddled together in the shallow puddles. As we moved on closer and closer to the ocean, the pools got deeper and more and more creatures started appearing. We found bright green anemones the size of my face, spiny purple sea urchins, and crabs in the crevices creating bubbles that surrounded them. There was even a sea star that had scrunched itself into a corner.
We could have spent the entire day at the tide pools, but we headed back to meet up with my parents. We took a short walk down a boardwalk through the trees until we came to a grove with dozens of people standing around looking up. This year there were only about 3,000 butterflies, but some years there are upwards of 10,000! It was breathtaking. When the temperature dips below 60, they huddle together in the branches of trees to keep warm. It was just about 60 degrees, so some were gathered together and others were fluttering around in the air.
We were able to look through a telescope to get an even closer look. It was so amazing to see this many butterflies at once.
It was such a fun day - definitely visit Natural Bridges if you're ever in Santa Cruz!