by Clement Kent, Ph.D., S.R.A, C.P.Y., etc., etc.
⦁ A visit with the Royal Families chez eux ⦁ Base Camp I ⦁ Base Camp II ⦁ The Ascent ⦁ The Royal Forest ⦁ Floral Adornment ⦁ Silence in the Presence ⦁ No Gain without Pain ⦁ Health of the Royals ⦁ Royal Court ⦁ Long Term prospects for the Monarchs ⦁ How You may Help
Your Humble Correspondent had the never-to-be-forgotten honor of visiting the Monarchs (Danaus plexippa, in Court language) in their winter palaces in January. Here I record my observations along with some Illustrations by the redoubtable Mr. Canon, SLR.
⦁ Base Camp I ⦁
Although Their Majesties are more commonly observed in their Summer habitations, in the Winter they withdraw to remote Winter Palaces, difficult of approach. Thus my cousin Mr. Casey and I began our expedition in the town of Morelia, State of Michoacan, Republic of Mexico. Here we established our first base camp in the comfortable Hotel de la Soledad. We dined excellently on regional specialties of gourmet quality with local dignitaries Profs. Ramirez, Marten-Rodriguez, and Quesada of UNAM and discussed their efforts at understanding the role of the peasantry and local fauna and flora. We toured local indigenous artworks, many of which took as their theme the presence of the Monarchs.
⦁ Base Camp II ⦁
We had hired a native guide, Mr. Lopez, who translated and conducted our caravan for us. We repaired to our second camp, the Training Centre of Alternare A.C., three hours from Camp I. We were assigned humble but adequate quarters suitable to our dignity (the Presidential Suite for myself, bunk-beds for Messrs. Casey and Lopez). Simple but abundant and delicious local foods were prepared for us by the good campesino ladies. It is to be noted that at no point were we afflicted with the unpleasantnesses of digestion reported by some travellers. Indeed, part of the Mission of Alternare is the teaching of Hygiene to local campesinos, and judging by our fare they are eminently successful. We shall have further Observations regarding the Mission of Alternare below.
⦁ The Ascent ⦁
Fortified with excellent food and drink prepared for us by the good ladies, we began our first Ascent to the Royal Premises. After 45 minutes on progressively steeper mountain roads, we reached 3,260 meters elevation (above the altitude of Quito, Ecuador; by comparison the highest permanent settlements of Europe are below 2,200 meters) where we left our trusty Honda vehicle and entered the Royal Preserve “Sierra Chincua”. Here we engaged another local guide to take us up to the Royal Forest. We determined to test our Fortitude by walking, but some of our companions who carried heavy Photographic Apparatus discovered less than a kilometer up the trail that they required assistance, at which point a campesino with a horse appeared as if by magic. One suspects that those with delicate constitutions often flag about this point, although the path is more long than steep. Nonetheless, the air at these heights is thin and the slightest exertion is felt more keenly.
⦁ The Royal Forest ⦁
We soon passed from open pastures, inhabited by hardy cattle, to the penumbrous shade of stately Oyamel Fir trees. These cap the mountains and represent a preferred tree of their Majesties, of which more anon. The Forest was previously owned and logged by the peasantry, but the Government of Mexico has declared a Preserve to protect the Monarchs. A grievous consequence of this is severe loss of income to local families, only some of which is made up by revenues from tourism.
⦁ Floral Adornment ⦁
As we ascended the mountain, in clearings we saw great quantities of flowers, including blue and red native sages (Salvia Mexicana and many others), purple groundsels (Senecio callosus) and a host of others. Violent winter winds in the past few years have created many windfalls in which winter bloom abounds. These clearings provide a good part of the winter sustenance of their Majesties.
⦁ Silence in the Presence ⦁
Finally, we approached an area where the majestic Firs were cloaked in Monarchs. Our guide admonished us, sotto voce, to be silent in the Presence. Indeed so Awesome a sight struck many of us silent, although without the vigilance of the guides there would no doubt have been a clatter and chatter most disturbing to Royalty.
⦁ No Gain without Pain ⦁
The pressure of the madding crowd prevented close examination of the Royals at our first stopping place. However, we had been provided a special License to approach their Majesties more closely, at a second location. To do this we followed the guide down one steep slope and then up another, arriving at another Royal Grove where we were the only Supplicants present. Here we were able to observe the resting Royalty at length, for it was still before noon. Those who have only observed Monarchs in their leafy summer palaces of milkweed may not know that in winter-time they use the aristocratic privilege of sleeping until the Sun is high, for it is cool in the Groves. Thus we have the slightly touching image of Mr. Casey breathing on a recumbent Monarch to attempt to rouse it with his plebeian Breath.
Leaving this grove, we ascended a most challenging slope at the crest of which, exceeding 3,400 meters, we were afforded most pleasing views of the surrounding country. However, the ascent did provoke some heavy breathing among our party, and complaints upon the following morn of stiff muscles.
⦁ Health of the Royals ⦁
Although difficult to believe when in the Presence, the number of Monarchs in 2017 is the second lowest in recorded history. Evil effects of 21st century farming methods, including the drastic decrease in milkweeds in their Spring Courts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Iowa due to increased herbicide use and the prevalent cult of King Corn, have reduced the production of new Royals drastically. It is the young from the Spring Courts who move even further North to our lands in May and June and in their turn produce children in the northern States and Canada. Then, when Summer’s days are waning, Canadian Monarchs (aided by the winds of Boreas) fly over 4,000 kilometers to their Winter Palaces.
⦁ Royal Court ⦁
No Monarchy functions without couriers and servitors. We have already mentioned the faithful Guides who preserve and protect their Majesties. One may also see heavily armed “Federales” prepared to repel logger brigands from the Royal Forest, and these make up the military classes. However, it is the servitors who, as in any court, are most essential to their royal needs. At Alternare, part of their Mission is teach sustainable silviculture to the local campesinos. We met peasant families in small cooperatives who raise and plant thousands of native tree seedlings each year on the mountain slopes. Unlike the planting efforts of government funded reforestation, where only 5-15% of seedling survive a year, the campesino plantings are well timed and well tended and over 85% survive. More, multiple species are grown. Further, Alternare teaches local families ways to reduce wood use in their cooking and construction, diminishing mountain slope deforestation.
⦁ Long Term Prospects for the Monarchs ⦁
The decline of habitat in Winter, Spring, and Summer courts continues. Under the regency of Prince Obama, steps were taken to provide subsidies to farmers in the Spring Courts to eliminate herbicide use on strips between farm fields and along Royal Roads. However, the advent of the Pretender casts doubt that these essential programs will continue. Worse, the Pretender is now attacking Mexico and Mexicans, which may reduce funds available for protection of the Winter Courts.
⦁ How You May Help ⦁
We here in the Dominion can best help their Majesties in several ways. Each of us can help locally by planting attractive milkweed species in our gardens and our public places, avoiding herbicide and pesticide uses in these plantations, and educating our fellows about the needs of the Monarchs. Whether we can affect the Pretender and his Republican Guard is dubious; so until his yoke is cast off, we must support the efforts of organized groups such as Alternare. If this link does not work for you, you may use this one.
You may also help by visiting the Winter Palaces. To do, so, we recommend travelling to Mexico City via a non-stop flight from Muddy York. Thence, a luxurious bus may be hired to transport you to Morelia, where we advise a day or three of accommodation to altitude and enjoyment of the Colonial art, architecture, and gourmet gastronomy. When ready, take a recognized tour to the Winter Palaces. Unless you are strong and aerobically fit, we advise you to hire a horse for the ascent. Be sure to tip your Guides well and if so inclined, investigate the wares on display at the base – many locally produced baskets, pottery, and warm woolen winter wraps are on display. And warm you may wish for! At nights temperatures on the mountaintops can flirt with freezing, although on sunny afternoons it is often a comfortable 18-20C. An ideal time for a tour is to reach the Court at 11am (with a packed lunch) and watch until 1pm, at which time many butterflies will be flying. The Monarchs arrive in November and depart in March. The warmest time to visit is the second half of February, although the crowds will be largest then too.