|Pismo Beach not only has some of the most beautiful beaches on the California coast but is one of the Monarch Butterfly's winter homes. From October through February, thousands of Monarchs come here to spend the winter in the mild climate. The butterflies form dense clusters with each one hanging with its wing down over the one below it to form a shingle effect. This provides shelter from the rain and warmth for the group. The weight of the cluster help keeps it from whipping in the wind and dislodging the butterflies. By February all of the females have left heading north for the summer to areas where milkweed is found. They lay their eggs under a leaf of the milkweed which turns into a caterpillar after 4 days and stays a caterpillar for about 2 weeks, feeding on the milkweed. After the caterpillar grows it begins pupation which forms a chrysalis which is a silk casing suspended from a leaf. In about 2 weeks time it emerges as a butterfly. The Pismo colony is one of the largest in the nation, hosting an average of 25,000 butterflies each year over the last five years. The Monarchs that visit Pismo Beach are a special variety. They have a life span of six months as opposed to that of common Monarchs who live only six weeks. This can be attributed to a unique fat storing system. However, even with an extended life span, those butterflies that leave in March will never return. While all the females had left by the time we arrived, there were about 400 males still in the Eucalyptus Grove. They flit so fast, the camera's shutter couldn't capture them once you saw them. If you look closely in the photos you can see one here and there on a branch. I have also included a photo from Google that was taken at the height of their season here. The beach is 900 feet from the CoCo Locomoto and is covered with sand dollars. It is a $500.00 fine to take one off the beach. Not so easy for me to keep my hands in my pockets! We spent the afternoon visiting Morro Rock Beach in Morro Bay. The rock is what they call a volcanic plug, more than 20 million years old, is over 580 feet tall and is connected to the mainland by a causeway. The waves are so huge that it and the town are protected by several jetties. The waves reach 15 to 20 feet high. Then it was on to Shell Beach at low tide which uncovers some very unique rock formations that look as if an artist had spent the afternoon there with a paint brush. Both are wonderful places to visit.