Why: A Monarch butterfly is as brilliant and delicate as anything in biology. And at this place in winter, you can see 15,000 of them at a time.
What: The Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove, just a short stroll from the sandy shore, is an unprepossessing cluster of eucalyptus and cypress trees that may befuddle you at first, especially if it's a cloudy day. Where, you'll wonder, are the butterflies? But look a little more closely at those overhead clumps of dead and dying leaves. They're... not... leaves. They're wings. When the sun comes out, their orange hues blaze. And even if the sun doesn't come out, the docents usually have a telescope or two trained upon the biggest clumps of butterflies, and you'll see scattered monarchs fluttering down to lower branches and the forest floor now and again.
"It's a male," said nine-year docent Peggy Coon one chilly January day, inspecting a butterfly on the ground. "He has two little spots on his lower [hind] wings. Those are pheromone spots."