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Dec 29: Sierra Chincua, Mexico

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Sierra Chincua is not easy to find, but definitely worth the effort to take the road less traveled and discover for yourself this Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary that comes to life from October to March. The road zigs more than it sags and you'll probably have to stop to ask for directions a few times before reaching your destination. You'll know your on the right path if you make your way to a quaint little town situated alongside the steep road and at times on top of the river that has cut its way through the valley.

There are no signs that mark the Sanctuary, but you'll realize you are at your destination when you see a bunch of shacks on your left and you will be swarmed by a bunch of little kids that will fearlessly protect your vehicle while you are gone. In reality, they'll run off and will only return when you come back to your car. Each of the dozen kids that surround you will claim that they were the one that ensured your vehicle was safe.

Be prepared for a rather steep hike that can be tough considering the high altitude and low oxygen levels. You could rent a horse, but even if you are out of shape you can still make it if you take it easy, take in deep breaths and enjoy the wonderful aroma of horse manure lingering in the air.

When you reach the end of the trail, you don't realize what you are looking at as the butterflies with their wings closed look like the bark on the tree. Upon closer inspection, you realize that you are looking at hundreds of thousands of butterflies huddled together on the trees, branches, leaves, bushes and just about every possible surface. It is absolutely amazing at how many butterflies there are within such a small space. Even more amazing when you realize these butterflies started their journey over 3,000 miles away in Canada.

After your hike, you will be sure to have worked up an hearty appetite. Head for the smoke stacks I highly recommend stopping by one of the many little shacks near the parking lot and enjoy some authentic, homemade queso or chorizo quesadillas. The locals are super nice and have great attitudes and each one will claim they make the best quesadillas in the try them all! [View Photos]

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