Fort Mill Times

Neighbors at the lake: 3 friends flutter into adventure

By Wendy Dimitri

Monarch butterflies cover the trees at the Monarch Butterfly Reserve in Michoacán, Mexico.
Monarch butterflies cover the trees at the Monarch Butterfly Reserve in Michoacán, Mexico. COURTESY OF MAXINE PARKER

Two Lake Wylie adventurers took a trip of a lifetime to celebrate their longtime friend’s 87th birthday.

Sisters Maxine Parker, 90 and Carol Lichter, 96, traveled with Ruby Suttle of Charlotte to see the monarch butterfly migration at Monarch Butterfly Reserve in Michoacán, Mexico.

“Ruby’s son, brother Richard Suttle, lives at the monastery, Monasterio Benedictino, near the reserve,” Parker said. “He and one of Ruby’s daughters made the arrangements for us to go for her birthday. We are ever so thankful.”

Between 60 million and a billion monarch butterflies take part in a massive migration from eastern Canada to central Mexico, a distance of about 2,500 miles. The final leg from Texas to Mexico follows the Sierra Madre Oriental mountains, where the butterflies settle in the reserve. Once there, the monarch butterflies congregate in deep clusters on pine and oyamel trees, bowing the branches from their weight.

Millions of tourists make the pilgrimage to see the butterflies. Parker says it’s no easy feat.

“We had to travel to a 6,000 foot elevation. We walked the first part of the trip and then continued on horseback,” she said. “It took three men to put each of us on the horses, and a half an hour from there up the mountain. It was a very bumpy ride with steep climbs, and a lot of rocks and trees for the horses to maneuver. The experience was exciting and frightening at the same time.”

Carol said despite the bumps, Parker wouldn’t have missed it.

“I enjoyed it very much and would do it again,” she said. “Riding the horses was a little hard and also scary, but definitely worth it.”

Suttle was overjoyed with her birthday adventure.

“Besides a little trouble breathing at the higher altitude, I felt just fine,” she said. “It was a great experience for my birthday.”

The experience also celebrated a friendship that spans nearly half a century. Parker and Suttle met through their husbands’ golf hobby in the late 1960s and have been close friends ever since. Lichter moved in with Parker in 1992, and the rest is history.

Wendy Dimitri is a freelance writer in Lake Wylie. Email Neighbors at the Lake column ideas to