California Tortoiseshell flits a silent braid through our hiking order, circles three times and then settles, burrows, into the lumpy, smelly mud. "Eeeewwww" murmur the 12 of us.
As it turns out, this was not a renegade butterfly, but rather a normal, probably male specimen that doesn't mind mud, dung and even blood or decaying flesh.
The theory goes that butterflies congregate on mud and such primarily for salts. Males seem to benefit more from the sodium intake and its boost to reproductive success, with the nutrients often transferred to the female during mating. This extra nutrition helps ensure the eggs survive.