Tag Archives: campground

Fantastical Fireflies—His Perspective

 

If you want to see a fantastical phenom, win a pass to go see the synchronous fireflies in the Great Smokey Mountain National Forest just behind Elkmont Campground. It is like walking into C.S.Lewis’s Narnia gone SciFi. It was whimsical, magical, spectacular, awe inspiring. We walked in expecting something grand and God did not disappoint! What a cool creation!

Several years ago I hiked up to Mount Leconte by myself and sat on the side of the mountain. It was raining so I sat on the back edge of my poncho, pulled my knees up to my chest and sat dozing in the twilight bliss of the rain splattering on my hood. One of the things that was dancing in my mind was wanting to see these fireflies I had heard so much about. I decided that I would get back here to see them the next year.

One thing led to another and year after year went by and I didn’t make it.  This year I was determined to get in and was foiled once again by my timing. You see, the park only gave out 1800 passes this year for viewers and the lottery had closed already when I logged on.  They give out 225 for each of the 8 days of the event and we missed it again!

“Ok,” I said to my Honey, “we are going anyway.” “The fireflies don’t know when the event is and they don’t know they have to mate in this one spot.” So we decided to go near the date of the park event or during it but come down the trail from a primitive campground nearby. I began calling different ranger stations to gather intel about which trail might lead through potential firefly viewing locations and what primitive site was near by. It became obvious that we would be spending a long night on the trail hiking with headlamps out and back from a primitive site and those were booking up fast too.

Discouraged, I tried one more time on a “oh wouldn’t it be nice if” moment and logged on to try to book at Elkmont Campground  in a car camping campsite. What to my bleary eyes did appear? Two sites for one night each during the event! I quickly booked one of them. I told the reservation form that we would have two cars and five people just in case my daughter, Andrea, her husband, Justin,  and our granddaughter, Blakely—that live there—could at least come up and picnic with us.

The visit turned out well too because they had just taken our granddaughter, who was five-months-old at the time,  camping the weekend before and they all loved it. She would now be coming camping for the second time in her first six months with us! They brought a tent and some supplies and met us there.

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I have the baby and everybody else is setting up camp…hehehe!

We pitched a 16’ Kelty Noah’s Tarp as an artificial sky and then pitched both tents, set up chairs and a briefcase picnic table under it. It rained and rained and rained…but cleared up long enough for us to go see the fireflies—just one more “coincident” number three. With baby Blakely in a shoulder supported carrier we  went looking for the fantastic.

Around 9:30 as it really got dark the display picked up tremendous energy. If they had been musicians in a symphony it would have been the New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein performing Copeland’s Fanfare for the Common Man (I was really into that sort of thing in the 80’s). It was jaw dropping awesome. My Honey picked up on the rhythm on the fireflies right away and would quietly count 5,4,3,2,1 and for about 8 secs they would flash like crazy and suddenly go dark…5,4,3,2,1 and bam! they would light up the woods again like 4th of July sparklers gone Fern Gully!

We came out of there stary-eyed and in awe of God’s creation one more time. Wow!

For my Honey’s perspective read her guest blog here:) It’s really good:)!!

Here is a video of a Ranger telling about the event.

Here is a time lapse video of the event one night.

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Pondering Your Path—could there be a little firefly in your life that is really putting on a spectacular show? Definitely go see these guys like we did but don’t miss the spectacular little things that are just as star studded if you look closely enough.

Celebration after Struggle

IMG_2027Our first night in a tent was in Florida in Fort De Soto campground in Pinellas County near St Petersburg FL. We had decided to take on back country backpacking one component at a time and see how she liked it. This would just be the overnight component in a 1.5 person backpacking tent. Breakfast would be back country style too but that was incidental. There was a real bathroom, electricity, and the car was parked right there. It was to be followed and proceeded by restaurant food and an indoor bed. This way we only tried on the tent for style and a little outdoor cooking.

That night we sat on the shore and watched dolphins and fish jump out of the water. When we were ready for bed the wind was blowing about 10 miles an hour in the tops of the palm trees. This was a melody to me but sounded scary to her. You never know what emotions sound will trigger.

ALPS 1.5 man tent-about 4 lbs
ALPS 1.5 man tent-about 4 lbs

My tenacious tweety reported sleeping good when she slept because she really like the top of the line Big Agnus sleeping mat I had for her and her Northface sleeping bag rated for zero was certainly adequate for the 52 degrees.

The times she didn’t sleep was from the night mares of alligators coming to “chomp her”. So saying she was a little sleepy in the morning is an understatement. Be prepared that your girl may not be used to outdoors sounds at first. My Honey concluded as we talked the next morning  that her thoughts were irrational. I shared that time and experience would make her accustomed to outdoor noises and it would then be much better. I got really transparent and told her that I had been scared by some sounds during my first few nights sleeping outdoors. She recovered so much that she was even looking forward to the next adventure in the tent because the sleeping surface was so comfortable.

We settled in at the picnic table with the Jetboil, coffee and tea. Got our devotional books and Bible out of the car and tried to enjoy some quiet time with God. It was difficult because of the sleepless night and some other lessons we learned on that overnighter that I’ll share later.

To provide a reward for this effort…to apply salve to an abrasion…to cheer a cloud covered heart—we struck out in the car for a day in Tarpon Springs. It is a completely Greek town and they were having a town wide street party and we needed it. We sampled fun new food, ate flaming cheese and bought goat soap. We took pictures by the sponge boats, in the tourist cut out of a diver and with the big plastic turtle. It was a fun day that matched in intensity the level of the bad night.IMG_2054

We overcame some tough moments and rewarded ourselves with some very special moments. She now enjoys the tent experience so much more but sure needed a special day back then. She needed a romantic day exploring a very european-Greek looking town…to walk arm in arm all day relaxed and happy to be together.IMG_2058

From this experience we decided to always pair something awesome we know for sure we both like with a new experience that might be challenging.