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.
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.
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.