Wednesday, June 9, 2010
As it turns out, it's not as complicated as we were making it out to be. If you get to the Elkmont campground, you'll be close enough to see the phenomena, as it is happening all around.
We had arrived early to the Little River Trail trailhead, about an hour before dusk. We were afraid that there would be huge crowds and we'd have trouble finding parking. The "official" start of the Synchronous Firefly season was the next week. Once it was officially underway, they didn't let people just drive up to the campground, you had to take a shuttle bus to get there.
But this night - threatening rain on a week day evening - even up to dusk, there was plenty of parking.
While waiting and wondering if we were in the right place, we hiked up and down the trail a bit. The cloudy evening had whipped up just a little wind and an occasional mist, making the night feel just perfect.
We found a spot that we hoped was the right one, off the trail in a quiet little opening. There was a log on the ground that was just the right size for two.
People began showing up. At first, no one else seemed to know the "right" place to view the firefly show, but eventually people joined us in our little cove and assured us they had been there the night before and it was great.
The sun set.
Fireflies began lighting. Dozens, hundreds flashing in the night. We saw two, maybe three flashing at the same time. Maybe a bit more will happen later, we hoped.
I was picturing the Synchronous Fireflies would have one Great Synchronous Fireflash and then go off. And then all together on again. So far, nothing of the sort had happened.
Then, as it became nearly wholly dark, the fireflies were suddenly out in what seemed like millions and it was breath-taking, just seeing so many all at once. We weren't watching one spot in a field, instead they were just everywhere in the trees all around us.
Still no Great Single Synchronous Fireflash lighting the night, though.
And then, it was happening. Not one great flash, but waves of light flashing in unison rolling towards us and past us on into the forest behind us. It was like we could see a wave or line of fireflies all flashing, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 times rapidly together, off in the distance maybe 100 yards away.
And as they flashed ...3, 4, 5, 6 a second row of fireflies, maybe 80 yards away began joining in 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and then again, maybe 60 yards away joining in halfway through the previous rows' flashes.
Waves of light rolling towards us, flashing not as one great flash, but as a wave of light flowing past us and then going dark for a count of ten. And then, 100 yards away, it all began again.
Over and over these waves of fireflies flashing like waves in the ocean sparkling in unison, but in echoing row after row after row. Then the dark again for a count of ten.
It is amazing. If you get a chance be sure to go see it next year (or this year, it may still be going on for a week or so, I'm not sure) if you're in the Smokies this week.
I tried filming the event, but my camera was not up to the task, like trying to catch a photo of a fairy or the Nessie, I guess. It was simply amazing.