Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Been Busy

Sarah In Grass
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Our first problem in arriving to the Big Event was that we had trouble confirming where exactly to go to watch. We knew that it was supposed to happen around the Elkmont camping ground near Townsend, TN, but the people at the visitor's center in Elkmont, the people at the hotel, the people at the campground all seemed to either not know where to go or to give unclear messages about where to go.

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.


Doug said...

Now *that* sounds incredible!

CBK said...

Wow! Never heard of such a thing. I would love to see it sometime. The kids and I were in the garden this very evening chasing and catching fireflies, but nothing like that!

Dan Trabue said...

Thanks, Doug, it was.

And Cindy, I'm honored to be visited by you! It apparently happens only two known places in the world: In the Smokies and in Malaysia, at least according to this website.

We're already talking about trying again next year...

Alan said...


CBK said...

I got hooked on the site during your anniversary epic after hearing folks talk about it at the Easter dinner... as Kevin said, "I can't wait to see how it ends up."

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

When we lived in this little town called LaMoille, IL, right behind our house, stretching beyond the horizon was a cornfield. Summer nights we would sit and watch the fireflies roll in off the corn like waves. You could actually watch the line move - and it was a line! - as it came toward our house. I had never seen anything like it before, and think of it often on these summer nights too far from cornfields to see.

Dan Trabue said...

uh! Thanks, Geoffrey! Alan assured me this was an extremely rare thing, happening only in a little campground in Tennessee and in the exotic forests of Malaysia! NOW, you're telling me just any old farm field in Illinois might have the same thing??!!

Now you've just spoiled it...

Alan said...

Well if Illinois has it, how special can it be? ;)

... says the Michigander. :)

Sue said...

Oh Dan, I have thought of it constantly since Donna mentioned it. I truly would love to go next year. And a grip to Gatlinburg is almost always at the top of my list for an outing anyway. We spent our honeymoon there. Your description was wonderful.

Dan Trabue said...

Wow! Sue AND Cindy stopping in here for a visit. That's almost as good as a Synchronous Fireflash, itself.

(No offense to my regular visitors... Sue and Cindy are two of my beloved fellow church members and dear saints of the Lord. The rest of you guys are all right, too...)