Elkmont Campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a family favorite, since I was a girl growing up and since Tom and the boys and I have been dropping in. The Little River pours through the middle and is sometimes so full and loud that it is hard to hear anything but the roaring water. During this early June, 2013, visit to view the synchronizing lightning bugs, the river was as full as we have ever seen it!
Backing up a bit: last year in Elkmont we met Laura, who was traveling in a Little Guy teardrop, following along with her family who traveled in Airstreams. Coincidentally, the family hails from Ohio! Laura looked at our 16' Silvermine, and decided that was just right for her and traveling poodles Lobster and Spot. Long story short, we kept in touch as she conducted a search for her dream trailer -- ending in the purchase of a 2004 CCD 16' Bambi Airstream. Thus, Laura spent this past winter preparing her trailer, Lucky Penny, for the family's annual trek to Elkmont Campground in Tennessee. We made plans to meet up again with Laura during the annual firefly event. I was in our campsite with camera in hand as Laura arrived on her inaugural trip. On this first trip out she had been severely tested by pouring rain but arrived successfully and backed it right into her camp site!Photo "borrowed" from the Internet
Every year in June the Elkmont Campground in The Great Smoky Mountains lights up with fireflies flashing a synchronized light show. Synchronous fireflies are uncommon in North America and were just "discovered" in 1994, although locals have enjoyed the entertainment for decades. A Georgian Southern University professor studying Asian synchronous fireflies was amazed to find them right next door in Tennessee. The fireflies of Great Smoky Mountains National Park are the only species in America that synchronize their flashes; sometimes flashing in unison, and sometimes in waves across the mountainside!
This was another prime reason for our trip to the Smokys; one that we had been looking forward to since last year’s unconvincing visit when we hit the winding-down portion of the two-week firefly show. This year we were hoping to view more of the synching exhibition.
The show takes place adjacent to Elkmont Campground, and the road leading back is blocked off to regular traffic. Unless camping on location, visitors must catch a trolly from Sugarland's Visitor Center (7 miles away) to be dropped off at the viewing spot.
Walking from our campsite with rain gear and flashlights about an hour before dark we chose a location with a direct view into the forest undergrowth. The wide trail was packed with people, many sitting in lawn chairs. Very slowly the show started with a single flash of a lonely firefly. Minutes passed before another firefly joined in. Then another -- but there was no synching in the beginning. As the fireflies woke up we could see that they were harmonizing in short bursts of 5-6 flashes before going out completely for a few seconds. Before long, the twinkles picked up a rhythm that slowly morphed with flashing variations and wave formations.
Fifteen minutes into the display the very light rain changed to a down-pour and we began the walk back to the comfort of the Silvermine. It was dark, and even with flashlights we stuck to the paved road, not trusting the steep and rocky footpath. The temperature was perfect, and we thoroughly enjoyed the walk in the rain!
For the remainder of our 3-day stay our campsite in G loop was situated pleasantly among tall trees close to the river. Lack of electric or water hook-ups added to a primitive feeling. Our luxuries were not neglected as the Airstream had on-board water including enough for a shower, and our battery power for lights and microwave use could be easily recharged by generator. Nice bathhouses were scattered throughout the campground. Our little Sportbrella Sunshade was all we needed for shelter in case of rain.
After 4 nights at Elkmont, and half-way through our trip, we left on Wednesday morning to meet up with sister Johanna (Tink) to travel to Raccoon Holler in Glendale Springs, North Carolina. Tune back in to read about that delightful rally.
We don’t go camping any more . . . we go ‘streamin’ ! The “SIlvermine and His” is our 2016 23' Airstream, and ‘streamin’ is the name we use to describe our adventures. Stream along as we document everything from weekend trips to longer summer excursions and full-blown vacations. You know what they say: if you’re not in an Airstream – you’re just camping!
Tom & Ella Brown