So, what does the Elkmont area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Malaysian jungle have in common? Synchronous fireflies, that’s what! Currently there are 2000+ species of fireflies in the world, and I am fortunate enough to live in one of two areas of the world that have these phenomena once a year in mid June. Synchronous fireflies, also known as lightning bugs, blink in unison or in waves. You’re sitting there in complete darkness and they all blink on and off at the same time. At times it is like a wave of light moving across a clearing. This is called phase synchronization or spontaneous order. I know I’d like to glow and have a little spontaneous order in my office, but I’m afraid I just don’t have the right genes along with the other 1998+ species.
Much varies between these firefly beetles. Some blink, some don’t. Some fly, some don’t. The color of their bioluminescence ranges from yellow to orange to red to green. Usually it is the male blinking to attract females during mating season, but then you have those femme fatales that blink the pattern of another species to attract unsuspecting males for the ultimate act of cannibalism. This link at wikipedia has a great article on them and much has been written locally, particularly from The Daily Times. Their last article was Sunday, May 26, 2013.
So, how do you see them? In years past, you just drove your car up to the Elkmont Campground area and hiked back on some old weed covered gravel roads. That’s what my mom and I did. However it became so popular that you now have to catch a shuttle from the Sugarlands Visitor Center outside of Gatlinburg. Wait time and lines got long enough that the National Park now allows shuttles from the Townsend area too, and you buy your ticket ahead of time.
Don Alexander at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center (865-448-8838) says, sales open up May 1st each year at 10AM and tickets are a $1.00. This year they sold out in 45 minutes. It’s not often you can experience something magical for a buck. The ultimate cheap date, and you get to sit on a blanket in the dark! They run two shuttles a night from Townsend that hold 18 passengers each for a week to ten days. If you don’t use your $1.00 ticket, which really is a placeholder, your credit card is charged $10.00 for each unused ticket.
These shuttle buses from the Cades Cove Heritage Tours cost a lot more than $18.00 a night to run and this year they were underwritten by, who else, Townsend’s Firefly Café! You catch the bus at their restaurant location, 7967 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway, Townsend, TN 37882, (865-738-3507) between 6:30PM and 7:00PM. The buses return to the same location around 10:30PM each night. Have dinner at the Firefly before you catch the shuttle.
Deborah Lee, owner of the Firefly Café, has been a restaurant owner in Townsend for years. Her new location, now in its second year, gets an A+ for décor, service and food. My favorite is the Elkmont Burger, and they have the best French fries in town. Deborah says, “I called it the Firefly Café because I absolutely love the synchronous fireflies of the Smokies, and that they generate their light from within.” I’m off to create a little spontaneous order. Not! mizkathleen@ Gracehill Bed and Breakfast
This is one blog where the photos can do all the talking. I think the Smoky Mountains Pottery Festival, held at the Townsend TN Visitor Center, is my favorite of the 26 area festivals each year. The colors, the glazes, the shapes & styles all just knock your socks off. Only takes an hour to walk through & parking is close. Plan on spending a bit of money, although it was reasonably priced. The date is Sat June 2nd. Blessings, mizkathleen@Gracehill B&B
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A comprehensive list of events was posted in the Daily Times and online at www.smokymountains.org. The emphasis was the history of the area, and mountain music was predominant. Mom and I attended Friday afternoon’s, “Music of the Mountains” by Great Smoky Mountains National Park Park Ranger Lisa Free. It was a combination of lecture on the oral traditions of passing music down or along, playing various instruments and some singing and foot tapping! Instruments were made out of just about anything and there was a definite bias about which sex could play what instrument. For instance, a 150 years ago you normally would not see a
woman playing the fiddle or banjo as Ranger Free and Visitor Center’s Manager of Partnership Events, Jeanie Hilten, are doing in this photograph. They would have been considered “loose”! I knew Townsend was a hot bed of emancipated women!
In addition to all of the events listed above, Steve Fillmore of Miss Lily’s Cafe and the Lily Barn decided to test the waters to see if there would be interest in holding an annual craft beer festival in Townsend. National beer sales are in decline overall, but craft beer sales are on the upswing as interest grows. The event was held on Saturday at Laurel Valley Restaurant and Golf Course and was a sold out. Attendee’s were effusive in their praise! Blessings, mizkathleen@ Gracehill Bed and Breakfast
The Cades Cove Preservation Association is celebrating their 10th anniversary with a day long celebration at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center in Townsend, TN, on Saturday October 22nd, from 10am to 4pm. The featured speaker is Dwight McCarter, a retired ranger from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Mountain Folk Reunion and Mountain Gap are providing the music. There will be door prizes every hour, horse and buggy rides, and old time toy demonstrations and games for the kids. You can get your photo taken with Cades Cove pioneers. For more information, contact Stephen Weber at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The mission of the Cades Cove Preservation Association (CCPA) is to help preserve the heritage of Cades Cove located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The majority of the members are descendants of the Cove and many were born and lived there as children. There are others, like Kathy and Dave Rudd, who have joined out of a love for the Cove. Non-natives, such as the Rudds, Kathy says, as she agreed to be interviewed, have been warmly embraced by those who have deep roots in the community. It’s an enjoyable group of those who work to preserve both their history and some of the early history of our nation.
Members participate in several events throughout the year to educate the public on the Cove’s history and share their experiences and memories of living there. Some members have published books. In addition to monthly meetings, they also have several ongoing projects during the year, such as maintaining the cemeteries, clearing trails to old home sites, etc. One project, in the summer of 2010, was cleaning up the Caughron barn that was destroyed by winds late last year to salvage the materials for the Park to use in restoring the other buildings of the Cove.
In Maryville, is the Thompson Brown House that houses many Cove artifacts and is staffed by CCPA members. My nephew and I stopped there recently and were warmly greeted by a volunteer who gave Kane a behind the scenes tour. Currently older descendants of the Cove are being interviewed, videotaped and recorded as a way to preserve their stories. My hat is off to those volunteering their time.
PS, I read one of Dwight McCarter’s books, Lost, several years ago. Since then I have never hiked without a whistle. Furthermore, my guests hike with whistles. Period. If you are too macho to wear a whistle, I send you to Pigeon Forge to shop instead of giving you an overview and map of trails in the Park. After a day in Pigeon Forge, you will happily wear a whistle. Over time, I have populated the entire eastern seaboard with at least a gross of Wal-Mart whistles that my guests have taken home in their glove boxes, dreaming of orange and yellow leaves against the blue skies, rivers and mountains of the Smokies. Blessings, mizkathleen@ Gracehill Bed and Breakfast
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A year ago I wrote about the Gatlinburg Scottish Festival held in Gatlinburg. For many reasons including space, they moved this year to Maryville College, re-branded themselves as the Smoky Mountain Highland Games, and there is no looking back. Attendance last year was between 2,500-2,700; celebrating this year, for the 30th annual time, the Maryville, TN inaugural event had over 6,000 in attendance.
The Daily Times, our local paper, certainly gave it a whopping amount of space. Their calendar of events, headline and side stories may have helped create interest, but certainly the additional space and 2 to 3 times the tent space helped. Of course, what better place than Maryville College, home of the “Fighting Scots?” One person was overheard saying it was redundant to call a Scot a Fighting Scot!
This year’s honored guest was Lord Hugh Montgomerie, a chieftain of his clan and heir to his father the 18th Earl of Eglinton and 6th Earl of Winton! Finding out more about your own clan is an important part of the festival but you certainly, don’t have to be Scottish to partake of the festivities. Food: Scottish eggs, meat pies and haggis to name a few of the traditional offerings, were almost as popular as the beer tent. For the activities, it really helps to go with the Times pre-printed schedule. Friday kicked off with the Knoxville Pipes and Drums parade and a reception at the Clayton Center. Saturday 8am-8pm and Sunday 8:30pm to 5pm was nonstop competitive events, music, shopping and demonstrations. mizkathleen@ Gracehill Bed and Breakfast
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Most beekeepers are in it for the honey, although others maintain colonies of bees to pollinate crops, or for the beeswax, propolis, pollen or royal jelly. My brother Mike and his son Kane started beekeeping four years ago, primarily for the pollen and propolis, and secondarily for the honey.
I talked to my nephew first. To quote an eight year old, he likes beekeeping. Opening the hive is cool. They fly and crawl all over you. I asked him if he wore protective clothing? He said yes, an astronaut’s suit! Can you describe it? Hat with a screen, gloves, long socks, boots and an all white suit. I asked him if he knew why the suit was white? He didn’t know. (I had spent an hour reading Wikipedi before calling him.) I told him that natural predators of beehives were bears and skunks that were black and furry, so the suit by being white and slick, was as different as we could make it. So his mother may call him a skunk, but the bees could tell that he really wasn’t one. He was not impressed. I asked him what else he did. He said he pulled the tray out the bottom and checked the pollen. He said it was NOT COOL if there were beetles in the pollen cause they eat it, so his dad would clean it out. I asked him what he did with the pollen and he said he ate it, which he thinks is gross, but his dad thinks is good for him. Other than hearing what colors their pollen was, the fact that the queen bee had a blue dot on her, and honey was good on bread, bagels, and by itself, I had pretty well sucked this hive dry.
On to my brother. He has one hive. He says pollen is one of nature’s whole foods in and of itself. Says you could live a good while just on pollen. It has a complete string of vitamins and amino acids. He said it also acclimates you to a lot of pollen allergies in the area. He also collects the propolis, which is a tree resin the bees use to sterilize and seal off the hive. Mike says you can make an extract with it by diluting it in pure grain alcohol, and it is good to use on canker sores, sealing wounds, etc. He bottles the honey and shares with family and friends and our Smoky Mountain Bed and Breakfast, praise be!
So Auntie Kathy here would have to say, I’m leaning with my nephew. I like the honey the best. Mom makes a loaf of fresh baked bread and I pop a slice in the toaster, slather on some butter and honey and feel like the Queen Bee. I think I could live a good while just on that, and I wouldn’t be inclined to kill the male drones when cold weather approaches! Who else is there, other than the male drones, to put up the Christmas lights? mizkathleen@ Gracehill Bed and Breakfast
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Herb and Wildflower Day, at the Townsend Visitor Center, is one of the many smaller festivals that they host all year long in Townsend, TN, but the participants are no less passionate about their subject matter. Booths were set up under the pavilion representing several of the local Herb and Wildflower Nurseries in the area. Other offerings to round out the day included: fine pottery with a nature theme, a baked good sale, walks in the woods, classes and garden tours.
The day started at 7AM at Tremont with a walk lead by retired NPS Ranger Carey Jones featuring “Birds of the Smokies.” Afternoon wildflower rambles and hikes were on Chestnut Top Trail (“What’s in Bloom”) and Spruce Flats Falls (“Wildflowers on Rocks”).
The two most heavily attended classes were held at the Visitor Center. A 9AM lecture by Dr. Patricia Cox of TVA Natural Heritage on “Spring Flowers and Ferns of the Smokies” had an attendance of about 40 along with the 10:30AM lecture by NPS Ranger Adrian Mayor on “Wildflowers Pollinators- Bees and More.” Afternoon lectures were on “Exotic and Invasive Plants” and a “Blount Friendly Landscaping Gardening Class.” Perfect weather for the perfect Townsend style festival! mizkathleen@ Gracehill Bed and Breakfast