Katy, who has been my social and event planner all year so far, made reservations for us, her sister and parents and Sarah and her family to go see the synchronization of the fireflies in the Smokies. The reservations were made back in early March and we got one of the last sites, they were in another loop in another section all the way back over the river! At first I was a little bummed to be way away, but as soon as we got there, that twinge was instantly gone. Our site was near the river so we heard the water going by and we had no neighbors!! The site next to us was a ADA site, they could not just rent it to anyone-you need medical proof that you need a specialized site. There were no sites to the right or across. Yay! I had been a little worried-there's no power at Elkmont (or showers!!) and it was a holiday weekend and there are nearly 250 sites. All booked. eeeeep!

We took Matt's new-to-him car. I wish for many reasons we had not. It's tiny compared to the van and the van had my air pump, Tylenol, hair bands, extra toothbrushes, pens, first aid kit, our inner tubes and so on tucked away in various spots-plus the van has 11 cup holders. And the car is still new, so Matt was a little nutsy about how hard we shut the doors among other things. And the main reason being that it was because Nettlevan was still in the shop and still a big unknown factor that loomed all weekend. There are so many times in life I wish I could peek ahead to the end result of a certain sequence of events and see what happens, so I can act accordingly until it does happen! (They totaled her out and refused to pay any on the other guy's claim) The car does get about 10 more miles to the gallon than the van, that part was nice! And Matt won't let me drive it-won't even get me a copy of the key. (I am being a little dramatic here, he's not being a jerk, there's just one key and we have not had a copy made yet and I don't want to drive just yet-especially a car that is so different from my big old clunky van!) So other than having to wait for him to unlock the trunk when I needed something, it was relaxing just being driven around all weekend.

I did not get in gear to take pictures until nearly Chattanooga. We went up the road that parallels I-24 and tooled around in the area for a little while.
That's the I-24 bridge.

I had to use the bathroom, so we headed off to the TVA visitor center at Raccoon Mountain. That's a REALLY pretty drive!
The VC was closed, but the bathrooms were open and we ended up walking out on the fishing pier and stretching our legs a little.

There was some kind of facility back in the mountain, trucks were drive in and out!

This mama was in the hall going to the bathroom.

What do you want to bet step one and two of the entry procedure are Skip Lunch and Go Pee

Right in the hillside!
This was so cool, we love tunnels.

We love this exit sign, mostly because it's near the cheese place, but it's also funny because in AL there is an Athens and Decatur near each other.

We were very good and only got smoked gouda and black pepper
and sourdough bread

We were near or crossing the Tennessee for just about the entire drive.
When the kids were little (okay, as recently as 2 weeks ago) we would tell them they could hop in and float home.
Grandad could fish them out when they got to his place.

Ukealulu and yoohoo

Finally, we get through Maryville and head toward Townsend.
My uncle and favorite cousin lived in Maryville, still do I imagine. I grew up going there four or five times a year, same for Chattanooga. My parents graduated from Tennessee Temple and Daddy preached at one of the first mega churches for a few years until he was called to take over a little church in Alabama. That's where I was born, though my siblings came from Erlinger in Chattanooga. We visted both cities year round, I can still drive right to the house they lived in and to the house of their best friend who died of cancer when I was 9.

Nuvi routed us through Wear's Valley and out an access road I have never seen before!
The traffic was not bad at all, especially for holiday weekend!
The above shot was about the worst of it until we passed some major trail heads.

Headed out of Wear's Valley. It looks almost like Autumn. I think it's been a dry spring.

So pretty! There's no mistaking the Appalachians.

We got set up FAST because with the tiny car there's no room for extras!
Alex and Owen had scootered over to see if we had arrived and were both a big help with the tent.
We headed out to find our people and they were by the creek.

We split back up and headed to make dinner.
We had creamy potato soup with cheese and some fresh sourdough bread.

Back over at the other camp, we enjoyed the fire while waiting for it to get dark enough to go look for fireflies.

Matt attracts tiny girls, they all love him. Now that Lucky is as mobile as Inde, he has a lap full any time Chandler is not around.
She's still top pick-sorry Pooh Bear!



So we headed out to look for fireflies, Katy had scouted the trail earlier and knew where she was going, which was nice because it was really dark.
Soooo dark that when we were standing on the old roadbed that crisscrosses Wonderland, the abandoned vacation home village behind Elkmont, one of the kids swept their light through the shrubbery and a house leaped out of the woods. Scared us all silly, I had NO idea there were houses along the trail. Seeing one lurking behind the foliage is somehow very terrifying.



Later, we walked further down to get away from some lights and Katy and I were standing there talking while the kids roamed around nearby with the other adults and again, flashlight sweep and BAM-the house below. Katy screamed nearly as loud as I did. I can't explain it, that irrational fear that the house stalked up to you. The next day Katy's mom asked me if I had seen the stables that were next to us on the first trail we went down. It was full daylight and the stables were half a mile away and it STILL creeped me out. Maybe it's the total lack of life, there's no hum or vibe-people give inanimate objects energy.


I did not get any shots of the fireflies, I did not even try. :)


It was a gorgeous weekend, just amazing. The weather was perfect and the company was fun, the trails were hard and rewarding, the views as breathtaking as always and the fireflies were just stunning. I am not sure I can describe just how amazing seeing an entire small valley undulate and sparkle and throb with tiny beetles all flashing together. 6-8 flashes and stop for 10 seconds, back to flashing. They were not ALL on ALL off, it seemed to start to the left and move to the right, so it was this wave BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BLACK.

The best scientific explanation is that there are several species of fireflies and when an entire group of males can get it together and flash at the same time, it makes it MUCH easier for the females to find them and flash back her interest. Females stay low on the ground or in low growth. If all the males of all the species floated around blinking willy-nilly, there would be too much visual clutter. She'd be going, "Was that 6 flashes? He has a nice blinker...wait, was that 3 on 3 off? He moved. Dangit. Okay, looking for a nice flasher....there's one. Okay, counting....UGH. Another bug got between us. Okay, keep looking..." They only live 2 or 3 days, I can see how it would get hard to find the right one, or any one for that matter.

It's sad thinking all the ones we watched are already dead.

Matt only barely snored overnight, but I was cold and I was dumb because I was laying ON my jacket. I did not sleep great, but that could have been prevented with some thinking ahead. Which I did Sunday night and I slept like a rock.