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Backpacker Magazine – June 2011

National Parks: Great Smoky Mountains

For guaranteed solitude in the park's southwest reaches, explore this quiet loop during the off-season.

by: Charles Bethea

Crystal Clear Twenty Mile Creek (Photo by Brett Siminson)
Crystal Clear Twenty Mile Creek (Photo by Brett Siminson)
An illuminated firefly (Photo by Rick Lieder)
An illuminated firefly (Photo by Rick Lieder)



SEE THIS NOW
Believe it or not, the country’s most spectacular light show is not on July 4. For a two-week period in mid-June, male Photinus carolinus fireflies (one of the park’s 14 firefly species) synchronize their flashes for mating season. Get front-row views—and bypass the crowds that flock to the popular Elkmont viewing area—on Porters Creek Trail in the northern reaches of the park. The mile-long (one-way) route, wide and manageable in the dark, leads to a clearing at Porters Flat where clouds of fireflies blink in unison. Watch closely: The short bursts of synchronous lights form distinct patterns, which vary among the species. Target your arrival to Porters Flat for 9 p.m.




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