Tag: Nature

  1. Trailside Talk: The View vs. The Babble

    Trailside Talk: The View vs. The Babble Story by Mike Hembree If Great Smoky Mountains National Park ever allows me to build a cabin in the park, I will have a few big decisions to make. This is an event that is exceptionally unlikely to occur for me, or for you, but we can dream. Of course, there will be the decision about which person (or persons) is going to loan me the money Read more...
  2. Wildflowers 101: Late Summer Wonders

    Wildflowers 101: Late Summer Wonders Story and images by Tom Harrington In this edition of Wildflowers 101, let us look at three more mid to late summer wildflowers: wild golden glow, monkshood, and grass of Parnassus. These three wildflowers have several common characteristics. First, they all grow on Mount Le Conte, which is the third highest mountain in our beautiful Read more...
  3. Saving Our Smokies, One Piece of Litter at a Time

    Saving Our Smokies, One Piece of Litter at a Time Jerry and Darlene Willis are saving Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one piece of litter at a time. Jerry is founder and president of Save Our Smokies (S.O.S.), one of many groups that work together as Litter Patrol volunteers. Image courtesy of Jerry and Darlene Willis. by Frances Figart, Creative Services Director How Read more...
  4. Trailside Talk: The Wild and the Mild

    Trailside Talk: The Wild and the Mild By Mike Hembree The cloak of green that covers the Great Smoky Mountains in summer blankets streams, wildflowers, trails, animals, hills, and hollows in some of the Southeast’s finest high country. It also covers roadways, visitor centers, maintenance shops, parking lots, restrooms, vehicle barriers, stores, and administrative Read more...
  5. Mountain Time: Rock of Ages

    Mountain Time: Rock of Ages Story and images by Arthur "Butch" McDade The Appalachian Mountains are ancient highlands formed millions of years ago. They’ve been shaped, contorted, and warped by great forces since time immemorial. Writer John McPhee describes the Appalachian range as “a compressed, chaotic, ropy enigma, four thousand kilometers from Read more...
  6. Fighting Creek Nature Trail

    Fighting Creek Nature Trail

    Note: Originally posted on January 2014. Reposted here with permission from the author.

    Great Smoky Mountains National Park was my hiking destination yesterday. Leaving Asheville at 9 a.m., I traveled to Gatlinburg for a meeting with Todd Witcher, executive director for Discover Life in America, a nonprofit organization that manages a thorough scientific inventory of all the park’s species that has been going on for the past 15 years.

  7. My last Experience Your Smokies

    For my last Experience Your Smokies, our class visited the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont and the National Park Service Collections Preservation Center in Townsend, TN. Appropriately, the focus of our day was on the value of experiential and outdoor learning.

  8. How Does the Park Service Forecast When the Fireflies Will Flash?

    Ever since Elkmont's synchronous fireflies became an internationally celebrated event with many tens of thousands of would-be attendees vying for some 4,000 available slots, the question of when the fireflies will flash has become a critical one.

    Several years ago -- before the current firefly prediction system was initiated -- an unusually warm spring provoked the famed fireflies into an exceptionally early performance, meaning that by the time the lucky winners of the event’s www.recreation.gov lottery arrived for the show, the bioluminescent beetles had courted and bred and put away their flashers for the year.

  9. Why Are Our Fireflies Synchronized?

    GSMA Firefly Event 2016

    During late May and early June, thousands of eager observers from around the world travel to the Elkmont area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park to observe the phenomenon of synchronized fireflies flashing in the night. The synchronized flashing was first scientifically documented in the Smokies in the 1960s and has since been identified in places like Congaree National Park in South Carolina and Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania.

    But the Elkmont area still draws the biggest crowds. In fact, access to the area during firefly season is now managed by the National Park Service with a free lottery system.

    Most of the world’s hundreds of species of fireflies use their flashes to attract suitable mates. Generally, during breeding season, females wait patiently on the ground for males to fly over them and flash their flashers. If the females recognize the flashes (by flash length, flash intervals, and flash numbers) as coming from a male of their own species, they will respond with their own specific Morse-code-like sequence of flashes. Conversely, when the males recognize the correct flash response from a female, they respond with more flashes specific to their species. Once both male and female have confirmed that they are flirting with members of the same species, mating occurs.


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