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After pulling into the parking area, rolling down my windows and turning off the engine, my dog started barking. It was a no brainer why. The symphony of Brood X cicadas in Blairsville, Ga., were amplified. Okay, calling it a symphony is pushing it. It’s a mating call and I suppose the best way to describe it is a steady shrill with a hint of vibration. If you haven’t heard cicadas, see the video below and turn on the sound to hear them.
An Adventure Months in the Making
In February, a friend posted to Facebook about the Brood X cicadas emerging this spring. Brood X (the X is the Roman numeral 10 and pronounced “ten”) are periodical cicadas, meaning they emerge from the ground in groups periodically. After 17 years of living underground, sucking on tree roots for survival and emerging for the purpose of mating then dying, I added Brood X cicadas to my 2021 goals list. Yeah, I’m a little weird that way. 😉
Viewing synchronous fireflies was already one of my goals for the year so adding another insect seemed reasonable. For three years I applied for the lottery to view them in Great Smoky National Park and for three years, I have not been chosen. After searching for fireflies online, I decided my best chance of seeing lightning bugs was Memorial Day Weekend, a couple of days before the park service-led firefly event started. Unfortunately, Elkmont Campground in the park was booked and since I was planning a road trip with my dog, I needed a new plan.
Timing is Everything
After more research, I decided to visit Hendersonville, N.C., with hopes of viewing blue ghost fireflies in DuPont State Recreational Forest. These bioluminescent bugs are only found in this part of the world. What makes them unique is their blue-white glow and stay lit for up to a minute to attract a mate. Only the males fly as the females don’t have wings. According to what I read, they emerge sometime in late May to June.
Days before the trip and while on the road, I frequently referenced the smartphone app Cicada Safari. It’s a crowd-sourced platform with content uploaded by citizen scientists in the field seeing cicadas.
Of course, I had to keep in mind that fireflies, cicadas, and weather are unpredictable. Meaning, there was a chance I wouldn’t see anything. Knowing this, I wanted to ensure there was something exciting about the trip, other than spending four days on the road, rolling through the Appalachians with my dog. Although, the views are spectacular.
Unique Camping with HipCamp
This is where HipCamp came into play. Think of it as the Airbnb version of camping and glamping. Sure, you can book a stay in a campground but you can also book a stay in a camper, in an orange grove, or at a drive-in movie theatre. I’m pleased with my selections and stays and only wish I had more time to enjoy each stop.
What’s an adventure without a twist? Less than a week before beginning the trip, my friend Janet (who walked across America) reached out about connecting. After I told her what I had planned for the upcoming weekend, I had a human road trip partner. She flew in from Wisconsin and I picked her up in Savannah, on the way to the first stop Thursday. Following are the stops completed during this 1,700-plus-mile journey.
HipCamp Stay in South Carolina: Rosewood Rendezvous Tiny Cabin in Winnsboro
The Rosewood Rendezvous Tiny Cabin is a magical place. It’s a sweet cabin with electricity and running water which sits next to a pond. Nearby the Rosewood Farm and Agripark with all sorts of farm animals like Lipizzan horses, donkeys, goats, chickens, and a pig. There’s a fire ring for a campfire. The best part of the dog-friendly accommodations is the resident farm dog, Sammy.
Read more about this glamping HipCamp stay in this post about Rosewood Rendezvous Tiny Cabin.
Pitstop: Visiting a Yellowstone Friend in Inman, S.C.
We stopped to visit our mutual friend Wanda in Inman who we worked with in Yellowstone in the ‘90s and it’s been decades since I saw her. It was a wonderful visit reminiscing and catching up. It always amazes and delights me picking up conversations after years apart.
HipCamp Stay in Hendersonville, North Carolina: NERO Coffee + Camp
There really wasn’t enough time to enjoy this mountain camp site but it was certainly close to DuPont State Recreational Forest, home of blue ghost fireflies, and Pisgah National Forest. Rain did dampen our spirits a little bit but it’s still a sweet place to stay.
Read more about this HipCamp camping stay in this post about NERO Coffee + Camp.
Exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains
After pitching our tent, we headed over to Pisgah National Forest and walked down to the base of Looking Glass Falls, which is dog-friendly. In fact, we encountered a pair of dogs and their humans posing for photos on our way down to the base.
We drove through the forest, not really sure where we were heading. We rode part of the Blue Ridge Parkway and stopped every so often to admire the stunning views of valleys and mountains. The beauty is breathless.
Before heading back to camp, we hiked some of DuPont State Recreational Area and saw High Falls then the Covered Bridge. We waited for twilight to settle in and for blue ghost fireflies to glow but we only observed “regular” lightning bugs. As we left around 9 p.m., others were arriving with hopes of catching the fireflies.
Pitstop: Visiting a Friend in Clayton, Ga.
On the road around 8:30 a.m., we headed to Blairsville to find Brood X cicadas. We stopped to visit my friend Mary. She worked on the public relations account for my previous employer and we’ve remained friends. Last year, she was determined to live in the mountains and that’s exactly what she’s doing now. It was so good seeing her!
Friends and Brood X Cicadas in Blairsville, Ga.
I knew cicadas would be in Blairsville and by chance, I knew someone living there, Capt. Marian Schneider who owned Grande Tours in Placida, Fla. She’s a pioneer of Charlotte County’s (Florida) ecotourism industry. Local friends reading this post certainly know Capt. Marian.
Days before my trip I reached out and asked if we could stop by on my way to find these critters. Not only did she say “yes” but she informed me they are all over her 10-acre property but dying.
Pulling into her driveway, I noticed a sign reading “Placida North.” I knew we were at the right place. We hopped in Capt. Marian’s golf cart for a tour and drive through memory lane. Literally. She has a sign stating “memory lane” with accents from Grande Tours. I recognized the “keyboard,” a wood canoe paddle with hooks for paddlers to hang their keys.
A Walk Down Memory Lane
The biggest items relocated from Charlotte County to Blairsville are a cistern and the Boca Grande toll-tender’s house. The wood cistern was built in 1938 and supplied water for her family cottage in the Placida. The bridge tender’s house was built in 1910. Both were dismantled in Placida, transported, and reassembled on Marian’s North Georgia property by Bob Philps, the cistern in 2020 and house in 2021.
While soaking in the nostalgia, we interacted with Brood X cicadas. They. Were. Everywhere. In the grass. On the trees. Sitting on wires, bushes, and the golf cart seat. And Marian was right, they were dying. Carcasses indicating the cicadas came to do what they were supposed to, mate then die, were everywhere. Although we didn’t see groups of cicadas, like I had seen online, we saw individuals and heard the masses.
Like the rest of the stops, this one was brief, too and on to the next adventure.
HipCamp Stay in North Georgia: Tiger Drive-In in Tiger
Remember the days of going to the drive-thru movies, falling asleep then driving home? The Tiger Drive-In in Tiger, Ga., has a solution, you can spend the night! Park your RV or campervan, pitch a tent, or just sleep in your car. I found this gem through HipCamp.
Read about my experience in this post about the Tiger Drive-In.
Buc-ee’s and Peaches
Sunday morning, it was time to had back to Florida and it was a long haul. We drove to Helen and Dahlonega in hopes of seeing more cicadas but didn’t see or hear them.
Now, Buc-ee’s is worthy of their own post because it is AH-MAZING! It’s like a Super Walmart designed for travelers. I grabbed a brisket sandwich and drooled over their homemade fudge,jerky, and fresh pastries. And after asking around, they’re known for really clean bathrooms.
Back to the Sunshine State
I booked the La Quinta Inn by Wyndham Orlando Airport West for Janet’s o’dark-thirty flight on Monday. As I walked Radcliff before bed, I noticed a restaurant familiar to me.
Sharing the parking lot with the hotel is Fish On Fire. It’s a restaurant that’s been friends of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association for the past few years. How do I know? Not only am I a member, I’m president of FOWA (2020 & 2021). As a late-night snack, I picked Shrimp on Fire, large shrimp wrapped in bacon, fresh sliced jalapeno and cheddar cheese for me, fried grouper for Janet, and key lime pie which I saved for breakfast.
After dropping Janet off at the airport, Radcliff was happy to reclaim his shotgun role. Several times during the trip he tried to sit up front. I stopped at the Sarasota National Memorial on the drive home. It’s something I’ve done for several years to mark Memorial Day. I rolled into my North Port driveway before Noon and unpacked the car, rinsed off the tent, tossed in a load of laundry and decompressed while thinking about all the cool sites I saw over the weekend.
I didn’t get to see the synchronous or blue ghost fireflies, but I did see the Brood X cicadas and reconnected with friends. What a trip!