The Little River
Membership Newsletter for Friends of DuPont Forest
The Blue Ghost
by Robbie Peterson ter Kuile, Guest Writer
As the dark of the June night descended, I began walking from the Buck Forest parking lot down the main trail into the Dupont Forest. I was in a group of about 20 members of the Friends of the Dupont Forest who had gathered to observe the Blue Ghost, a rare firefly found only in the Appalachian Mountains.
A few of the fireflies silently crossed the path in front of us at our waist-level, while the majority of them flitted under the sanctuary of the trees. It had been raining earlier but stopped during our walk. The night air was cool and I was glad I had on a cotton sweater under my rain jacket. The smell of the damp forest was calming.
My husband and I had arrived approximately thirty minutes earlier with a flashlight and our hiking boots. While we waited for total darkness to descend, one of the Friends offered each member of our chattering group red cellophane paper to cover the lenses of our flashlights. Dr. Jennifer Frick, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies and Ecology at Brevard College, had gathered us around her to hear a short talk about the phenomena we were about to witness. When she finished her lecture and told us to begin the hike, I felt excited like a child who had snuck out of bed to meet a friend in the woods at night.
After our group of Friends strolled less than a minute on the trail, we saw Blue Ghost fireflies glowing to our right just above the ground under the branches of oak, tulip poplar, and hemlock. The tiny beetle-like creatures emitted a continuous blue light as they hovered above the leaf cover. When I bent down to better observe them, I saw fireflies dancing like a strand of blue miniature Christmas lights blowing in a soft breeze. I was so enthralled with watching them, that I fell behind the group. My husband called my name to encourage me to keep up with him and the other members as they began to leave the main trail.
During the twenty or thirty minutes we spent being enchanted with the fireflies, I wasn’t aware of anyone in our group trying to catch the flying insects. Most adults strolled along the path, but parents were heard encouraging their children not to run ahead. The woods vibrated with the sound of the children’s laughter and excitement. Sometimes I stooped lower to get a different perspective of the tiny creatures; other times I stood perfectly still as I slowly turned my head to ob- serve the fireflies drift in front of me from one side of the path to the other side. Dr. Frick discovered a female firefly on the ground and gently scooped her up to show us how the white larva-like female differs from the blue-glowing male.
Once we returned to the main trail, I stopped and squatted to more closely observe a firefly that appeared to be lying on the damp path at my feet. While I bent over, my husband told me another firefly was hover- ing close to my back. Then I heard a woman near us exclaim, "Oh, look! It has landed on her back." I remained motionless and held my breath, as I imagined the Blue Ghost kissing me, before I straightened up to walk out of the forest and back to our car.
When our group turned right onto a smaller path, we encountered a greater number of Blue Ghost fireflies than were visible on the main trail.
Robbie Peterson ter Kuile is a Turning Memories into Memoir instructor at Isothermal Community College, Polk County, NC.
Good Trails Don’t Just Happen
by Chuck Cordray, FODF Trails Committee Co-Chair
YOU CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE was the theme for FODF’s National Trails Day celebra- tion Saturday, June 4th. FODF members and the Trails Committee, along with the Pisgah Trail- blazers manned Buck Forest, Hooker Falls, Lake Imaging and the Guion Farm parking lots. The Trails Committee provided a banner at each location announcing the National Trails Day celebra- tion, a photo album of before and after pictures of the trails that had been rehabilitated through vol- unteer efforts or funding by FODF and IMBA and a handout describing FODF's accomplish- ments. We passed out ice cold water, sold maps, accepted donations and signed up new members; but mostly we talked to forest users about what each of us can do to protect and make DuPont Forest even better. The banners and albums can be reused and the lessons learned will be the foun- dation of our efforts to improve the celebrations for many National Trails Days to come.