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On the Hunt for the Blue Ghost

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Every year around the middle/end of May a rare phenomenon appears in the southern Appalachians. Wan blue-ish lights hover above the floor of the forest, appearing by the thousands in undisturbed, high-moisture areas. The annual return of the blue ghost fireflies is a very special occasion; loss of pristine forest has shrunk suitable habitat for the blue ghost down to just a small area around DuPont State Recreational Forest in North Carolina, and on top of that, the fireflies only appear for about a month each year!

Blue Ghost Firefly North Carolina

What’s a blue ghost firefly anyway?

Although DuPont has become synonymous with blue ghost fireflies, there are many public lands in nearby counties where this night marvel can also be seen, including the Nantahala & Pisgah National Forests (NC) and the Mountain Bridge Wilderness right here in the Upstate. And it’s actually not so very difficult to see the blue ghost; you won’t need special night vision equipment, nor do you have to venture far from your car to see them.

Mid-May through mid-June is prime viewing time. Choose a high-moisture destination in or near DuPont (a trail that is close to a river, a sheltered cove…), and head out before sunset to scout. (Tip: this is the perfect time to visit one of the dozens of waterfalls along the Blue Ridge Escarpment and enjoy a popular destination without the crowds!) Finally, once the sun sets, use the last bit of light to hike a short distance out on your pre-selected trail, and then wait… and wait a little more. Be patient! The blue ghosts come out late – after sunset and not at twilight like all the other fireflies.

One May, we headed to DuPont on our annual blue ghost excursion. We took along a picnic, and enjoyed dinner outdoors while we waited for the sun to set. Other species of fireflies appeared around dusk, fireworks against the dark forest that had the boys standing still in silent awe. We had just about given up on seeing the ghosts and were set to begin the journey home when we walked out one last time – and there they were! As our eyes adjusted we saw more and more of them, glowing for up to a minute at a time, hovering above the forest floor in an eerie scene that had us all captivated. The blue ghosts are notoriously hard to photograph, and I didn’t even try – we just soaked in the scene before us, marveling at the rather spooky scene.

As thousands flock to DuPont to search for the elusive lightning bug, the NC Forest Service has had to take steps to protect the blue ghost populations within park boundaries. We have seen temporary trail closures in response to an overwhelming number of visitors during blue ghost season, and forest officials observed a high level of habitat disturbance and disruption by the large nighttime crowds, which could have long-term impacts on local populations of fireflies. Forest officials ask that the public observe trail closure signs and stay out of closed areas.

Double check to see what trails are closed before your visit. Over the past year especially, Dupont Forest has seen an explosion of visitors and they’ve had to close trails more often for maintenance.

Plan a trip to visit the blue ghost firefiles

In your quest to find the blue ghost firefly, I hope you’ll respect the work that forest service employees and other public servants are doing in preserving the habitat of this seldom-seen insect. Please stay on the trail, visit during official hours, park in designated areas and obey posted signs & trail closures (and make sure to pack a flashlight!). The fireflies are a wonderful opportunity to instill in our children an awe of the beauty of nature, but if we’re not careful, their light will blink out forever.

If you’d like to take a guided tour to see the blue ghosts, we’d recommend this incredible experience in Pisgah Forest.

You can see what the blue ghost fireflies look like in this photo.

This article was originally published on Femme au foyer.

Has your family ever visited the blue ghost fireflies?

Visit the Waterfalls of DuPont State Recreational Forest this Fall

Looking for a day away from it all out in the woods? On a fall day there is nothing like heading north to the streams, fresh air, dazzling waterfalls and fall colors of the Blue Ridge Mountains. With its 900 miles of hiking trails, six major waterfalls and over 10,000 acres of forest, DuPont State Forest is a showcase of some of the most fabulous scenery in western NC, just an hour from Greenville! KAG Contributor Liene is telling us all bout the best places to visit in Dupont State Forest.

Find even more great hikes on our Hiking Guide. Plus find tons of waterfalls in our area to visit here!

This article was originally published on Femme au Foyer as “DuPont State Forest and its waterfalls”.

Hooker Falls at Dupont Forest

What to expect if you go

To maximize a visit to DuPont, park in the Hooker Falls area on Staton Road and combine the Triple Falls Trail, the High Falls Trail and Hooker Falls Road for an unforgettable, three mile hike to visit three of the most popular and beautiful falls in the area. Two of them (Triple and Hooker Falls) you might recognize from the movie The Hunger Games, a portion of which was filmed in DuPont in 2011, and Triple Falls featured prominently in the movie Last of the Mohicans.

Just a short ½ mile from the Hooker Falls parking area you’ll reach Triple Falls, with three distinct cascades that drop 120 feet in total. The first overlook is just a short distance from the parking lot, and a few hundred feet further is the spur trail that leads down to the large rocky area between the falls. Bring a picnic to enjoy the spectacle – natural and human – before jumping back on the main trail.

Triple Falls trail and High Falls trail form a loop, but you can choose to stick close to Little River on High Falls trail and cut out a bit of the mileage by doing a there-and-back. (Triple Falls trail heads west, hitting Buck Forest Road and intersecting with High Falls trail and the Covered Bridge Trail about 1/3 mile from High Falls). To reach the base of the 150-foot cascade, take a detour on the short River Bend spur trail for a memorable view of the falls and the covered bridge at the top.

High Falls is the largest waterfall in the area, and together with the beautiful covered bridge was part of a planned real estate development in 2000. After a lengthy legal battle the state was able to purchase the land from the developer, ensuring the view of the falls would be preserved. The trail leading to High Falls is somewhat steep, so make sure to bring water and to set a comfortable pace in the summer heat.

Triple Falls at Dupont

Once you’ve retraced your steps to the parking area and crossed back under Staton Road, you’ll turn west on Hooker Falls trail. Make sure to pause at the observation area above the falls before circling down to the base of the 12 foot waterfall. From the popular swimming hole at the base of the falls, Little River flows on into Cascade Lake, outside of the state forest’s boundaries. The hike to the falls is relatively easy, a mildly sloping 0.4 miles down a gravel road.

These three DuPont waterfalls make for a perfect year-round destination. The weekends during the summer will find a crowd at Hooker Falls, cooling down in the natural swimming hole, meanwhile autumn brings unparalleled fall foliage to the views around High Falls. Winter will decorate the waterfalls in ice, and finally spring means wildflowers and the return of the Blue Ghost Firefly. Whichever season you visit, you’ll find the scenic and tranquil beauty of DuPont State Forest and its waterfalls a memorable experience you’ll want to repeat again and again.

Want more information?

  • DuPont State Forest website.
  • Friends of DuPont website.
  • Trail map can be downloaded for free here.
  • Major waterfall map here.

Has your family checked out DuPont State Forest yet?

Piney Mountain Bike Lounge Has a Pump Track Out Back

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Local mom Liene reviews Piney Mountain Bike Lounge in Greenville, SC. This unique bicycle shop and taproom should be on your summer bucket list!

There is one spot that definitely needs to be on your bucket list this summer if you live in Greenville and have kids who enjoy riding bikes – Piney Mountain Bike Lounge!

Piney Mountain Bike Lounge is a cross between a bicycle shop and a taproom, complete with a pump track out back! Located between downtown and Paris Mountain, the Lounge caters to mountain bikers on their way to and from the mountains. It has also become a gathering spot for the local community to come together and share their love for riding – or share their love for craft beer while their kids are busy wearing themselves out on the dirt bike course!

Why we love Piney Mountain Bike Lounge

Our most recent visit was a weekday. The boys were all still running full steam, wearing on my last nerve. We still had several hours of daylight, and so we loaded up three kids, three bikes and three helmets and headed to Piney Mountain Road.

Although the exterior looks much like it did when it was the Landscapers Supply, the interior has been completely revamped. On one side is the bar, serving up craft beer alongside what is the bicycle repair space. On the other side is a lounge, complete with couches, a foosball table and handlebars in the place of mounted trophies. The center is filled with all the latest cycling gear and bicycles, trail maps on the walls of favorite dirt biking destinations in the area. Finally, in the back you’ll find the former loading dock, converted to outdoor patio. Full of picnic tables, the space overlooks the pump track, a small, looping trail system that you can ideally ride continuously without pedaling.

Since their grand opening in March, Piney Mountain has settled in with a rotation of food trucks to make the Lounge truly a one-stop evening hot-spot. Including Upstate favorites such as Automatic Taco, Ellada Kouzina and Chuck Truck, for the current schedule check the website or follow Piney Mountain Bike Lounge on Facebook.  For the beer enthusiasts, a list of the 14 regional and local craft beers on tap can be found here.  The pump track is closed when it’s wet for safety reasons as well as to protect the track, and a waiver must be signed before use. Usually one of us will take the boys & bikes around to the track and get them set up, while the other orders food and beer and gets settled in at one of the tables by the track – then it’s just a matter of shouting out a few encouraging words to keep them circling the track while we enjoy our meal.

Piney Mountain offers a variety of tune-up and service options as well as a demo option if you’re looking to buy a bicycle but not quite ready to commit. For those with kids in middle or high school that might be interested in a mountain biking team, NICA (the National Interscholastic Cycling association) is coming to Greenville and often meets with Piney Mountain – check out Upstate Composite on Facebook for more info.

When it comes down to it, I’m really more of a Swamp Rabbit Trail gal than a Paris Mountain cyclist, but Piney Mountain is a great addition to the cycling scene in the Upstate. Whether you’re looking to get your bike ready for the season, catch up with friends after a day at Paris Mountain, or just ‘cycle’ through some of that energy in the kids on these long days, make sure to swing by the Lounge this summer!

Plan your own trip to Piney Mountain Bike Lounge

20 Piney Mountain Road, Greenville

For more information about Piney Mountain Bike Lounge visit their website. They can also be found on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook

See Liene’s original post on her blog, Femme au Foyer, here.

Does your family love to bike together? Don’t miss our list of places to ride your bike in Greenville.

Would your family love Piney Mountain Bike Lounge as much as mine does?

Meet Liene
Mother of three young boys, Liene is constantly on the move since returning to Greenville in 2012. Whether she’s exploring the state parks and natural areas of the Carolinas or teaming up with other moms to organize activities for the kids, she’s always searching for the next adventure in the Upstate. For everything from hiking, travel, cooking and crafts to multicultural & global education posts, visit her blog, Femme au Foyer.

How Much Do You Know About Pelham Mill Park?

Local mom Liene reviews Pelham Mill Park in Greer, SC. For more park reviews, see our Parks in Greenville page.

This historic site in Greenville has somehow flown under the radar of the majority of locals, even those living and working nearby. However, with its old mill ruins, river shoals and couple of acres of bottomland forest, Pelham Mill Park could be considered one of the more interesting parks in Greenville County.

About Pelham Mill Park

Home to the one of the first textile mills in Greenville County, there are scenic and historic elements that liken it to Falls Park downtown. The Upstate was largely shaped by the textile industry, and just as Falls Park contains the ruins of a grist mill, Pelham Mill Park contains the remnants of a cotton mill. Evidence of a complex series of stone and brick foundations span the floodplain, shoals and terrace that overlook the Enoree River. These ruins are accessible to visitors, though be warned – with steep, muddy footpaths, tall grass and an unfortunate abundance of trash & poison ivy, extreme caution should be exercised when exploring the site.

The Greenville County Historic Preservation Commission donated the thirteen acres to Greenville County in 1988. Seven acres have been added through a partnership with Western Carolina Regional Sewer Authority, and the master plan for the park includes interpretive signage, picnic sites and a walking bridge spanning the river that would provide access to trails along the Enoree River. One aspect of the plan which has been completed is the dog park, and a second that is currently in the works is restoration of the former Pelham Mill Post Office.

The building was built in 1870 as Pelham Mill’s office until the textile plant closed in 1930. It became a post office until it was closed in 1996, and when Highway 14 was widened in 2002 it was moved to its present location. Greenville Rec is restoring the historic structure for use as a community building with help from Western Carolina Regional Sewer Authority and Greenville County.

Other features of the park include a paved path leading to the historical 19th century stonework dam. An overlook provides a view of the dam, architectural remains of the mill and shoals on the Enoree River. Crumbling walls, foundations and depressions give evidence to what used to stand on the site: two steam smokestacks, underground pipes, drains, turbines, nine brick pilings, the mill’s main powerhouse and steam generator, and finally the large mortared stone dam with six sluice gates spanning the Enoree River. The Mill burned down in 1943 (except for the mill office), as the only fire trucks available had to come all the way from Greenville and Greer.

Pelham Mill is recognized by the Greenville County Historic Preservation Commission as one of 11 historic sites in the County.

On a related note, the Enoree river served another important purpose a few hundred years earlier. In 1766 NC/SC negotiated a boundary with the Cherokee between ‘Indian land’ and their new settlement. This line extended from Honea Path across the Reedy River all the way to Virginia, but today there is nothing to remind us of this aspect of southern history except a few historic markers like the one nearby on Highway 14. If you do make a stop at the marker, make sure to also find the nearby geocache…

Plan a visit to Pelham Mill Park

2770 E Phillips Road
Greer, SC 29650
Visit the website here.

This article was originally published on Femme au foyer.

Have you explored Pelham Mill Park?

Meet Liene
Mother of three young boys, Liene is constantly on the move since returning to Greenville in 2012. Whether she’s exploring the state parks and natural areas of the Carolinas or teaming up with other moms to organize activities for the kids, she’s always searching for the next adventure in the Upstate. For everything from hiking, travel, cooking and crafts to multicultural & global education posts, visit her blog, Femme au Foyer.

Shoeless Joe Jackson Memorial Park

Liene reviews Shoeless Joe Jackson Memorial Park in Greenville, SC. For more reviews of local parks see our Park Guide to Greenville, SC.

When he was 13 years old, Joe Jackson earned a position on the Brandon Mill Baseball team. Historically, the mills played a large role in the evolution of baseball at the time; on Saturday afternoons when the whistles blew, the mill workers would swarm from the workplace to the local baseball fields, where they would practice for their games against mill leagues across Greenville County. Many communities such as Brandon Mill were brought together through their love of the sport, and more than one legendary player emerged from these mill teams, including Joe Jackson, Champ Osteen and Red Barbary.

Photo credit to Charles M. Conlon

Shoeless Joe

Joseph Jefferson Jackson earned the nickname “Shoeless Joe” during a mill game when the blisters from a new pair of cleats resulted in the player taking off his shoes off before his turn at bat. Legend goes that as he was rounding third base in his socks a fan yelled out “You shoeless son of a gun, you!” and the resulting nickname stuck through the rest of his career. In 1919 he was indicted in the Black Sox Scandal in which members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox participated in a conspiracy to fix the World Series. Although he was acquitted in 1921, he was still banned from playing baseball for the remainder of his career. Nevertheless, Shoeless Joe has one of the highest career batting averages in major league history (he hit .408 in 1911), and Babe Ruth is said to have modeled his batting technique after Jackson’s square stance.

The park

The historic Brandon Mill Community on Greenville’s Westside is now home to the 8-acre Shoeless Joe Jackson Memorial Park, the baseball field where Jackson first played baseball. The park is split in two by Brushy Creek, which continues on through Greenville until it empties into the Reedy River in Lake Conestee Nature Park; due to the historic pollution caused by the mills and ongoing hazards from urban runoff, it is not advised to play in the water.

On one side of the creek is the lighted baseball field with a small parking lot that is open when a game is on. On the other side of the creek are the playground, picnic shelter and parking. The two sides are connected by a small bridge on the very backside of the park, and informational placards on the park and Shoeless Joe can be found next to the concessions building on the backside of the baseball diamond – this is where you’ll find the answer to the 2017 Park Hop clues!

Nearby attractions

When you’re park hopping through the Greenville County Parks this summer, make sure to stop by nearby Freetown Community Center for more Park Hop fun. The Community Center and playground is just 5 blocks away, making it an easy two-base hit!

Greenville is also home to the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum and Library, Shoeless Joe Jackson Plaza at the gates of Fluor Field (where a life-size bronze statue of Joe stands on a base made of bricks from the old Comiskey Ball Park in Chicago), and the site of Joe Jackson’s grave where visitors leave baseballs, photos, notes and other mementos.

Have you explored the Shoeless Joe Jackson Memorial Park?

Shoeless Joe Jackson Memorial Park is one of the parks in the 2017 Park Hop passport. To learn more about how you can earn prizes this summer by visiting local parks read our Ultimate Guide to Park Hop

Meet Liene
Mother of three young boys, Liene is constantly on the move since returning to Greenville in 2012. Whether she’s exploring the state parks and natural areas of the Carolinas or teaming up with other moms to organize activities for the kids, she’s always searching for the next adventure in the Upstate. For everything from hiking, travel, cooking and crafts to multicultural & global education posts, visit her blog, Femme au Foyer.