As a Spontaneous adventure three of us decided to take a day, or shall I say, night drive up to the Pisgah National Forest. We were on the hunt for the mysterious Brown Mountain Lights. The lights are a phenomenon that science has yet to uncover the true cause. The legend of the lights can be traced back to the pioneers of the area. They believed the lights are the spirits of the Catawba and Cherokee Indians who died there in an ancient battle. Whatever the legend may be, the lights remain a mystery.
We thought it would be nice to take the scenic route up and found several interesting things along the way. We passed a beautiful cemetery that caught our attention for another investigation. And from out of nowhere we found the spookiest house ever! It looked like a frontier house from a ghost town set. We were tempted to get out and look through it, but decided we were already behind schedule.
Along the adventure we had a “potty-break” detour….. which in the end cost use and extra hour and landed us in the quiet little town of Vale, N.C. We owe the people working at the Cat Square Superette a big THANK YOU for letting us use their potty! The funny thing about us finding our way to this little store is that the GPS kept sending us to stores that were open twenty years ago and no longer existed anymore. Thank goodness we happened to turn around when we pulled into the now-closed Sun Station and seen the Cat Square. Word to the wise, map out potty breaks before hand and make sure they really do exist!
Finally after driving almost five hours on a trip that should have only taken us three to get there, we entered the Pisgah National Forest at 8:20 pm. It had been dark for almost two hours. We were worried that we would miss the lights or better yet get lost in the woods! When we pulled into the Wiseman’s View we found that it was a popular spot that night. The entire parking area was full!
We walked down a paved path to the look out. It was beautiful even at night. A group had built a fire on the landing between the steps to the viewing areas. You could see various lights all over the gorge below and lights dancing along the peaks of the mountain in the distance. Some were tiny dots barely visible to the naked eye while others seemed like large balls of lights that would change colors and go faint and then bright again. If you looked closely you could see what looked almost like a path of “lantern lights” walking through the gorge. It was truly like nothing we had ever seen. From talking to several people there we learned that we were lucky that night. It is rare to be able to see the lights. Conditions have to be just right.
We also learned the hard way that you should research your destination thoroughly before heading out. We were so excited we literally grabbed our coats, a flashlight and our digital cameras and made the trip. Now knowing what we did wrong we suggest that anyone going to see the lights should follow these basic tips to ensure you have optimal experiences there:
Tip#1: Make sure the conditions will be clear before making the trip. You don’t want to drive all that way and it be cloudy from your viewing point, you won’t see much.
Tip #2: Get there before dark. The best time to see the lights are from dusk until about 10:30 at night. They are seen throughout dusk till dawn, but the locals say the first two hours of dark are the best times.
Tip#3: Bring a chair and a blanket. Once you start seeing the lights you’ll not want to leave! The rock stairs are a little cold on your tush, so a chair is great for breaks! The temperature also drops quite a bit after dark.
Tip#4: If you have plans of photographing or recording these mystery lights, you’d better bring a high zoom capable camera that has night shoot. Our 8.1 pixel digital cameras didn’t pick anything up but the darkness!