Chattanooga is just a short, leisurely drive from Nashville, and deserving of a day trip. Whether you love history, or search for an afternoon of fun, a trip to the nearby sister city is adventure in the making. Chattanooga offers our second closest view of the Tennessee mountains where one can drive the scenic route up Lookout Mountain. The closest mountain view from Nashville is Monteagle Mountain, but that's another story...
In 1863, Union and Confederate forces fought for control of Chattanooga, a key railroad center, and gateway to the deep South. High atop Chattanooga, you'll find Civil war history made its mark with Lookout Mountain Battlefield, although no battle was actually fought there. It was mainly an observation point for the military, and one can see why, with its breathtaking views from Point Park. Point Park's entryway looks like a castle, although the entrance gate was completed in 1905 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, it still honors one of the hardest fought battles of the Civil War...Yet, Chattanooga, with all its rich history of the Civil War, it really was... the beginning of the end for the Confederacy.
Today, high atop Lookout Mountain, one can visit Ruby Falls, a thundering 145-foot waterfall hidden deep inside the mountain. The cave lover will thrill at the pathways and majestic formations on the decent to the falls. If there has been rain, the falls are quite breathtaking with the colorful back lights. If it is a dry season, you might be more impressed with the decent of water cascading from your own back yard garden hose.
Perhaps, for the claustrophobic, visiting Lover's Leap is a hike you'll enjoy. Lovers Leap, where it is said one can see seven states from its height and vantage way is found in Rock City.
Rock City was first discovered in the 1800's, where naturally formed rock appearing like "streets and avenues" made their way throughout the mountainside. Historical evidence shows that Native Americans, both Creek and Cherokee tribes inhabited the area. In 1823, two missionaries arrived to minister to the Indians. The legend of Lovers Leap was supposedly a tale of love, as an Indian maiden pined for her lost love, and ended her pain as she leaped from the rocks. Well, it could have happened...
In 1928, an ambitious Frieda Carter spent her days forging paths throughout the wilderness, planting flowers along the way. In 1932, her husband, Garnet Carter introduced Frieda's unique gardens to the public as Rock City Gardens.
In 1936, Mr. Carter began one of the most visibly successful ad campaigns imaginable, one to lure vacationers and travelers from the highway. He hired a painter to travel the U.S. and offer to paint farmers barns in exchange for letting him paint three simple words. By the 1950's, "See Rock City" had been painted on over 900 barn roofs from Michigan to Texas. Today, one can explore winding garden trails, past trickling water, meander through tight rock passageways, one called Fat Man's Squeeze, to a rickety swinging bridge where one can scare the dickens out of any brave soul willing to cross it, with just the stamp of a foot and a mischievous smile.
Driving up Lookout Mountain is one way to venture skyward, another is the famed Incline Railroad. With the steepness of the mountain slowly becoming more evident, you'll understand why the ceiling of the railcar has glass panels in which to look out. The view is worth the short trip up the mountainside.
Railroads are a big draw to the appeal of Chattanooga, having the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum as an option to visit. You'll find it's one of the few places left to relive the golden age of railroading, as you ride restored vintage trains running daily, mid-March through October, and weekends during other months. You can board a "special occasion" train for a special birthday or dinner. Kids, ages 13-17 can attend summer camp where instruction is offered on all aspects of railroading, such as railroad terms, signals, how steam and diesel engines work, the history of trains, and even the math involved in running trains...and curious adults, they might be willing to let you in for a price, but it is a summer adventure for kids.
Speaking of running, it's time to head home for today, until next time, watch for your next traveling ticket to discover the Chattanooga Choo Choo...All aboard!