My name is Rebecca, and my husband’s name is Derek. We have spent the last three years in Houston, Texas, while Derek pursued a master of fine arts degree in graphic design at the University of Houston. Before that, we met and married in rural Tioga County, Pennsylvania, where we also received our undergraduate degrees at Mansfield University.
Derek is a full-time lecturer of graphic design at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
We are both excited to explore our new home, Chattanooga. We
are an adventurous couple, always finding something to do on the weekends. Neither
of us had ever been to Tennessee before this opportunity.
Follow us as we see what the Scenic City, and surrounding areas, has to offer!
Derek and I have lived in Chattanooga for two and a half years now. During that time, we have hiked a lot of the area’s trails.
So many of these trails feature a waterfall. If you had told me three years ago that we would be hiking and seeing so many waterfalls, I would have thought you were crazy. Before this, the only waterfall I had seen was Niagara Falls.
This year, we have seen three new waterfalls: Foster Falls, Piney Falls, and Burgess Falls. I wondered, just how many waterfalls have we seen? In all, it comes to 13 waterfalls. I laughed to myself and thought about how a baker’s dozen is 13, so this is a hiker’s dozen.
Here is the list of 13 waterfalls, which a link to each corresponding blog post.
This is a wide-ranging list. Some of these are tiny, some of these are large and powerful. Some of these you can hike right up to the edge, and others you see from far away.
The first waterfall I saw on this list was also the furthest away, vantage point wise. This was Julia Falls. Better viewed after a lot of rainfall, it can be seen on the side of the mountain across from Julia Falls Overlook, which is reached from Signal Point. At the time I wasn’t aware of other local waterfalls, and I didn’t think it could get any better!
The easiest one to get to is Falling Water Falls, located on Signal Mountain. It’s a short walk from the parking lot. You view this waterfall from above.
The best trail for maximum views of a waterfall, in my opinion, is Foster Falls. The trail allows you to see the falls both far away and close, and on both sides.
The best overall trail and waterfall, I think, is Benton Falls. The trail is two miles there and back, but it is an easy gravel path. The waterfall is tall and large, and you can get right up close and go swimming, if you chose to do so.
A close second favorite is the waterfall trail at Cloudland Canyon State Park, where you can see three waterfalls. Winter falls is seen across the valley, on the side of the mountain, at the start of the trail. (A different trail does offer a water crossing at the bottom of Winter Falls.) The Waterfall Trail leads to both Hemlock and Cherokee falls.
What is your favorite waterfall that you’ve hiked to?
On Saturday we drove northwest from Chattanooga to Burgess Falls State Park, for a morning of hiking.
Burgess Falls State Park features three sections of a waterfall. I recommend going in the winter, so that you can see more of the river through the bare trees along the path.
A sign at the trailhead says that the trail is strenuous. I believe this may be because of the number of steps along the path, but Derek and I are intermediate-level hikers, and we thought it was fairly easy.
When we went, we had just had a week of rain, so the river and the falls were powerful and fast flowing.
This hike is great if you like maximum views. There are overlooks at the upper, middle, and lower falls.
We also walked an optional, short trail that leads to the top of the lower falls.
The path to the end of the lower falls is three quarters of a mile. There is a different, gravel path to take back to the parking lot, for a round trip total of 1.5 miles.
A section of a farm met up with the edge of the gravel path. Of course, I had to take photos of the cows!
We drove into the town of Sparta for lunch. We ate at The Coffee Collective, a nice café located on the historical square.
We walked around a bit, and saw a caboose on display, and a war memorial. We also walked on a pedestrian bridge across the Calfkiller River. Quite the name, huh? The river is named for a Cherokee chief.
We also shopped at the Fragrant Mushroom, a pottery store. The store had a calico cat named Josi. The prices were affordable, and the pieces were beautiful. We ended up buying a coaster and a mug.
A few weekends ago, Derek and I hiked to Piney Falls. We got lost a bunch of times, and we didn’t get the full experience that we had expected, but it was still a great hike.
The Piney Falls trail head is just north of Spring City, TN. It was about an hour’s drive away from where we live.
The Piney Falls trail is confusing, if you’re not sure of what to expect. This was our first time, and we ended up backtracking once, and turning off the correct trail twice.
The trail goes to both upper and lower Piney Falls. There is a junction and you can take either direction. The trail is a loop, but it can be avoided if you are not okay with a water crossing
We first went to upper Piney Falls, where we came out to the top of the falls.
It was here that we realized that we would have to cross the water. Since it was winter and there was a high flow of water, we decided that this was a bad idea. I would imagine that it is doable in summer months.
Because of this, we turned back around and headed back to the junction. If you go right, that takes you to upper Piney Falls, and left takes you to lower Piney Falls.
We got lost at least twice our way to lower Piney Falls. There are many different areas where it looks like the trail turns off. If you hike this trail, keep following alongside the rock cliffs.
We were treated to a great display of icicles along the cliffs.
At one point we were both sitting on a rock, frustrated and trying to look up trail maps and figure out our location on Google Maps. Just then, a couple came hiking through. They were familiar with the trail and led us to the waterfall.
The unique feature of Piney Falls is that you can walk behind the falls. I believe that if we had continued the hike behind the falls, and gone up the other side of the trail, we eventually would have come to the other side of the upper Piney Falls crossing. Maybe?
Unfortunately, there had just been a cold snap, so there was ice everywhere. I wanted to get a good shot of Piney Falls badly enough that I crawled on my hands and knees to get around!
Even though our hike was cut short and we missed half of the trail, the ice did create amazing photo opportunities!
It’s not every day you watch people throw cast iron frying pans across an ice skating rink!
This weekend we attended the 3rd Annual Chattanooga Skillet Curling Championship, at the Chattanooga Choo Choo’s Ice on the Landing skating rink. The skillets were provided by Lodge Cast Iron.
The event was a two day event, and we went on Saturday, the first day. There were many teams to start out with, and we watched teams get eliminated as the morning went on. The teams consisted of members of organizations, businesses, etc.
I thought that we might have stayed for 20 minutes before growing bored of watching. However, we had a great time, and watched for over an hour and a half.
The teams were competitive, and the crowd got into the games as well.
It took a few rounds of watching to figure out the rules. It was slightly different than actual curling, because there was no colored target on the ice. Instead, someone threw a lid, and that lid then became the target. The team’s pans that were closest at the end won points for that round.
Trying to hit a moving target made it tricky! There were some times when the pans would flip over, and land upside down on top of the lid. There was no luck for the other team that tried to get the pan off again!
This weekend Derek and I challenged ourselves to 24 hours of winter camping at Cloudland Canyon State Park.
We have camped in spring, summer, and fall, so winter was the last season left to try. We honestly did not know if we would like it or not. It could have very well been a disaster!
We did a lot of research, and we were mindful of the clothes that we packed, including thermals as a base layer and wool socks. We also packed our flannel lined sleeping bag, and two extra blankets.
We reserved Backcountry site #3, which you have to hike to from the trail head and parking lot. Last fall, we stayed at #5. Comparing the two sites, we like #3 better. It is a little closer of a walk from the trail head, and the site itself is prettier. The campsite has a stream running near it, and we had our own mini waterfall all to ourselves!
Convenience was a big factor at this site as well. The fire ring was right next to the picnic table. We had brought our camp chairs, but we never used them. We set our tent up right behind the picnic table. The outhouse was also just a few steps away. This outhouse was much cleaner than at site #5. Timing might have been a factor in this though, depending on how often they get serviced by volunteers.
Overall, we managed to stay warm. We had some frozen fingers and toes at time, but we brought hand warmers, which helped out. Getting into the sleeping bag at night was rough for the first five minutes, but our body heat quickly warmed us up. When we woke up in the morning, we realized that our breath had caused frost to form on the inside of the tent!
I am glad that Derek suggested last year that we start camping. We are still very much beginners, with not the greatest equipment. We have now camped twice at campgrounds, and have backpacked in twice. There are pros and cons for both types of camping. Campgrounds have more amenities, but there is nothing like being outside in the peace and quiet with no one else around.
We want to get hiking backpacks with frames, in order to carry everything on our backs. Things like that cost a lot of money though. In due time. We probably still bring way too much with us on each trip; it’s trial and error. We would like to camp at site #3 again in the spring, which would allow us shed some weight in the form of clothing layers and blankets.
I have been enjoying making YouTube videos. I videoed during our time camping, and I made a video from it. I think this is my favorite video yet!
A few years ago, I bought myself a GoPro as a Christmas present. My husband and I try to vacation regularly, and I wanted to record videos while vacationing, as another way to preserve memories.
I have quite the growing little YouTube channel, but admittingly, not many views.
I stopped making videos during the pandemic, because we weren’t traveling anywhere, obviously. Eventually, I decided to make shorter videos about the things we were doing around Chattanooga.
We resumed traveling last summer, and now I have two more travel videos in the mix. In the future, I plan to do a camping video, and a video for our upcoming vacation to the Smoky Mountains.
I wanted to share these videos with my readers. They’re not perfect, but I am improving, I think. I watch a lot of YouTube channels, so I learn from watching. I hope you all enjoy watching them, and maybe you’ll get some ideas for what to do in the Chattanooga area.
Our first hike of 2022 was a good one, even though we did get a little lost!
We went to Foster Falls, part of the South Cumberland State Park. This is southwest of the Chattanooga area, about 45 minutes away.
Our hike was 2.3 miles long, but I think it would have been a little longer if we had gone the whole, right away.
We had cold, clear weather for the hike. When we started, it was 29 degrees with a windchill of 23. This allowed for beautiful ice formations.
The hike started out mostly flat, and then descended down to the bottom of Foster Falls. This was a rocky, stone step decent, but not too hard. We crossed a swinging bridge over Fiery Gizzard Creek as well.
After viewing the falls, and taking pictures of all the ice all around the edge of the water, the trail was a difficult ascent. There were times when we were literally scrambling over rocks on all fours.
It was here that we got confused, and accidentally cut the trail short. The trail is supposed to loop around, but there was a sign that said, “exit, climbers only,” which threw us off. So instead, we took the path that said, “Climbers loop access 1” and that was a short cut to the other end of the loop. When we realized our mistake, we doubled back a bit, not all the way though, to get the extra mileage in.
Thankfully, once you reach the top rim of the mountain, the trail levels out.
What I liked best about this trail was that the views of Foster Falls were maximized. We saw the falls from down below, up top, and from all sides. My favorite view was from above, where the light was hitting the falls just right to make rainbow colored mist.
There was even a smaller waterfall to the right of Foster Falls. I imagine that this smaller one is completely dried up in the summer. The trail actually crosses right over the top of this second waterfall. The edge has a cable barrier, so we safely looked over the edge and saw the water cascading down.
The hike ends (and starts as well) with an overlook where you can see Foster Falls from a further away vantage point.
We enjoyed this hike. It was just hard enough for our liking, and the right amount of mileage. The views of Foster Falls were fantastic. We are looking forward to finding new waterfall hikes throughout the rest of winter.
2021 was a great year, which was pleasant after 2020 was better left unsaid.
2021 started off well, with a new job at a rural community paper in Georgia. A year later, I still enjoy my job. It’s great to wake up every morning and not dread going to work, which is how I unfortunately felt last year.
This year is also the first year I can honestly say that I tolerated winter. After we got into hiking last fall, we continued it through the winter. I do not like being cold, so I usually stay indoors. However, we pleasantly discovered that hiking is a good way to stay warm.
The hiking continued throughout the year as well. We hiked 76.2 miles in total. I never expected to love hiking so much. Now I feel like I cannot live without it. I’m always planning the next hike.
We both made it through the pandemic, so far, with our health intact. We got our first doses of the vaccine in March about two weeks apart. By the end of April, we were both fully vaccinated. We got our booster shots at the end of November.
We did a lot of new activities, and we crossed a lot of items off our “Chattanooga area to-do list.”
For example: We went strawberry picking, we went camping three times, we saw a Lookouts baseball game, and we kayaked the Tennessee River.
We also saw Alabama in concert in Nashville, which was a great opportunity to visit Nashville for the day. As a country music fan, I felt like I was in my own version of the promised land.
We went on our first vacation in two years, to the Gulf Coast. We road tripped through different places in Alabama and Mississippi. It was great to explore more of the southeast.
Derek got his contract renewed for another year at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga,which was a relief after the uncertainty of the beginning of the pandemic. Also, the University of Tennessee system approved a cost-of-living raise for all lecturers.
Derek also made headway on one of his first big projects outside of the classroom. He is partnering up with a local artist to work on a mural at the Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center. He applied and was awarded a grant for the art supplies.
We continued to broaden our explorations, by venturing further out from Chattanooga. For example, we visited new areas in Georgia such as Calhoun, where we explored the Rock Garden, and got to go to the new Buc-ees!
Also in Georgia, we saw more Civil War sites, related to the Great Locomotive Chase. We visited the Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History in Kennesaw, where we saw the original engine involved in the chase, the General.
In December, we reached our first milestone anniversary, 10 years. We celebrated by visiting Savannah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C., two places that have been on my bucket list for years.
Here’s to 2022! I’m not sure what the whole year will bring, but we know it will include more camping, hiking, and a trip to the Smoky Mountains!
On Christmas Eve, we went to Ruby Falls with my parents. Out of all the major, popular attractions in the Chattanooga area, Ruby Falls was the last one for us to cross off.
We enjoyed Ruby Falls, however, there were both pros and cons.
Ruby Falls is an underground waterfall, located deep within Lookout Mountain. To get to the falls, you have to walk about half a mile through a cave system. Walking through the cave would have been more fun, if it hadn’t been crowded. This was most likely because we did this on Christmas Eve. Perhaps if someone went on a week day, they would have a better experience.
You have to walk through the cave single file, which doesn’t make for a good experience with the tour guide. We had to continuously walk through the cave, and the guide did not stop much to explain anything about the cave.
However, there was a video presentation at the start of the walk, where we learned about Leo Lambert, and his 1928 discovery of the cave and Ruby Falls, which he named after his wife. He went through the cave for 17 hours, much of that crawling, and he had no idea what he would discover. We did enjoy this presentation. But we felt like we missed out on learning more about caves in general.
As a photographer hobbyist, I found it frustrating to try to take photos inside of the cave. You had to take the photo quickly and move on, because as I mentioned earlier, we were continuously walking single file.
We only had to walk half a mile, but it seemed to take forever to get to our end point, because each time another tour group came through, we had to move up against the wall and let them pass.
Ruby Falls is the namesake and the highlight of the tour. When you first enter the large room, you can hear the waterfall, but barely see it. It is so dark in there! Thanks to a music and light show, about five minutes long, you can see Ruby Falls and be able to take some nice photos.
Leaving Ruby Falls was much easier, as our group had the right-away going back, and the other groups had to move over for us.
Also part of Ruby Falls is an overlook, which you get to by climbing a few floors of stairs. It offers a nice view point of Moccasin Bend.
Overall, I am glad I saw Ruby Falls. It’s no doubt impressive, and it’s neat to think that we were in the middle of Lookout Mountain, 1,120 feet below ground.
Ruby Falls itself is 80 feet high, and it’s pool is three feet deep. The water flows down through the mountain, and at some point it flows into the Tennessee River.
If you find yourself in Chattanooga, go visit Ruby Falls. You’ll be glad you did. Just don’t go on one of the busiest days of the year!