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!
A few weeks ago we went on a week-long vacation to Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina.
For the last ten years, give or take, I have had a carefully curated travel bucket list. This trip was exciting for me, because this is one of the original trips that went on that list.
This week was all about Civil War history for me. It was amazing to finally be in places that I have read about for years.
Our first three and a half days were in Savannah. Some of the things we did there included exploring all of the squares, Bonaventure Cemetery, Wormsloe Historic Site, a riverboat cruise on the Georgia Queen, and General Sherman’s headquarters.
My favorite thing we did in the Savannah area was Fort McAllister. On Dec. 13, 1864, General William B. Hazen (no relation, we think, but still neat) led an attack on Fort McAllister, on the Ogeechee River, south of Savannah. This was vital, in order to gain Union control of the waterway. Hazen’s division had the element of surprise, and the battle lasted 15 minutes. With the fort in union control, the union army was able to march into Savannah, and have the supplies that they needed.
We were able to visit Fort McAllister on Dec. 13, to the day, which was a nice touch. We were the only two people at the fort! We couldn’t believe that.
A lot of this trip, in both cities, was devoted to walking the different streets, and taking in the old, historical buildings.
We spent one half day exploring Tybee Island, which is known as Savannah’s beach. We both enjoyed Tybee Island, and said we would enjoy a full beach vacation here. We spent some time on the beach, and enjoyed watching a group of surfers.
After the first half of our trip in Savannah, we drove two hours to Charleston.
Some of what we did in Charleston included shopping at the historic City Market, seeing the Pineapple Fountain, Rainbow Row, Boone Hall Plantation, and the Angel Oak tree.
The highlight in Charleston for me was visiting Fort Sumter. The first shots of the Civil War were fired upon Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. I am a Civil War history buff, so it felt good to finally get there!
Another thing we really enjoyed in the Charleston area was visiting the Charleston Tea Garden, which is the only place in North America were tea is grown. We took a trolley tour, and we learned a lot of facts about tea, such as the growing season is from April to October. Tea grows in bushes, and during harvest time, a special cutting machine trims off the tops of the bushes to get the leaves.
The gift shop was a tea lover’s paradise, with many free samples of tea to taste. We bought loose leaf tea both for ourselves, and for my parents as Christmas gifts.
In addition, like in Savannah, we enjoyed seeing all of the historic homes.
Our favorite thing about Charleston was something that we stumbled upon, something that we had never planned to do. Our hotel was across the harbor in Mount Pleasant. We were back at the hotel just before dinner, and we were looking for something to do that evening. Thanks to a Google Maps search, we found Shem Creek, just a few miles south.
We walked along the Shem Creek Boardwalk, a series of paths that went over the marsh and followed the waterway. There, we watched all kinds of birds, fishing boats going in and out, kayakers, and even a few dolphins! We watched the sunset. We enjoyed this so much that we came back the for a second night.
We spent our last afternoon at Sullivan’s Island Beach. We had the perfect weather on our trip with temperatures in the 60s-70s, so a beach afternoon in December wasn’t too crazy!
While at Sullivan’s Island, we explored Fort Moulrie. This was another unexpected bonus, as we did not plan to do this.
On our way home, we broke up the drive by stopping to see a few things in Atlanta. We visited the MLK Jr. National Historical Park, which included Ebenezer Church, where he was co-pastor, his birth site, and the graves of himself and Coretta Scott King. Everything was closed because of COVID-19, but at least we got to see the outside of these historic places.
We had a great time on this vacation. We did everything that we wanted to do and then some. Now we are back home with all of the pictures, video and memories, and we’re looking forward to the next trip!
If you live in the Chattanooga area or are visiting Chattanooga and looking for a hike to do, consider Lula Lake Land Trust.
Lula Lake Land Trust is different from other outdoor recreational areas, in that it is a conservation area, and you need reservations to hike here. The Lula Lake Land Trust has open gate days, which are the first and the last weekend of every month. There is a $15 “conservation use fee” per carload.
Lula Lake Land Trust (LLLT) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established by the will of Robert M. Davenport in January of 1994. Dedicated to the preservation of lands located within the Rock Creek watershed on Lookout Mountain, the mission of LLLT is to preserve the natural and historic landscapes surrounding Rock Creek and its tributaries through conservation, education, and low-impact recreation.
Dates for reservations are listed two months out in advance, and dates sell out quickly. The reservations are timed, with the first group of people allowed to enter from 9-10 a.m.
We made our reservations a month out and hoped for good weather. If the weather forecast is not looking great and you want to cancel, you can get a refund if you do so at least 48 hours in advance.
There are multiple trails to choose from, and we picked the most popular, “The Out and Back,” which is 4.2 miles. This is a flat, gravel path, with little elevation change.
We timed our reservation, Oct. 31, for the forecasted peak foliage time, and we were not disappointed! I love photographing fall leaves, so this made our time here more special.
After a nice stroll, you come to a bridge that goes over Rock Creek. Just after this bridge, you will see the lower falls. There is a stone step path that leads down to these falls, filling into the conservation’s namesake, Lula Lake.
Head a little further up the trail and you will see the main falls, Lula Lake Falls. This waterfall is 120 feet high. I loved the pop of color at the top of the falls!
There are two trails leading down to the falls from the gravel path. The first one you come across is meant to use to come back up, after leaving the falls, because this one is steep. The second trail you come to, just a little further up from the first trail, is meant for making your way down to the falls.
There was plenty of space to walk around and check out the falls from different angles.
What I like the most is that the number of people allowed in are limited. Of course, we saw some people at the waterfalls, but it wasn’t crowded like some other hikes are. There were long stretches of time when we did not see any people on the trail.
At this point, heading back, we decided to deviate from the Out and Back Trail, and take the North Creek Trail back. I do NOT recommend this!
The North Creek Trail follows the creek and turns into the short Ford Trail, at which point you ford the river. We knew there would be a river crossing, but we didn’t know what we’d be up against.
The water was fairly deep, about mid-calf high. Derek took off his socks and shoes and rolled up his pant legs. I told him to go first, and I took his phone and recorded his crossing.
He barely made it a few steps when he slipped and fell! Luckily, he caught himself, and saved his butt from getting wet. Unluckily, he lost one of his shoes! There it went, floating down stream.
However, it was at this time that Derek met his trail guardian angel. A hiking couple were on the trail near us, and must have heard us exclaiming about the shoe, and he came running out on a section of rocks that jut halfway across the creek. With one of his hiker poles, he was able to retrieve the shoe.
After that, he made it safely across. Then it was my turn, and I was responsible for three shoes now! I decided to go across the creek from the rocks that were jutting out and go diagonally. This ended up being a little easier. I did have my moments when I almost fell though!
Once we were on the shore, we laughed about it. I’m glad we did it and we had the experience, but I wouldn’t want to do it again! It might be easier in the summer if the water levels are lower. After that, the North Creek and Ford Trails meet back up with the Out and Back Trail.
Overall, this was a great hike. Even with the extra water crossing that we weren’t planning on, it was a great, mostly easy hike, with great payoff in terms of views. I may consider coming back here again sometime, but I think we spoiled it for ourselves for another time by going during the fall with the beautiful leaves!
This past weekend, Derek and I did something that I never thought we would do. We camped at Cloudland Canyon State Park, but it wasn’t just typical camping in a campground.
We had a backcountry campsite, which is one of 10 campsites that are along the Backcountry Loop Trail. There is a parking lot at the trailhead, and everyone has to hike into their site. Some of the sites are closer, and some are further out than others. Our campsite was No. 5, which was not one of the closer ones, but not too far out either.
We do not have the big camping backpacks with the frames, we only have our regular school backpacks. In order to be able to haul everything we needed, we bought a little two-wheeled utility cart.
Our campsite was totally secluded. No. 5 had a little off shoot trail from the main trail, which we liked. The backcountry trail loop is a two mile trail, and I assume regular hikers, who are not camping, frequent through there.
This overnight camping trip was not perfect by any means. In fact, it was a comedy of errors. We learned our lesson many times over. We are not too scathed from our experience, and we want to camp there again, maybe even in the winter. Now we know how to do things right.
Our first lesson is to bring a hatchet next time, and skip the bundles of firewood. Because of the wood, we had to make two trips back and forth from the car to the campsite. We learned that campers are allowed to use any wood at the site, within reason, for campfires.
Things went fairly smoothly in the evening. Rain was in the forecast, so we hung up a tarp over our tent, to keep us dry. We have a beginner’s pop up tent, that is not water proof, but it suits our needs fine. It drizzled on and off while we ate dinner, but never amounted to much. We enjoyed the evening by the fire.
What we weren’t prepared for was how DARK it got at night. We’re used to camping near others, so you have everyone’s lantern light and campfires, and even the glow from buildings like the camp office or the bathhouse. It felt very weird, and somewhat scary, to be alone in the woods in the dark.
Before we went to bed, we opened up the top and side parts of our tent to expose the screens underneath, to let in air flow. It was quite warm when we went to bed, at 70 degrees.
It poured on and off all night long. We stayed nice and dry until suddenly, we were quite wet. I guess the wind must have shifted, causing the rain to come right into our tent! In the dim lantern light, Derek struggled to get the tent closed up again. Another lesson learned. Leave the tent fully closed when rain is in the forecast!
Our tent is small, so we can’t put everything inside. Our shoes were outside, underneath the tarp. But when it’s raining sideways, this does not help! Our shoes got soaked. Derek’s socks and jeans also got soaked, because they were folded up in the front corner of our tent, which was a full puddle of water by the time we got everything zipped up. Another lesson we took away from this is to bring an extra change of socks, and bring plastic bags for anything we want to stay dry.
The rain finally moved out at about 6:45 a.m. We got up, and again, were shocked at how dark it was. The wood was a little damp, and so were the Duralogs. Lesson No. Four: Duralog packaging is not water proof! Keep the Duralogs dry so they light easier!
We were both worried for a minute that we would not be able to get a fire started, therefore no warmth, no hot tea, and no breakfast. Things were tense, but the fire eventually did get going. It should also be mentioned that a cold front came through after the rain, so it was quite chilly early in the morning.
Once the sun came up and we had food in our stomachs, we could laugh at our misfortunes.
The Backcountry Loop Trail connects with the Bear Creek Trail. This is a trail that we had never been on, so we decided to check it out.
Unfortunately, we were steered wrong by the map that we had. The map listed that it was .5 miles to Bear Creek, before continuing on for another 7.1 miles. I thought to the creek and back would make a nice one mile hike. This was not so. Apparently the map was labeled incorrectly, or perhaps it was .5 miles from where it intersects with the Overlook Trail. Even the dotted line representing the direction of the trail was wrong, too.
The hike was easy at first, but then we went down a lot of switch backs to get down to the creek. We saw our first bright orange salamanders!
By the time we got back to the campsite, I think we had hiked nearly three miles total. It was a gorgeous hike, but we just were not prepared to go that far!
Once we got back, we started to pack up our campsite. We had to be out by 1 p.m. Imagine our surprise when a bunch of Boy Scouts, Boy Scout leaders, and some parents came into our campsite. They were very nice to us, but I was unhappy that they showed up too early. We had to rush through our packing up. We left at about 12:30, a full 30 minutes before they should have even been there.
All in all, we had a great time, and it was an adventure, to say the least.
Last weekend we went to the Prater’s Mill Country Fair in Dalton, Ga.
Prater’s Mill is an original, working gristmill that was established in 1855. At the fair, people have the opportunity to walk through the gristmill, the cotton gin, an old country store, and a barn that features a large collection of historical items. This part of the fair was my favorite, because I always enjoy anything historical.
Of course, there was also a ton of shopping to be had as well. What we enjoy about these types of fairs (there is a similar Ketner’s Mill Country fair in Whitwell, Tenn.,) is that the vendors are heavily vetted. Everything is handmade and local, and unique.
There were also performances all day long on a stage. We caught a few dances by a clogging group.
I bought myself a quartz crystal necklace, which I always seem to have my eyes on, whenever I see a gem vendor. Derek bought himself a 4th-5th Century AD Roman coin, which was turned into a keychain.
There was lots of good food to choose from. We had pulled pork sandwiches, shared an apple dumpling, and a cup of hot cider.
We enjoyed our day here. This event may be an event that we put into our regular rotation for next year.
Derek is partnering with the Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center, and another local artist, on an art project this year. Through this work, we have learned a lot about the Arboretum, and all that they have to offer to the public, including their work in animal conservation, and their animal ambassadors.
The Arboretum houses a collection of animals native to eastern Tennessee, all of them unable to be released into the wild, for different reasons. Many of these animals are used in educational programs for children.
They also have a red wolves rehabilitation program, where they are trying to reintroduce red wolves back into the wild. Some of the red wolves are unable to go into the wild, and call the Arboretum their forever home. Red wolves are critically endangered. As part of the program, they also breed red wolves with the intent of “cross fostering” where the bred pups are raised by a wild red wolf and her wild pups, and will grow up wild.
As a late birthday present, we scheduled an animal encounter with Toddy, the red fox.
Males are called tods, hence the name “Toddy.” Females are called vixens, and young cubs are called kits.
Toddy is five years old, and he came to the Arboretum when he was just five weeks old. He was rescued from an “exotic” animal auction.
We got to watch Toddy eat his mid-morning meal, comprised of meat, peanut butter, peppers, cat and dog food, and scrambled eggs. We both got to feed him some of the scrambled egg!
Red foxes always have a white tip on the end of their tail and black “socks.” They have elliptical pupils, like cats.
A red fox like Toddy typically weighs about 14 pounds in the summer, and up to 17 pounds in the winter, due to all of the extra fur!
He was very excitable and energetic. He was running and jumping all over the place. At the end of our encounter, he curled up in his dog carrier for a nap.
After our time with Toddy, Tish, the Director of Wildlife, gave us a quick peek at all of the other animals. We saw a bobcat, a black vulture, an opossum, a one-eyed owl, a turtle, a hawk, and an eagle. I would love to do an animal encounter with the opossum in the future!