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!
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!
We went to Nashville for the day on Saturday, July 3. It was a long day, about 21 hours, in fact.
We left at 5:35 a.m. and did not get home until about 2:20 a.m.
The reason why we went to Nashville in the first place was an Alabama concert, which was originally scheduled for last July, pushed back a year because of the pandemic.
Since we had never been to Nashville before, we made a full day out of it.
Our first stop was breakfast at the Gaylord Opryland Resort. We went here because it’s next door to the Grand Ole Opry. This is a large hotel, with a beautifully designed interior. There are water features inside, including more than one waterfall. There are different sections of the hotel. My favorite was the Delta section, which looked like New Orleans. We got breakfast at a grab and go marketplace, and walked around the hotel.
After time at the hotel, we went to the Grand Ole Opry for a 9 a.m. backstage tour. This tour was about an hour. It included an introduction show at the beginning. We saw all of the artist rooms, the wall of plaques listing Opry members, and got to walk out on stage.
I was disappointed with how the tour handled the stage part. Everyone got to walk out on to the famed circle (a circle of wood taken from the Ryman Auditorium) and a photographer took a picture. You had to pay for the picture. It cost $25 dollars to get three copies, one large and two small, of the photo, which was poorly printed. I understand that there had to be a way to control the group across the stage, otherwise everyone would have huddled around it waiting to get their own picture, but the photographer should have offered to take photos with people’s own phones and cameras. We ended up sneaking a photo of the photo with our phone, so at least we have proof that we stood in the circle.
However, it was a thrill to stand in these places on the stage where so many famed artists have stood before.
Overall, we enjoyed the tour, and we would like to come back to see a show.
After our tour, we headed into downtown Nashville. The Opry and Gaylord Opryland are a few miles away from downtown, in a section called Music Valley.
We walked the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge over the Cumberland River. The bridge is short, compared to the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge in Chattanooga.
After that, it was time to check out Lower Broadway, the main tourist area filled with honky honk type bars, shops and restaurants.
I am sure that things were busier than usual due to it being the 4th of July holiday weekend, but we were both quite overwhelmed by the amount of crowds and noise. A lot of the bars had open windows and doors, and there would be a band inside playing ear splitting music. It seemed like the bars all had a contest with each other to see who could play the loudest.
I think I would enjoy Broadway much more during an off-season visit, and earlier in the morning.
Some other things that we saw included the Music City Walk of Fame, which is similar to the stars on Hollywood Boulevard, the Tennessee State Capitol, and the Instagram famous What Lifts You wings mural by Kelsey Montague.
We were having a lot of difficulty finding parking, exacerbated by getting stuck in traffic all over the city, so Derek dropped me off at the Union Station Hotel, a historic train station, so I could take a few pictures, while he drove around the block.
In the afternoon we headed to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The highlight for me was seeing Kacey Musgrave’s exhibit, All the Colors. It was a treat to see the white lace jumpsuit that she wore to the Houston Rodeo performance, a show I saw in March 2019.
Other neat things were the hall of gold records, Willie Nelson’s shoes and bandana, a dress of Dolly Parton’s and hand written song lyrics from Brooks and Dunn.
The last thing we did during the day was the whole reason why we came to Nashville, the Alabama concert. It was a great show. Martina McBride was the opening act, and it was awesome to hear her sing “Independence Day.”
There were two surprises during the show. First, Gov. Bill Lee came on stage and made a proclamation designating July 3 as “Alabama in Tennessee Day.” Second, Tim McGraw came on stage and sang a song with Randy and Teddy.
I got to hear a bunch of their songs that I had not heard during the first concert in Houston. I was excited to hear “Roll On,” which is one of my favorites.
After the concert, it was time for the two hour drive back home. At the end of the day, my phone had recorded 22,000 steps! Also, I learned a lesson; do not wear pointed toe cowboy boots! My toes were squished all day and hurting, but at least I had no blisters.
Overall we had a good day, and we learned a lot so we can make the next trip a better one.
Yesterday Derek and I hiked the Benton Falls Trail, which is over an hour away from Chattanooga. Benton Falls is located in the Chilhowee Recreational Area, part of the Cherokee National Forest.
Benton Falls is a popular trail because it is a relatively easy hike ending with a gorgeous waterfall. The trails in the area are heavily trafficked, partially because the area is home to a campground. There is a day use area with picnic tables, grills, and a man made lake with a beach. If you are visiting, it costs $3 to park. There are envelopes at the information kiosk in which to put your money in.
I like to research before we go out on any new hike. I look at pictures, read reviews, and even try to watch YouTube videos, if they are available. During one video, taken during the summer, I was shocked to see how many people there were at Benton Falls. Because of this, we left at 6:30 in the morning.
On the way into the Chilhowee Recreational Area, Oswald Road features a few overlooks. We stopped at these to break up the winding, slow drive in to the trail head. The overlooks are absolutely gorgeous, featuring views of Sugarloaf Mountain, Ocoee River, and part of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The hike is a mostly flat path, and the trail is three miles total (1.5 miles there and back.) The trail only gets rocky toward the end, when you descend by the falls.
There is a spot where you can see the top of the falls flowing down. Derek found a path that lead to the middle of the falls, where you could stand next to the edge. It was cool (and wet)!
Derek and I have seen a lot of waterfalls on our hikes, and I think Benton Falls is the prettiest. It is a 65-foot waterfall, and it flows down over rocks that are in a stair-like pattern, which makes for a pretty water flow.
The water was flowing well when we went, but the pool of water at the bottom wasn’t so high that we were still able to walk across some of the bigger rocks out in front.
What I like best about Benton Falls is that you can get close to the water, if you want. We were able to walk right on the lowest ledge, and feel the water spraying us. I imagine that a lot of people hike here in the summer with their bathing suits on. The water is sure to feel good in the summer heat.
It was a good call to arrive early in the morning. We arrived at the trail head at exactly 8 a.m., and we did not see a single soul on our entire hike in. We had the waterfall to ourselves the entire time, which was at least 30 minutes. We started to see a steady stream of people while hiking the trail back to the parking lot.
A few months ago, during the winter, Derek said to me, “I want to go camping.”
We have both camped in a number of ways. Derek was a Boy Scout. My grandparents had a camper, and they would have a reserved spot for the whole summer. We have both camped together during Civil War reenactments, in a canvas tent. However, this was the first time we have camped together on our own, with a tent meant for modern camping.
After purchasing the basic equipment, and borrowing quite a bit from my parent’s old reenacting stash, we booked a site at Chester Frost Park.
Chester Frost Park is a Hamilton County Park in Hixon, located on the edge of Chickamauga Lake. Dallas Bay is on the opposite side. The park consists of two islands, connected by a causeway.
Our camp site was right on the edge of the water. There are different types of campsites to choose from, including grass/dirt or gravel lots. Our lot was gravel. Some sites are more primitive than others. Ours came with water and electric hookup.
We bought a pop up tent, which is perfect for beginner campers like us. I was concerned that it would take forever to figure out how to fold it back up at the end of the trip, but there were directions to follow that were easy. The tent looks small, but it was just spacious enough for the two of us, even Derek who is six feet tall.
The camp site also had a fire ring with an attached grill and a picnic table. We cooked most of our meals over the fire, with the exception of dinner the night we arrived, and sandwiches for lunch the next day. We also made s’mores as well, and had plenty of cups of hot tea.
Our campsite had a two-night minimum stay. We arrived on Friday evening and left mid-morning on Sunday. I am not sure if there are other sites which allow one-night reservations.
Since we were only 20 minutes from home, on Saturday afternoon we went back home to feed our cats. I am glad we had this excuse, because we had forgotten some cooking utensils!
The only downside to Chester Frost Park is that there aren’t many amenities, activity-wise. There is a sand beach and a few playgrounds, but that was it. I think there may be more programs during the summer high season. I wish, being on the water, that there was a place to rent kayaks. You could only go on the water if you had your own and brought it from home.
However, we still had a good time, and it was a good first trip for us to work out the kinks.
For instance, we’re going to have to figure out the bedding situation. We both had ground mats, but those, with a ground cloth underneath, did not help to make the gravel pebbles any less hard under our backs. On the second night we slept on top of the sleeping bag and used our extra blanket as cover, which seemed to help a bit, but then the new problem arised of being cold! This will not be an issue as the temperatures rise, though.
Also, we want to figure out a better way to organize camp. Coming from a reenacting camp site, Derek and I are used to hiding all of the modern items with wooden boxes, bags of burlap, etc. We had items in various Walmart bags, and it looked trashy! We would like to buy wooden crates or something similar to hold everything.
We enjoyed walking around the park and checking the surroundings out. There is a disc golf course, if you have your own frisbees. There were also multiple pavilions, and even a little stage, where I imagine bands play in the summertime. A lot of people were fishing, either on the beaches, off the docks, or in boats. We spent a lot of time just relaxing by the campfire. I read a book and Derek watched a movie on the laptop. By the way, Chester Frost Park has WiFi, if you need to get some work done, or just want to stay up to date on social media.
I am glad that Derek spoke up and suggested camping. This is a new activity that we will certainly enjoy for years to come. I am looking forward to booking the next campsite!
Today I learned about the Little Winters of Tennessee. Almost all of the meteorologists were calling the next few days a “redbud winter.” I had no clue what they were referring to.
Apparently Tennessee (and some other states) have what are called little winters, or cold snaps. We are getting a cold snap at the end of this week, and we might even see some snow!
The redbud winter is going to occur later this week because the redbud trees are blooming. The redbud winter is the first of the little winters. They go as follows:
Redbud Winter, Dogwood Winter, Locus Winter, Blackberry Winter, Whippoorwill Winter and Cotton Britches Winter.
The terms are coined because of the things that are in bloom in the time, or for example, when you can first hear the Whippoorwill birds, or when it’s time to put your wool away and wear your cotton britches!
The farmers used to track the five different little winters to ensure it was not too early to plant crops. Isn’t that interesting?
So much has happened in the last 10 years, and in just 2019 as well. I’m sure everyone has claimed that, but Derek and I have gone through so many changes.
From 2010-2019 we went from being engaged to married, we bought our first house (and then subsequently had to give that house up when we felt we had no choice but to leave Pennsylvania), we started new jobs and careers and then got laid off from jobs.
We added two bachelors degrees in graphic design to our education, and then moved cross country to Houston, Texas, for Derek to get a masters degree in fine arts.
We enjoyed life in Houston for three years while he was in school, and I had a job that I loved. We had hoped to stay in Houston for a few more years, but when the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga offers a job to teach graphic design, well, you pack up again for another (at least smaller) cross country move.
Derek moved out here first, on August 1, and I joined him on Sept. 12. We were apart for about five weeks, with a one week visit to Chattanooga in the middle of that time period.
It was rough to be separated from Derek for that long, but the time ended up going by fast, and now we’re better off for it.
I always enjoy starting over, for the sense of adventure, but with it also comes feelings of depression and hopelessness. Derek got to move to a new place, and have a plan in place for himself, whether it was starting school as a student or a teacher, but I had to worry for two months about finding a job.
We’re finally over those hurdles, and I’m happy that we’re starting the new year and decade with a little bit more of a permanent plan in place, or at least a longer term plan.
Chattanooga feels more like home to me than any other place I’ve lived in, and we won’t be ready to leave any time soon.
It would be great if we could stay here permanently, but because Derek ultimately wants a tenure track position, there will possibly be another move in our future. The nice thing though is that it won’t be in the near future.
Derek and I seem to do things in twos or threes: We lived in our first apartment in Pennsylvania for two years. We owned our house in Pennsylvania for three years. We went to school for the second degree for two years. Derek went to school for three years for the masters program. We were in Houston for three years. We were in our first apartment in Houston for two years.
It will be a relief to break free from that cycle for a while. No more moving, no more schooling. No more new jobs. I am quite happy with my current job, so I hope this rings true for me as well as Derek.
It’s comforting to know that, with any luck and barring any unforeseen circumstances, a good part of this decade will be the same, with no changes.
So far the first month of 2020 has been quiet for us, and I expect most of the winter to be quiet as well, but we’re enjoying our time together, and enjoying getting back on track.
For this year, I’m looking forward to spring coming, and with warmer weather comes more exploring. We have already seen so much of the Chattanooga area and I’m excited for all the things we still plan to do.