YouTube videos – an old hobby reinvigorated

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.

The end of another year

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.

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At Benton Falls, one of many hikes this year.

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.

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Cheering on the Chattanooga Lookouts.

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.

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I loved getting to go backstage of the Grand Ole Opry!

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.

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Greetings from Biloxi, Mississippi.

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.

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Posing with The General engine.

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!

Ruby Falls

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!

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Visiting Chattanooga National Cemetery on Christmas Eve

My parents visited us in Chattanooga for Christmas. With the weather being unseasonably warm, we were looking for different things to do that would allow us to enjoy the outdoors.

My parents have never seen the Christmas wreaths at a cemetery, part of the national Wreaths Across America program.

We enjoyed walking around the cemetery, and we were in awe of how the graves looked, each with a Christmas wreath placed in front.

On Dec. 25, 1863, Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas issued General Orders No. 296 creating a national cemetery in commemoration of the Battles of Chattanooga, Nov. 23-27, 1863.

Wreaths Across America is held on a Saturday each December, and volunteers at about 2,500 participating cemeteries place wreaths at the graves.

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Animal encounter at Reflection Riding

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!

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Sweet Treats

Throughout the summer months, we have discovered some new sweet treats.

The first new business we have come across is Chei-Man Tea, which sells chai latte powder blends. We first saw them at Lookout Lavender Farm, when we were there for their u-pick event. They had invited Chei-Man Tea to set up their mini trailer, and sell drinks. They had a lavender chai, which was delicious. We bought a small packet of their lavender blend. They told us they also set up at the Chattanooga Market every Sunday, where we bought a bigger bottle of their original chai latte blend. They also have other flavors like pumpkin spice and gingerbread.

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The second business that we would like to frequent more in the future is Cupcake Kitchen. They also have things like cakes and cookies, but cupcakes are the main draw. The owner rotates flavors, but there are so many of them at one time, I am sure anyone could find a flavor that they would like at any given time. The first time we went, we choose mint and German chocolate. There are plenty of other flavors I would like to try, including Key Lime Pie, Strawberry Fields, and Salted Caramel.

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The third business is Taichi Bubble Tea. We had never had bubble tea before coming to Chattanooga, and we have my mom to thank for introducing us all to it. She wanted to try it, so we all did. It is very interesting. I got the vanilla flavor milk tea, with the tapioca pearls in it. It’s just as the name describes it, it tastes like a sweet, milky tea. Derek tried the coconut flavor, and that was good too.

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Bonus: If you’re in the Chattanooga area, Taichi Bubble Tea and Cupcake Kitchen are both on Broad St., walking distance of each other.

Kayaking in the Tennessee River

We rented a tandem kayak last weekend and kayaked in the Tennessee River.

We rented from River Drifters, a combination restaurant and rental place, located on Suck Creek Road. The restaurant is just across the street from the river.

We rented for a half a day, or four hours. The person in charge of the rentals told us that we would have enough time to paddle around Williams Island.

We have kayaked before, but never in a river. We soon realized that the Tennessee River flows northward, and we were fighting the current, going south.

We tired easily from paddling, and we took short breaks often. It was also a good excuse to check out the many different small sandy beach areas. I was surprised with how many shells there were on the shore. We also found raccoon prints.

We tried to come ashore on Williams Island, but the land wasn’t sandy. Instead, it was dirt and clay, which was slippery, as I soon found out! I slipped and fell right into the river. I had to spend the rest of the morning with a wet butt. Oh well. I have learned my lesson, and that is to wear a bathing suit even if you don’t expect to go swimming.

The day started out sunny enough, but it soon grew cloudy (which is okay because Derek burns so easily.) However, at one point it started raining. We came ashore and took shelter under the tree cover. We were directly across from the River Drifters dock at that point.

The rain let up, so we set off across the river to go back. We got only maybe a few feet out, and it started raining again! We paddled quite fast after that!

After dropping off our paddles and life vests, we had lunch at the restaurant.

I recommend River Drifters, both for the rentals and the food. I had searched different rental companies, and River Drifters was the best price, with the most time options available.

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River Drifters, the restaurant and rental place that we rented from.
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I made a YouTube video with the video footage we took while kayaking. Check the video out, complete with me falling on my butt in the river!

Raccoon Mountain Campground

At the beginning of the month, Derek and I went camping at Raccoon Mountain Campground.

I wanted to camp at this campground for over a year, ever since we saw the place when we were there for the cavern tour, which is on site.

Also, on a sillier note, I bought myself a Raccoon Mountain sweatshirt from a local apparel company, Native Made, and I just had to wear it at the campground!

There are cabins of various sizes to rent at the campground, and that is what I had originally wanted to do, but that was before Derek said he wanted to start camping, and we bought all the gear and supplies.

I am glad we ended up tent camping here, to get the full experience.

The tent sites are scattered on the edge of the woods, near the entrance of the campground. Our site had a small stream and trees on the back side, so it felt more private. Plus, it was nice to fall asleep to the sounds of the water.

The people working at the campground were helpful. When we arrived, we paid for firewood, which was then dropped off directly at our campsite. There is also ice available, and an assortment of snacks, and basic camping needs at the general store/office. After camping earlier in the spring with no amenities like this, it was nice to have these things available.

The best part about the campground was all of the campground cats. The general office has a binder with all of their pictures and descriptions. We were visited by a beautiful long haired calico named Callie. I guess she could tell that we are cat people!

The campground has various amenities such as a pool, games for rent, the cavern tour, and gem mining. Derek and I did the gem mining, because we both used to collect rocks and gems as kids. We got a good amount of nice gems in our bag, and now some of them are displayed at my desk at work.

There was also a hiking trail just across the road from our campsite. It is a two mile trail, but it was humid and steep, so we only made it half of a mile up before turning back, for a full mile.

It rained on Saturday night, but we looked at the weather forecast ahead of time so we were prepared. We covered our tent with a tarp, and lifted it up on the one end to make a fly, by tying the ends with rope to the trees. It looked silly, but we stayed dry.

We enjoyed our second time camping, and getting to experience a different campsite. We do not have any immediate plans for camping again, but there are some various sites that are in the back of our mind.

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Lookouts baseball game

Last night we attended a Chattanooga Lookouts baseball game, finally.

This was the one thing I had wanted to do for the longest time, because COVID-19 shut down last year’s season.

We watched the Lookouts play the Tennessee Smokies. Unfortunately, they lost 11-3. We left after the 7th inning and the score wasn’t that bad at 6-3. In the eighth inning the Smokies scored five more times! I am glad we left when we did. I wish baseball games weren’t so slow; it was past my bedtime!

Even though they were losing, we had a good time. The game started at 7:15 p.m. so it wasn’t so hot out, and there was a cool breeze. In between innings there were little games that they picked people out of the stands for. The stadium played good music so that kept things entertaining as well.

The concessions were decent. There was not much to choose from but you had all of your basics, and the prices were not too bad. We got a pretzel and dippin’ dots. There was also a store to buy apparel and other Lookout items, but we did not go inside.

I was glad that we stayed through the 7th inning to see the “7th inning stretch.” We had never experienced it before. At the only other baseball game we’ve been to, a Houston Astro’s game, we left after the 5th inning. Baseball really is so slow! The mascot, Looie, came out and lead the crowd in singing “Take me out to the ballgame.”

Overall we had a good time, and I think we might go again later in the season, which lasts through September. Friday nights have fireworks, so I think that would be a good time to go, plus perhaps we could stay the whole game since it would be a weekend.

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Ritchie Hollow Trail

We hiked the Ritchie Hollow Trail on Wednesday morning, and a lot of lessons were learned.

Do not hike in warm, summer-like weather after a recent rain, because the humidity will be bad! Also, because of the humidity, we were sweating more, so we went through more water. We had to ration our water so we had enough to last the entire hike. Bring more water for warm weather hikes!

The Ritchie Hollow Trail is a newer trail, part of the Tennessee River Gorge Trust, which opened up in 2018.

The trailhead is just across the road from the Pot Point Cabin. I was excited to see this cabin, because I have seen pictures of it and I have read about it online.

According to trgt.org, “Pot Point Cabin was originally constructed in 1835 of hand-hewn logs and planks reclaimed from a flat boat that wrecked on the “Boiling Pot,” a nearby rapid in the Tennessee River.”

It is a beautiful two story log cabin, with views of the Tennessee River. The cabin is owned by the trust, and can be rented out. I looked into it once, and a two night stay is over $800! The cabin is large, so that price could be split up between parties. I had to satisfy myself by just looking at it from the outside, and taking a peek through the front window.

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The full trail is 2.7 miles one way (5.4 miles round trip), but we did not complete the full trail. I might consider this during a return trip, but it would definitely have to be a colder day. Instead, we stopped at Blowing Wind Falls, which is 1.8 miles in, for 3.6 miles total. This seems to be a popular choice. We saw two other couples who did the same thing.

The hike to the falls is a steady incline the whole way. It flattens out at times, but barely long enough to catch your breath. The path is extremely rocky, and there are a lot of rock steps.

The hike features a few water crossings, which were pretty low when we passed through. In the first part of the hike we came across two smaller water falls.

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We saw a lot of interesting things on this hike, including a lot of insects and flowers. My favorite was all of the mountain laurel shrubs. Mountain laurel grows in mountainous, forested areas. It is actually the state flower of Pennsylvania. We used to live in Pennsylvania for many years, and I had only seen it in the wild once. Here in this area of Tennessee, we see it all the time!

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The pinkish-white blooms of Mountain Laurel dotting the trail.
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Spotted this camouflaged toad hoping across the trail!
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Another thing that we saw along the trail were remnants of old moonshine stills, noted as such on trgt.org.

The trail went up and up and up, until we felt like we couldn’t go any further. Then, up ahead a ways, we saw the sign pointing the way to the waterfall. We were so relieved to be able to get to the ending point, and sit and rest!

I should also say, once we got higher up in elevation, the humidity dissipated, which helped a bit. But the elevation was as grueling as ever! The coolness from the waterfall was welcoming once we reached it.

We knew it would be warm, so we planned on wading in the base of the falls. Blowing Wind Falls is perfect for that because you can get right up to the edge of the falls. I brought my water shoes, but Derek just cuffed his pants up. The water was so cold and felt so good.

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The hike back was much easier, because then we were gradually descending all the way back down. Even though we were unprepared and we suffered a bit on the way going, we both said we would do this hike again!