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.

River Drifters, the restaurant and rental place that we rented from.
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!

Pot Point Trail

Last week we hiked the Pot Point Trail, which is a 4 mile trail located near the Pot Point Cabin.

We discovered this trail after hiking the Ritchie Hollow Trail, because the two trails have the same parking lot.

The first mile of the Pot Point Trail is an elevation gain, but there is a descent after that and the rest of the trail is flat. The second half of the trail follows the Tennessee River.

The first mile also features mile marker posts every .10 of a mile. We were so happy to see marker “10” and know that the hardest part of the trail was over!

I have seen reviews of this trail where people mentioned that the river section of the trail is often flooded during a heavy rainfall. So, if you want to hike this trail, go during a period of dry weather.

At one part during the first half of the hike, we passed an area covered with brush. We walked past it and scared two turkeys! They immediately flew away. One flew straight up, and another took off into the distance. Neither of us had ever seen turkeys fly! It all happened so quick that I could not get a picture.

We also came across an old, abandoned shed/barn structure just off the trail. It seems like there have been plenty of visitors, because unfortunately there was a lot of litter in the area.

The end of the hike has a detour because of a landslide. We knew it was coming, and yet we still got lost. According to trail reviews, we are not the only ones that this happened to. During the detour, you follow the road for a little bit. You’re supposed to enter back on the trail, which we did see, but it was not obvious that it was where the detour ended. The trail head actually points in the opposite direction, which threw us off, and that is why we didn’t enter. Later on, checking the map, I saw that the trail does veer off in the correct direction eventually. Lots of people said that the last part of the trail follows the road, which is true to an extent, but like us, they must have not seen, or were confused by the trail picking back up again, and followed the road all the way back.

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Stringer’s Ridge

Last weekend we hiked around Stringer’s Ridge Park, which is close to downtown. It is a ridge that overlooks the city.

This is definitely not a hike to do if you’re looking to get away from it all and by fully immersed in nature. You will hear road noise and be quite close to some houses. But, it will do in a pinch if you want to get outside and get some exercise.

There are quite a few trails, some of them shared by bicyclists. The trails offer elevation changes and twists and turns.

The highlight is the overlook on the Cherokee Trail, which has a good view of downtown and the bridges over the river.

Some of the trails we took were the Cherokee Trail, the Double J, (which is a part of the bigger Blue Loop) and the short path to Old Baldy, which is the highest point of the ridge.

However, don’t do what we did, and don’t park by the tunnel on Cherokee Blvd! That particular entryway has been marked as closed for a long time. We have seen people’s photos on social media and reviews, so we knew the park wasn’t actually closed. So we went over the closed gate. We soon came to a part of the trail that was washed out! So it’s closed for a good reason! However, some people probably did the same that we did, so there was a worn path to follow down and around. Parking is available in different sections, so I’d advise to park somewhere else and avoid that section of the trail.

We hiked about three miles total, and it’s nice to know that there’s a place nearby if we don’t feel like driving further.

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An old structure we came across on the Blue Loop trail.
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On top of Old Baldy. Lookout Mountain is in the background.

Hiking the Blue Blazes trail

I’m so glad that the weather has cooled down, and now we can resume hiking in full earnest! Last weekend we hiked the Blue Blazes trail, located in Moccasin Bend. This was our second hike in Moccasin Bend, the first one being the Brown’s Ferry Federal Road Trail. Read about that hike here.

To be honest, I’m not quite sure how long the trail actually is, because there is conflicting information. I saw it listed anywhere from 1.5 to 3 miles online, and the sign at the trail itself said it was 1.5 miles, but my phone recorded 2 miles worth of steps!

Either way, whether you think it is 1.5 or 3 miles, it is an easy, looped hike.

This is a woodsy trail, and the halfway point follows the river, with a path to get to the riverbank.

Another highlight of this hike is a swampy area that is covered in green algae. In that section, we found a tree that was heavy with fruit. We pulled some down and broke them open. They smelled like peaches. Don’t worry, we did not eat it! It was an interesting find though.

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Southern Belle Riverboat

When my parents visited last weekend, we asked them what they wanted to do. The thing my mom wanted to do the most was ride on the Southern Belle riverboat.

There are a couple of different rides that you can take on the Southern Belle, which sails from downtown Chattanooga on the Tennessee River. The regular hour and a half sightseeing cruise is the most popular one and runs most frequently during the summer.

If you are looking for something a little more special, there are lunch and dinner cruises, sunset ones, fall foliage cruises and a cruise through the Chickamauga Dam locks. We picked the regular sightseeing one, mostly because that is what we were limited to, pandemic and all.

The sightseeing cruise comes with unlimited popcorn (not really unlimited, but you get a big bag that is plenty to go around) and souvenir plastic cups for unlimited soda. Honestly, we thought the popcorn was stale, and we didn’t get any soda, but we weren’t in it for the food. We did bring the cups home though!

The neat thing about the Southern Belle is that in order to dock, you have to first enter a larger dry docked riverboat. That’s where the gift shop is, where you buy tickets and there’s even the 3rd Deck Burger Bar.

The boat ride first takes you south about half way through Moccasin Bend, alongside Lookout Mountain. It was neat to be able to see the top of the New York Monument in Point Park, a place that Derek and I visited last fall. Then the boat turns back north and goes under all of the four main bridges near downtown. The trip is an hour and a half total.

The trip features narration, where you learn facts about the river, what you see on the shore and some of Chattanooga’s history. We were treated to music from the Southern Belle’s calliope, or steam organ.

We enjoyed our time on the cruise. This is something I would like doing again in the future.

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The Southern Belle getting ready to dock.
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The inside of the boat, where you would eat during lunch/dinner cruises.
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The third deck of the boat. Too crowded for us! We were lucky and found a table by itself on the front of the second deck.
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Lookout Mountain from the river.
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One of many groups of barges.
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The Market Street and Walnut Street bridges.
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An evening at Coolidge Park

Coolidge Park was the place to be on Saturday evening. It was a warm night, but cooling down. We got ice cream at Clumpies and then walked the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge. We made it back to Coolidge Park in time for the sun to set.

I expect that a lot of people were there to witness the “spectacular sunsets” that were predicted due to the Saharan dust. There were quite a few people with some impressive cameras and tripod equipment. We had some rain earlier in the afternoon which I think may have helped clear the skies. The sunset that night was, in fact, a dud. It was still a beautiful night though and I snapped a few shots myself.

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Tennessee Aquarium

Last weekend Derek and I went to the Tennessee Aquarium. We went much sooner than anticipated, because February was designated “College Days.” Anyone who was a student or a faculty member got half off for everyone in the paying party. Why wait when we can get in for half off now?

According to multiple sources online, the Tennessee Aquarium is one of the top rated attractions in Tennessee. People who have visited Chattanooga themselves, or those who are living here, have also recommended it to us.

The Aquarium is large, with two separate buildings. One building is River Journey and the other is Ocean Journey. Your ticket allows you to go back and forth between the buildings all day.

We started out with River Journey. It started out strong with otters and alligators, but I’m sorry to admit that I was soon bored. It was fish, and more fish, and more fish. There were some really large fish to ooh and ahhh at, but they all kind of looked the same to me. This is just my opinion of course, with no offense to the aquarium!

Ocean Journey was excellent however, with more of a variety of animals to look at. There were penguins, stingrays, starfish, sharks, seahorses, tons of bright colorful fish, and even a small butterfly garden! There was also a question and answer session with a diver inside one of the tanks. There were some other animal shows but our walk through did not time up with any of these.

I am glad that the Aquarium extended this offer to college faculty, so that we were able to go in the winter. It was nice to spend a day inside doing something different and fun, on a cold winter day.

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Holiday Cheer at the Pier

Holiday Cheer at the Pier is a Chattanooga riverfront event that signals the start of the Christmas season.

There were lots of food vendors and craft vendors (we did not check out the craft vendors though.) Derek had a hot apple cider and I had a hot chocolate. We enjoyed our drinks for a few minutes in front of a fire pit.

The two main parts of the event are a lighted boat parade and fireworks. Santa was also available to take photos with kids.

I was happy to be able to see the lighted boat parade. There was one on Galveston Bay, about a half hour from Houston, but we were never able to make it in the three years we lived there, due to the timing of Derek’s classwork. It is nice when things work out in a different way.

The highlight of the boat parade for me was seeing the Southern Belle riverboat in the lineup.

After the parade, we walked a few minutes towards the Bluff View Art District, where we had a nice view of the Walnut Street Bridge, and the fireworks.

Fireworks are one of my favorite things to photograph. I am always happy to be able to take photos of them in different spots with different backgrounds.

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Head of the Hooch

Derek and I surprisingly found ourselves to be a part of a large watch party this afternoon of the Head of the Hooch Regatta.

The Head of the Hooch is a two-day rowing regatta held the first weekend in November in Chattanooga. It was originally called the Head of the Chattahoochee, due to its location in Georgia on the Chattahoochee river. The event became so popular that it outgrew its spot, moving to Chattanooga in 2005.

I knew that the regatta was held today, but I had not looked into it enough, so I did not realize it was an all-day, two-day event. I thought it was only a morning race. I had said to Derek, “Maybe we could go watch it another year, it’s too cold to be there right now.” (We just had a strong cold front go through and its been in the 30s in the morning.)

In the early afternoon I suggested we go to Bluff View to get drinks from Rembrandt’s Coffee House, and then walk across the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge. We first walked to the Bluff View overlook, and we just so happened to watch the start of a women’s 8 person team race.

We started to walk across the bridge and watched some more races there, along with hundreds of other onlookers.

It was neat to stumble upon something extra like that during our afternoon outing.

Click to play video.
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The crowd up on the bridge watching the rowers.
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Walnut Street Bridge

The Walnut Street Bridge is a pedestrian bridge that spans the Tennessee River in Chattanooga.

It starts on one side at Coolidge Park, and ends on the other side near the Bluff View District and Aquarium.

Walking the bridge was one of the local activities I had wanted to do the most, but we waited a while until it got cooler out.

The bridge was completed in 1891 and it is one of the world’s longest pedestrian bridges. It initially was open to vehicle traffic, but then was discontinued in use in the 1970s. It was restored and reopened in 1993.

There is some dark history surrounding the bridge too. In the 1890s, two black men were lynched on the bridge.

When we were on the bridge on a Friday morning, there were lots of people out and about. There were families, couples, tourists and exercisers.

The bridge seems large when it’s looming overhead, but once you’re actually up there walking across, it doesn’t seem so long. Going one way took about maybe 15 minutes, and we stopped to take a bunch of photos.

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