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?
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!
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!
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!
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.
If you’re traveling through northern Georgia, and are looking for a quick and interesting pit stop, I suggest checking out the Rock Garden in Calhoun.
Located behind the Seventh Day Adventist Church, this is a free, little attraction. (There is a donation box at the entrance.)
All built by volunteers, the rock garden features both miniature and large scale sculptures of castles, villages, and real locations, such as the Colosseum in Rome and Notre Dame in Paris.
All of these are located on a nice, meandering garden path.
The details on some of the sculptures are stunning. There are clay windows, stained glass windows, and little figurines like dogs, knights, and villagers. The sculptures are made with glass beads, stones and shells, with a concrete base.
It only took us about 15 minutes to see everything, but it was worth the stop to stretch our legs and see something different and beautifully made.