Southern Extravaganza IV

The morning of the 23rd found us in Chattanooga on a beautiful fall day. The leaves were turning and it had rained that morning. The city seemed so clean and crisp. The colors were vibrant. We have been to every corner of the United States, every nook and cranny. There are a handful of places I would return to and hang out for a time. Tennessee (Memphis, Nashville and Eastern Tennessee) is one of them. I had been in Chattanooga one time before, but KR was not with me at the time. I toured the Chickamauga Battlefield and went to the wonderful aquarium here on my previous visit, so we decided to hit the places I had skipped over.
There are several attractions in Chattanooga that look, on the surface, like tourist traps, but we decided to hit them anyway and were pleasantly surprised. They sell a combo-ticket that allows you to see several at a much-reduced fee, so we bought those and toured Ruby Falls, Rock City, and went up Lookout Mountain on the incline railroad. Ruby Falls is actually a waterfall within a cave, so you get two-for-one on that ticket. All three of these attractions are on Lookout Mountain, which looms over Chattanooga, and has a significant Civil War layer of history. You ride an elevator down into Lookout Mountain to enter the Ruby Falls series of caves. When they first found Ruby Falls they were opening up the cave for touring and stumbled upon the falls - over the years the falls have eclipsed the rest of the caverns as the main attraction and rightfully so. We have been in many caves and this one is so-so, but the effort to go is worth it when you see the falls - the largest falls within a cave in the world they claim, but who knows whether that is true or not. But spectacular no doubt. The guide sneaks you up to the falls in the dark and then flips on all the lights. Wow!


Rock City is kind of like Ohme Gardens in Wenatchee. It was originally graced with lots of rock formations and slots. It is an old attraction - one that was pushed by big signs on barns in the early years of automobile travel. With time and lots of landscaping, it has been turned into a huge rock garden crisscrossed by trails. It also has a very nice viewpoint overlooking the Chattanooga area where you can supposedly see seven states on a clear day. We were there on a clear day, so I guess we were seeing seven states!

After seeing the above attractions, we drove off Lookout Mountain so we could take the Incline Railroad back up (and then down to our car). The Civil War sites on the mountain are clustered around the terminus of the railroad on top of the mountain, so this plan allowed us to walk to them after leaving the train. The Chattanooga area was the scene of some of the bloodiest fighting of the Civil War in 1863 (including the nearby Chickamauga Battlefield) and there are several private and NPS exhibits on top of Lookout Mountain that do a great job of describing the events and their importance to our history.

After coming back down the mountain and snagging our car, we got a bite to eat and drove 45 minutes west (actually slightly over the border back into Alabama) to check out Russell Cave National Monument. It is a rather cool place. We were the only visitors there at the time, so we had the place to ourselves. A stream flows into the cave (the stream actually formed the cave) and they have excavated and found evidence of many layers of use of the cave stretching back hundreds of years.

After backtracking into Chattanooga, we headed north to Knoxville via Dayton, Tennessee. I wanted to stop and see the courthouse there. It was the scene of the famous Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925 that is the subject of the 1960 film "Inherit the Wind". Check out the spot and the movie - you will like both of them. Spencer Tracy is wonderful in the movie as Henry Drummond (patterned after Clarence Darrow, the lead defense attorney in the actual trail). I am not sure why they changed the names of some of the lawyers for the movie.

We found a room just north of Knoxville, where we ended up spending two nights. We wanted to see Sevierville and Dolly Parton's theme park in Pigeon Forge, and it worked out best making that a side trip.

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