[Kelly’s Newspaper Column]
We are just back from Chattanooga, Tennessee, our second trip there in less than two years. We have done many a mountain road all across the land and Lookout Mountain is milder and has a different vibe.
Most mountains have switchback roads with tight curves and steep drop-offs. Those kind of roads have me wearing my motion sickness bracelets. (Those tight sweatband-like bracelets with pressure magnets really work!) On Lookout Mountain, there is some winding and some steepness, but there is beauty all around. Natural beauty and gorgeous homes. And no motion sickness.
Many a mountain has nice homes but most all seem like rustic log cabin kind of places, (even the high-end ones), that feel more like vacation getaway than everyday living. Lookout Mountain is a community. The homes are old, stately, impressive, and oozing with character. There is a school and a Little League park and churches. People live here year round creating a whole different atmosphere that feels warm and welcoming. House gawking is one of my favorite activities and there is plenty to gawk at here, all along the mountain and on the brow.
Lookout Mountain is home to two tourist natural wonders, Ruby Falls and Rock City. If you’ve ever traveled the south, you may have seen barn roofs painted with the words SEE ROCK CITY. I used to think cheesy tourist rip-off, but my heart has softened after our recent visit.
Ruby Falls was discovered by Leo Lambert who used to play in Lookout Mountain Cave when he was a kid. When the railroad was built, the cave entrance was closed off. Leo had the crazy idea to drill in to the mountain to find the cave and open it again for people everywhere to come and enjoy. Not only did he find the cave (after 3 months of drilling and an expense of $25,000 – quite a large bill in 1928 – he discovered a 145-foot underground waterfall and named it after his wife Ruby.
Rock City is also a gift to the world by a local man and his wife. Garnet Carter was an entrepreneur who dabbled in many things and is credited for the invention of miniature golf because a real golf course proved too difficult to build on the mountain. He and his wife Freida created the residential development on the mountain called Fairy Land because of her love for European folklore. The street names include Princess Road, Fairy Trail, and Pied Piper Street. The homes are certainly in my land of enchantment.
Frieda created gardens around the interesting rock formations on the piece of property they owned. She planted wildflowers and plants along the trail she created around the large rock formation dubbed Lover’s Leap and it grew – literally – into a beautiful magical place.
Her husband knew people would pay to see these gardens and Rock City was born. I believe in fairy tale magic and I love natural beauty so this place is right up my alley. I love how people create things for their own passion and joy and leave a legacy for us all to enjoy.
We also dig Chattanooga because we can be on a mountain (Lookout Mountain, Signal Mountain, Raccoon Mountain) and then fifteen minutes later we can be in town dining at a French bistro. The best of both worlds, hiking in nature and then a waiter serving me wine and duck breast.
In 1969, Chattanooga was dubbed the nation’s dirtiest city. Now this renaissance city has been voted the best town and the best outdoor town twice in recent years. The downtown is walkable, vibrant and teeming with activity. It is a testament to good community planning and civic pride which can be an inspiration to all.
It shows what a little fairy tale magic can do. Chattanooga, we’ll be back.