Friday, March 30, 2007

The Elks of Chataloochee

It was a beautiful sunny day and we had nothing to do so we decided to head over to the Cataloochee Valley and see if we could find the Elk herd. If you haven't read about this place or had some one tell you about it you would never find it. It trip starts out on a divided hwy just off of I-40, you turn on to a nice paved two lane road and think everything is going to be fine. After about 5 miles you hit the first of many 180-degree turns and start heading up, oh yah it also turns in to a gravel road at this point. A few miles on this two lane gravel road, a few smooth turns and then it starts to get interesting, you look out to your right and you don't see anything, just sky, this is because from here on in the road just drops off any where from 100-700 feet. It also narrows down to two very tight lanes of dirt and you see this sign.

From here you drive another 5 miles at about 5mph making 180 degree turns with no shoulder on the left side (we’re now heading down hill), at ever turn I slowed to a crawl and sounded the horn incase any one was coming the other way. Once you get to the bottom it’s a nice wide paved road back to the valley and the remains of the old settlement. We took books and a picnic lunch and just made ourselves comfortable waiting for the Elk to come out of the woods. We were going to do some hiking but they signs up letting you know about the high volume of bear traffic in the area, last year a mother and here two kids were attacked and killed not to far from here so Cathy decided that we would just sit and wait. After about four hours I flagged down a Ranger and asked him if the herd was going to make an appearance, he told me that they already had and that we were about a mile to far into the valley. We followed the Ranger and sure enough we found two different herds and saw about a total of 20 elk, we sat there and watched them for about 45 minutes then decided it was time to head home. Heading home just meant that we had to reverse the trip in, piece of cake but I’m glad we have day light savings time and that we got back to the main road before it got dark.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Chattanooga it's better then Neverland

Well the Nones of March (look it up) has come and gone and the Ides are just ahead of us, so I guess it’s time for me to do a little writing for the blog. We arrived in Chattanooga just in time for a cold front to move in and it was cold, but no where near as cold as it was going to be when we got to the kids house in Michigan. Two days to winterizing the motor home and we were of to Michigan to spend a week with the kids during winter break. After a ten-hour drive we pulled into their drive and stepped out into 3-degree weather, if the gas tank would have been full I might have jumped back in and headed south.

We celebrated Rachel’s birthday a few weeks early by going to Chuck E. Cheese’s and eating a breakfast pizza. We got to go to one of Nick’s basketball games (they lost big time) and we managed to attend the church’s spaghetti dinner night and the Dad’s club Fish Fry. Don cooks for the fish fry and Nick helps set everything up and then serves the dinners and busses tables before he has to break everything down, so this turns out to be about a 9-10 hr day for both of them. We just showed up for an hour and ate. We had plenty of cold weather and a lot of snow while we were in Michigan so we were glad to get back to Chattanooga even if it was raining.

Chattanooga has built another new aquarium downtown right next to the original one, one is called the River and the other is called the Ocean, there are also about 15 new restaurants and tons of other things at the riverfront. We have spent two days walking the river walk, we spent one day on the east end and on another we started at the west end, it runs for about 8 miles and is right along the water 90% of the way. In the downtown area they have two different sections that are loaded with sculptures, we probably saw 25-35 different ones during our walks. This town just keeps getting better and better, by the way if you would like to buy a condo in the downtown area plan on lying out well over a million for a small place, and they tell me this is cheap. That reminds me, Cathy has to buy lotto tickets this week.

Today was the first Saturday of the month so that means that the Lulu Land Trust is open to the public, so that is where we spent the better part of the day. First you have to find the entrance, which is on Lookout Mountain, and then you drive down a steep dirt road to the old railroad right of way and the mountain stream, where you park and put on your hiking boots. There are over ten miles of trails, today we did about five of them and I swear they were all uphill, a very steep hill. We followed the old Railroad bed down along the stream to the first of the two falls, this is the smaller of the two but it empties into a beautiful emerald green lake which gets it’s color from it’s 80 foot depth. Another couple hundred yards and you can see Lulu falls which is over a hundred foot drop. There is a trail that takes you to the bottom of the falls and around behind them, but I learned my lesson last year and took a pass on it this year. After about a half hour at the falls we decided to take the Bluffs trail back to the parking lot, the first 3/10th of a mile on this trail were straight up, in that third of a mile we had to stop 4 times to caught our breath but when we saw the view from the top it was well worth it. You’re right on the edge of the cliff and have a view of about 50-60 miles, or at least it seemed like it. Three a half more miles and one stream crossing and we were back in the parking area.

To recover we drove into town and had lunch at our favorite place the Lookout Mt Café, after lunch we went down to Point Park, where the battle above the clouds took place, and walked around a few trails there. From this park you get a fantastic view of the Tennessee River and Chattanooga.

We spent one day driving around Signal Mt. which is on the north side of the river right across from Lookout Mt. Looks like we’ll need a few weeks to explore that area some time.

After close to 30 years I was finally able to get over to Fall Creek Falls State Park in Tennessee. Ever since I was a tiny little rookie cop riding my motorcycle down to the folks house in Florida I have always wanted to detour over to this park, but either the weather was bad or I was out of time and had to get back to work. Well this trip we decided to pack a picnic lunch and head over there for the day, it turned out to be about a 90 miles drive but I have to say once we got there it sure wasn’t worth it. It’s not a bad park it’s just a typical State Park, except all the rangers we ran into were pretty much a-holes. Fall Creek Falls is very pretty but you can drive right up to it, we were hoping for a bit of a hike along the creek to get to it. Piney Falls was a little better, about a 40-minute hike to get back to the falls and the swing bridge that takes you to the top of the falls. This bridge had more swing and sway then any other bridge I’ve ever been on; after we crossed and re-crossed it we were talking with another couple for about 30 minutes, during this time at least 10 other hikers came along, none of them made it more then 20 feet out on to the bridge before they turned around and came back.

I’m going to try putting a photo album in this blog, just click on the photo and it will take you to the album, then you can either double click a picture or else click on the slideshow button and it will run the pictures. I added a few pictures from last years stay here.