October 7-10, 2012
Chattanooga was the terminus of our side trip up the Tennessee River, and what a delightful destination it turned out to be. We arrived on Sunday afternoon and left Wednesday mid-morning, and managed to cram a lot of activity into that short period of time.
We stayed at Marine Max on the downtown waterfront, where they were offering a great special for Loopers – 75 cents a foot, hard to beat. The best thing is that it’s within walking distance of just about everything you want to see and do in Chattanooga. And if you haven’t been to Chattanooga for a number of years, you’d be surprised by how much there is to do. The city made a concerted effort to spruce up the waterfront and downtown, and they did a great job.
We were greeted by AGLCA Harbor Hosts Hal and Cheryl Baker who went out of their way to make us feel welcome. One evening Hal and Cheryl joined us for a glass of wine on Blue Heron. Bob and Cathryn from Next to Me, along with Bob’s sister and brother-in-law also came over. Cathryn and Bailey are pals!
Hal gave us a welcome pack from the visitors’ bureau that contained maps and coupons and a sample of the local specialty – a Moon Pie! We had never tried a Moon Pie before, but decided that as local delicacies go, it’s a far cry from those butter tarts in Canada!
The first thing we did was visit the Tennessee Aquarium, just a short walk from our dock, on the riverfront. It’s actually two aquariums, one focused on the rivers and one focused on the oceans. Both are really well done – very informative and enjoyable. We actually preferred the river one, maybe because it was more unusual.
One of the aquariums contained a butterfly room, always a fun thing to see.
Running alongside the aquarium and down to the river is “The Passage,” commemorating the area’s Cherokee roots and the city’s history as one of the starting points for the Trail of Tears, when 17,000 Cherokees were removed from their traditional homelands in the southeast to reservations in Oklahoma. It includes Cherokee symbols, a tumbling “weeping wall,” and culminates in a shooting fountain at the bottom. They say it is the country’s largest public art project.
One day we visited the Hunter Museum of American Art, perched on a high bluff overlooking the river. Afterwards, we enjoyed treats at an incredible pastry shop in the Bluffs section of the city near the museum. The pastries were a cut above Moon Pies, for sure!
Another day we drove to Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga’s famous landmark. It is home to the very well advertised Ruby Falls and Rock City. Anyone who has ever driven south cannot have missed the hundreds of painted barns and billboards hawking these sights. For years we’ve avoided both of them, but we’re Looping, and committed to seeing the local sights, so we decided to check out Rock City, since several people had told us they enjoyed it. We drew the line at Ruby Falls, though. The Wolfs don’t pay to see waterfalls!
But Rock City was kind of interesting. It was developed in the 1920s by Garnet and Frieda Carter, who lived on the top of the mountain. It consists of several hundred acres of walkways through giant rock formations, as well as landscaped gardens and lots of gnomes and a fairy tale land for the kids.
This is Craig going through Fat Man Squeeze. We are proud (I guess) that we both made it through without getting stuck.
Halfway through the trails, we came to a place where they claim you can see seven states on a clear day. It was a nice afternoon and we enjoyed sitting on the terrace and taking in the view.
Our last afternoon we took the dogs for a long walk along the riverfront. We walked up the pedestrian mini-Lombard Street, up from the river to the base of the art museum. From there we walked across the pedestrian bridge to the other side, where there are more shops and restaurants, as well as an old carousel (closed for the season) and a carousel-themed fountain.
We also saw the Delta Queen, which now resides on the Chattanooga waterfront as a bed and breakfast. She no longer cruises, sadly. She still shows “Port of Cincinnati” on her stern.
We got back to the boat in time to have a glass of wine and watch the sun set.
We also watched the marina’s resident blue heron, who was surprisingly unconcerned about how close we were to him. It’s pretty neat how we’ve been accompanied by blue herons nearly everywhere we’ve gone on our trip. I think we’ve counted fewer than 5 cruising days when we didn’t see at least one blue heron, and usually many more. We think we picked a very appropriate name for our boat. We almost always have a mascot with us!
On our last morning, before we left, we took a short cruise through the city to enjoy the views and the photogenic bridges one more time.
Next, back down the Tennessee River to Joe Wheeler State Park and the Looper Rendezvous.
(Real-time update: On October 29, we are in Demopolis, Alabama, on the Tenn-Tom Waterway.)