6 Jun 2011

We left the Brentwood area after Teagan’s orthodontist appointment and headed to Chattanooga.  The travel went by quickly and we arrived at the Lookout Mountain area around 8:00 p.m.  After checking into the hotel, we looked for a local restaurant different from the fast food chains near I-24.  We finally settled on a Mexican restaurant called Las Margaritos.  The food was fairly inexpensive; most of the combination plates wee in the $8-9 range.  The food was decent, but not great.

We returned to the motel and played a few games before heading to bed.

7 Jun 2011

After eating breakfast at the motel, we headed to Ruby Falls.  We got a late start because neither of us slept well the night before.

Once at Ruby Falls, we bought combo tickets for the fall and Rock City.  A tour was just beginning when we got our tickets, so we jumped in the elevator and descended about 260 feet to the cave.  We were in a large group with a very entertaining guide.  We made a few stops along the way to the falls to see points of interest and to hear what the guide had to say.  The fall itself was beautiful.  Programmed color lights provided different views of the fall while we were there.

The return trip from the fall to the elevator went a little faster since we didn’t stop as much.  We both felt the cave and fall were well worth the effort since they provided a very enjoyable experience.

When we returned from the cave, we went to the top of the castle tower to see the view, then we ate at the outdoor restaurant.  After a trip through the gift shop, we moved on to Rock City.

We didn’t know what to expect at Rock City other than a long walk and some good views.  We were surprised at how developed the property was.  The landscaping and footpath/bridge construction were very nice.  Many of the plants were labelled as well.  The provided map was very helpful in figuring out where we were along the winding paths.

We were very pleased with the visit to Rock City.  It really exceeded our expectations.

After we left Rock City, we did a quick visit to Point Park to see what it was.  Then we headed down the mountain in search of food.  It was already about 8:00 p.m.  We ended up in an area call St. Elmo where we searched for restaurants with the help of an iPhone.  We eventually settled on some Cajun food at Popeye’s.  Then we headed back to the hotel.

8 Jun 2011

We ate breakfast at the hotel.  We were planning to meet Betty at the aquarium today and take the river gorge cruise, but when I called to reserve tickets for the River Gorge Cruise, I learned that they were sold out.  So I talked to Betty and we rescheduled our aquarium/cruise activity for Thursday.

Teagan and I regrouped and decided to visit the Raccoon Mountain Cavern today.  We headed to Raccoon Mountain, only 2 miles away on the other side of I-24, and got tickets for the tour.  Raccoon Mountain Caverns is pretty much the opposite of Ruby Falls.  To begin with, I’d never heard of it.  When we got there, we were the only visitors in sight.  They couldn’t get their credit card machine to work, so I ended up paying cash.  They didn’t have very much in the gift shop in the way of branded merchandise.  For example, there was no Raccoon Mountain shot glass.  I don’t mean this in a bad way.  They were just totally laid back about things.

The tour of the cavern was really good.  The formations in the cave were in good condition, the guide was informative, and the tour was very enjoyable.  It lasted about 45 minutes.  There was one other couple in our group.
After the tour, we grabbed lunch at Wendy’s (salads), and went back to the cavern parking lot to walk one of the trails near the cavern.  The hike there was not particularly interesting, except for the docile black snake Teagan spotted.  The snake decided it didn’t want anything to do with us, so it quickly slithered away.
We thought about doing the Go Kart track near the cavern, but there were no other riders, and we didn’t want to go by ourselves, so we didn’t do it.  Instead, we headed to Cloudland Canyon State Park in Georgia.  It is a short drive south of Lookout Mountain along the Lookout Mountain Scenic Highway.  Except, the highway was closed shortly after entering Georgia, so we took an alternate route to get there.

After paying our $5 entry fee, we parked and walked the Overlook Trail.  The views into the canyon were very nice.  Then we headed to the waterfall trails (2) and did them.  At the lower falls, we picked up a gulch trail and followed it for about a quarter mile before turning around and heading back.

The trails were nice except for the iron stairs that were frequently used.  It does not give you a feeling of hiking, but of going up and down stairs.  When hiking a trail, we both prefer to be touching ground, and not elevated stairs.  Nevertheless, the hike to the canyon bottom was really fun; the climb back up slightly less so.  I think we went down about 500 feet in elevation in all, so the climb back up was taxing for both of us.

We got back to the van around 6:30 p.m., then we headed back to Lookout Mountain.  We stopped at the Cafe on the Corner for supper because I had read some good reviews of it on TripAdvisor.  We sat outside where a two-person band was playing.  We began with an appetizer of fried green tomatoes.  The were breaded with panko crumbs and served with sweet pepper jelly and basil aioli.  We both thought they were great.

For our entrees, I had the shrimp and grits while Teagan had flat iron steak.  My shrimp and grits came with a chorizo cream sauce, pepper, onion, and andouille.  It was excellent.  Teagan’s steak came with a red wine demi glace, fried shallots, cheddar potato gratin (served as a square of thinly sliced potato stacked with cheese on top), and asparagus.  She enjoyed it a lot.
The band consisted of a rhythm guitar/singer, and a lead guitar/singer.  The lead guitar also played to dobro on a few songs.  They were both pretty good on the guitars, and entertaining as singers.  We chatted with the lead guitar player during their break.

After supper we headed back to the hotel and finished the night there.

9 Jun 2011

After a morning at the hotel eating breakfast, showering, etc., we headed to downtown Chattanooga to meet Betty at 11:30 a.m. for a day at the Tennessee Aquarium.  We toured the River Journey building first.  We went to the basement to see the sea horses, then to the top floor to work our way down.  The exhibits were very nice.  Around 1:00 p.m., we left the aquarium for lunch at a nearby deli, then returned to tour the Ocean Journey building.  We went to the top floor for the tropical forest exhibit.  The air conditioning was not working on that floor, so the forest felt way too tropical.  The butterfly exhibit, fortunately, had working air conditioning, so that was more enjoyable.  We continued down to the penguin area.  They were very lively.  The was a huge tank of Gulf of Mexico fish that was very nice.  Near the bottom was an exhibit of jelly fish.  There were several types in several tanks.  It was entertaining just to watch them propel themselves around.

We left the aquarium building around 3:10 p.m. to head to the cruise boat.  We left the dock right on time at 3:30 p.m.  Once we cleared the downtown area, the boat go up to around 50 mph.  The $3 million catamaran has the ability to come up out of the water and draft only about 8 inches through some hydrofoil magic.  Because it is mostly out of the water, it is also very maneuverable.  The trip went downstream on Tennessee around Moccasin Bend, past Williams Island and Brown’s Ferry.  Raccoon Mountain was on the left and Signal Mountain on the right for a lot of the trip.  After an hour, the boat turned around and headed back to the dock.  Once near the dock, the captain demonstrated, using a remote control helm, how maneuverable the boat was by spinning in circles.

After we docked, we returned to the aquarium gift shop, then to the van.  Teagan met a college friend for supper and Betty and I went to Qdobo.  Around 9:00 p.m., Teagan and I returned to the motel.

10 June 2011

We checked out of the hotel and headed to Lookout Mountain so Teagan could visit a friend.  We stopped at Ruby Falls for a few extra pictures. Then Richard dropped Teagan off at her friend’s house.  Richard went to Park Point to see the National Military Park there.

After looking over the visitors’ center, he did some hiking along the rim trail to check out the hazy views of the valleys.  Then he did a ranger led tour that explained the importance of the area during the Civil War.  After a little more hiking, he headed to the Starbucks at Rock City for a lunch snack.

Richard picked up Teagan around 4:00 p.m. and headed back to Franklin.