Girl’s Trip! (Part 2: Chattanooga)

Wow! So part two only took a month to get written. It is that crazy holiday time of the year, so as usually happens, life gets in the way of writing. The good news, however, is that I now have several wonderful events to write about. But before I move on to holiday cheer, it is time to finish my Girls’ Trip blog.

Now where did I leave you? That’s right…after we finished our hike at Cloudland Canyon, we drove over the mountain to Chattanooga. Thirty minutes later we were checking in to the Chattanooga Choo-Choo. This historic location was once the train station in Chattanooga. Now it serves as a hotel and historic attraction. The main lobby where you check in is in the old rail station and is quite lovely. You should definitely drop by and take a look if you’re ever in the area.

They have rooms in some of the old rail cars which might be an interesting overnight experience, but my daughter and I stayed in the standard hotel portion. Apparently the site was under a major restoration, so it didn’t prove to be the best time to stay. As for location, however, we were in a prime area for visiting this lovely city.

On our first morning, we found ourselves in need of something warm to drink. Lucky for us The Hot Chocolatier was right across the street. We started our Chattanooga adventure off with some of the best hot chocolate we’ve ever tasted…and a couple of truffles to accompany the delicious beverages. My truffle was lavender. I didn’t even know you could eat lavender, but now I know what lavendar tastes like (just like it smells by the way). Interesting.

Then we headed off to the aquarium. We decided to get passes for the Behind the Scenes Tour. We arrived at the aquarium approximately an hour before the tour began, so needless to say, we were unable to wander far. The tour was in the ocean aquarium, so we started out on the top floor of this building. To my delight, at the very top of the escalator was a sign pointing to the butterfly sanctuary! I didn’t even know they had one of these, so I again found myself in butterfly heaven on a trip. Yay! Before we entered Butterfly Heaven, however, we were greeted by two large blue Hyacinth Macaws who found great pleasure in laughing at all passers-by.

After talking to and laughing with the macaws for a little while, we headed to the butterfly room. To my daughter’s dismay, we ended up in this room before and after the tour. Though she enjoyed the butterflies, she was afraid I might decide to spend too much time there dooming her to miss the rest of the aquarium. Her fears were unjustified, however, as we did see all of the aquarium.

Inside I managed many wonderful shots of these beautiful lepidoptera. And after the tour, we enjoyed the pleasure of releasing some newly hatched butterflies into the habitat.

The Behind the Scenes tour was equally amazing. We were able to see the penguins up close and learn about them and their habits and habitat.

Did you know they raise one arm to regulate their body temperature? And their normal body temperature is 104 degrees Fahrenheit? Those are just a couple of the cool facts we learned about these interesting creatures. Penguins are awesome!

After visiting the penguins, we headed to the large saltwater tank. We were taken into the room where the divers enter the water and the sea creatures are fed. We met the divers and learned a bit about their job. Then we met with the people that feed the animals. We learned about their diet, where they get the food, and which creature eats what.

Then we were given the pleasure of feeding the sea turtles!

Then we had an animal encounter with a glass lizard. This particular lizard is legless and looks disturbingly like a snake. He wouldn’t stay still enough for me to get a good shot, so I will be unable to share a picture of this amazing creature.

The rest of the ocean aquarium was typical for a saltwater habitat.

After we finished the ocean aquarium, we took a walk to find some lunch. We walked under the bridge and found a hidden park. It was like a secret world. We didn’t actually find any lunch. Instead we found ice cream at The Ice Cream Show. It was enough to tide us over until dinner. Then it was back to the aquarium to visit the river side.

Now, I must admit, I am not a fan of river fish…except for eating. They aren’t the loveliest of fishes. There were some other interesting aqueous inhabitants, however.

My favorite river buddies live around the water on the banks of the river and use the waters a food source and place to play. Say hello to the River Otter!

And of course there was the regular array of reptilian, amphibian, and avian riverside inhabitants.

Unfortunately, our river adventure was cut short due to caterers setting up for an after-hours party.

On our last day in Chattanooga, we headed across the river for a shopping trip. Our first stop was in Coolidge Park for a ride on the carousel.

And of course any good shopping trip starts off with coffee, so we hunted down a great little coffee shop called The Stone Cup. We hung out at the coffee shop for nearly an hour sipping Peppermint Mocha and enjoying art. By the time we left, it was lunch time, so we picked up some sub sandwiches and headed to the Walnut Street Bridge to eat. Then we made our second trip to the Ice Cream Show for coffee and ice cream. We spent the rest of the afternoon inspecting the record and book collections of several shops. Our only find was a Disney trivia book that kept us occupied while at the ice cream shop.

We ended our day with a little down-time in Coolidge Park. My daughter played her guitar while I walked around taking photos.

A perfect end to an amazing Girls’ Trip.

 

 

 

Girls’ Trip! (Part 1: Cloudland Canyon)

My daughter and I recently took our 2nd Annual Fall Break Girls’ Trip. Our original plan this year was to go to Charleston again, but the hurricane the week before down in the Bahamas was causing all sorts of weather trouble for the east coast. Charleston was flooding, and there were photos online of our lodging area where people were paddling down the streets in kayaks. Seeing as how that didn’t seem like the ideal girls’ trip location for this year, we decided to look for an alternative. After a bit of searching, we settled on a trip to Chattanooga so she could see the Tennessee Aquarium for the first time.

Now, though Chattanooga was the final destination, it was not the first destination. There is plenty to see and do along the way. Our first stop en route was Cloudland Canyon. This was my daughter’s first trip there. After seeing photos from my last trip, she really wanted to see it for herself. Since I had my handy-dandy Friends of Georgia State Park Pass, we breezed right through the front gate with a friendly smile and wave from the attendant and headed straight to the lookout point and trail head. When we got there, my daughter had to put on her hiking shoes…and she didn’t like the way they fit. We walked as far as the benches at the trail head, and already, she was complaining. So, being a resourceful mother and hiker, we switched shoes. The shoes worked for me (though I still prefer my boots). Then off we headed to see the waterfalls.

We didn’t get very far before I had to stop for a photo-op though. We found the greatest tree.

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Then we started our walk down into the canyon. Before long we happened upon a rock wall (that of course reminded my daughter of MineCraft) and a little ways up the wall was a little hole that looked like a cave. I decided she could probably climb right on up there, so she agreed and gave it a try…and did very well.

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I of course didn’t try it. Those rocks were better suited to the lighter-weight and reasonably flexible. I would’ve broken something…a rock, my camera, MY HEAD! Needless to say, we did not want to take any trips to the hospital because of Mama’s foolishness, so I refrained (this time). As we continued along the path we eventually came up on a giant boulder overhanging the trail. Now the last time I was here, I only had my dog, Dixie, with me, so getting a photo to convey the shear size of this thing didn’t really work out. This time, however, I had a crazy teenage girl with me who let me direct her for photos. It is amazing how perspective can change with just a little manipulation. In the first photo, I had her stand directly under the boulder, so you can see just how massive it is.

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Then in the next photo I wanted to make it look like she was holding the boulder up. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look nearly as impressive in the second photo.

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And of course, we had to get the Hercules shot where she actually has her hands on the rock.

 

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Eventually we moved on from here and rounded the corner. In the distance, I could see the bridge that crosses Sitton’s Gulch. I wasn’t able to cross the bridge the last time because the grating hurt Dixie’s paws. This time, however, it was just us people, so across we went, and it was well worth the trip. We made it across and saw some lovely cascades beneath us, so we made our way around the trail to get a better look. As we were firing off a few shots, my daughter said, “I wish we could get down there to the bottom.”

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This of course was responded to with, “I think we can.” So down we climbed. There were plenty of sturdy tree roots and a somewhat worn footpath where others had attempted the descent. Soon we were at the bottom and trying to figure out how to get the best shots. It was absolutely beautiful down there!

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Of course, the trouble with making your way down is that eventually you have to make your way back up. After we were done marveling and exploring and photographing, we headed back over to where we came down and realized that this was going to take a bit more effort. Hand and feet were required for this climb, so the all equipment had to be secured and free from dangling into our way. Then up the tree roots we climbed back to the path. It was awesome! My daughter, however up for the challenge she may have been, does not find hiking to be her sport of choice after this adventure.

Soon we made our way back across the gulch and onto the path for the first waterfall. Along the way we passed more “MineCraft” rocks…

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…and a leaf stuck to the canyon wall.

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And eventually we made it to Hemlock Falls. Here I got a few shots of the waterfall disappearing into my daughter’s head.

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And a couple of good shots too.

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And always remember when you’re out hiking to stay well hydrated.

 

 

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Then we decided to head over to see the other waterfall. The path from one fall to the other is a bit of a walk, so we got several pictures along the way as we stopped to catch our breath. It was getting into the golden hour, so I managed several beautiful shots of reflections in the water.

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Eventually we made our way over to Cherokee Falls. You can get right up to (and into if you want) the water here. Of course there were a few fun shots just before the waterfall came into view.

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My crazy girl was the first one to make it out to the rocks at the water’s edge, so I got some really great shots of her there.

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Then we got busy taking shots of the waterfalls…

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Then, of course, there were more fun shots.

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Ahh…I just love taking pictures of that beautiful, silly, crazy, wonderful girl.

Finally, we headed back up out of the canyon and got a few shots from the lookout point.

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And before long, we were back in the car driving over Lookout Mountain headed to Chattanooga.