We were in Chattanooga, Tennessee from May 19 – 24, 2016. Continuing from the previous post, we are now on our Day 3. We headed to Lookout Mountain, known for great views and hiking. We enjoy learning about history, especially US history now that we are able to get up close and personal as we travel full time. The name “Chattanooga” comes from the Creek Indian word for “rock coming to a point.” This refers to Lookout Mountain which begins in Chattanooga and stretches 88 miles through Alabama and Georgia. We didn’t get a chance to learn more about the area since we focused on hiking – which let us to rich Civil War History.
In honor of Memorial Day, we want to include a reminder this is the holiday where we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, in all wars on behalf of the United States of America.
While we were in Chattanooga the weekend before this years holiday, I am writing this as the holiday weekend begins from Red Bay, Alabama. We never realized Chattanooga had several battlegrounds during the war. We have cherished the new knowledge we have gleaned from each place we have visited as there are markers and remembrances about each historical site. And then to look up the history of Memorial Day, it now has even more meaning to us:
Memorial Day was borne out of the Civil War and a desire to honor our dead. It was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed. The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.
On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.
The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war).
It is now observed in almost every state on the last Monday in May with Congressional passage of the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 – 363). This helped ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays, though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19th in Texas; April 26th in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10th in South Carolina; and June 3rd (Jefferson Davis’ birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee.
After the Union was defeated in the Battle of Chickamauga, defeating the Confederates at the city of Chattanooga was vital as it was a rail hub that, once taken, would become “the gateway for later campaigns in the Deep South, including the capture of Atlanta and Sherman’s March to the Sea. A Confederate soldier called the Battle of Chattanooga ‘the death knell of the Confederacy.'”
Between November 23-25, 1863, the significant events were the Battle of Lookout Mountain, Battle Above the Clouds, Battle of Missionary Ridge, Cracker Line, and the Siege of Chattanooga. For more history about these battles, click here.
We couldn’t help but reflect on how severe the conditions must have been for the armies. We were driving on a clear day in a decent car, but yet was not easy to get to the top of the mountain. Our GPS seemed to have a mind of it’s own, but it was confusing for us as there were many signs along the way pointing to Rock City, Ruby Falls, Point Park and other tourist areas, but none for Lookout Mountain. Nor was our GPS going in the direction of any of the signs. We didn’t know until we got to the top of the mountain, Point Park WAS the top of Lookout Mountain! Have I mentioned lately, Bill is not a fan of heights and narrow winding mountain roads? Glad he overcomes his fears every time we have a mountain to climb! Here is what we saw as we finally seemed to level off , much to Bill’s relief, at the top of Lookout Mountain:
So here is the bonus, Point Park is a National Park so there was a Ranger Station there, with a little known hidden free parking lot behind it. Otherwise, the street is full of metered parking places and at 25 cents per 15 minutes, not a real deal. There also is a $5 fee to enter the park, but as senior citizens with our “America the Beautiful” Senior Passes, we were able to enter for free. The park is quite small and the trail heads were no where in sight, although we had a map provided by the Ranger. Of course, we were most stricken by the reminders of the price of war.
We wandered around on hallowed grounds, enjoyed the amazing views and visited the Ochs Museum which answered our questions we had on the Battlefield. How did they communicate and record the specific locations for each battle? We learned about the Signal Corps inside the museum. As many Civil War Battlefields we have visited, it never was so apparent how precise the locations were as marked. Or maybe we learned about the Signal Corps previously and just forgot. We are seniors afterall! 😬
About Point Park and Ochs Museum:
During the Civil War, the Confederate armies of Chattanooga used the East Brow of Lookout Mountain as their lookout point. The panoramic view of the valley gave the Confederates an advantage over any approaching Union Armies. However, during the bloody battle for Chattanooga, the northern troops waited for the clouds to fall upon the point and advanced under the cloud cover. Before the Southern troops knew what was happening, their fate was sealed. This park and museum commemorates this struggle for visual superiority. The confederates were defeated and the post captured, but it was a valiant battle now known as the Battle Above the Clouds.
Visit this site for directions to Point Park at the top of Lookout Mountain.
While we loved the views and the quaint little museum, we were struggling finding the trail heads. We started down the stairs the ranger directed us to, but then realized I would have to walk back up them. And stairs are hard on my knees to climb up, although I can go down OK. We met come young ladies that had just hiked up from the Craven House. So they gave us a great tip to drive down there and park (free) and we could hike back up to the stairs, then turn around. It’s wonderful I can hike up and down mountains without it bothering my knees. But stairs, ugh….
Down the mountain we drove to find Cravens House, which the GPS found for us. We parked and enjoyed the views and headed up the trail. We had read the trail reviews and were warned there were a few places where the trail was very narrow, loose rocks and no railing – we are on the side of a mountain! We saw a young couple heading up the trail – wearing sandals. We knew they had to be laughing at us with our boots and hiking poles. But we were sure glad we had them a number of times. This was one of the most treacherous trails we’ve hiked on. And then we remembered the young ladies, not really dressed to hike a mountain either. I guess we are getting old! Here are just a few pictures of what turned out to be the most treacherous trail we’ve been on since Glenwood Springs, Colorado:
Day 4. Sunday, so off to church we went. We were so pleased worshipping the Lord with a sweet congregation, Crosspath Church in East Ridge. They gave us such a warm welcome and many came up to welcome us with out making us feel uncomfortable. In fact, we noticed everyone we interacted with in this area was so gracious and kind! Anyway, we connected with the worship style and the message was so on point from the Book of James (one of my personal favorites), we knew we were where we belonged this morning. We went home for lunch and tried to decide what we would do to enjoy the rest of the beautiful day.
After that treacherous trail the day before, we decided our knees needed a day of rest. We had met another couple our age at the Cravens House. They also had hiking poles and the wife has the same knee issues I have. So she told us about the wonderful wooden bridge downtown Chattanooga that crosses the Tennessee River. And she said there were lots of parks on the river so we could get in a good walk downtown. So off to downtown Chattanooga we went. We love where we are camped as it is easy to get anywhere we need to go. We really enjoyed our walk. They had a huge Ironman Triathlon that morning. As a former triathlete, it brought back fun memories of the race. It would have been fun to swim in the Tennessee River. Here is a short slideshow with just a few snapshots of our walk around downtown, which was so impressive.
Day 5. All week, I had my eye on a hike at Strider’s Ridge, an urban hiking experience! I had hoped we could check it out on Sunday, but just ran out of time. So off we went. Finally, our GPS recognized it and found the actual trail head where there was parking.
We had read reviews so we knew it was a paved parking lot with restrooms. However, at first, it wasn’t so apparent but we did find it….Bill actually walked up a hill where the pavement wasn’t the best, and saw it was road worthy for our car. We chatted with one young man who said it was about four miles. The “All Trails” app said it had a 3.2 mile loop, so we planned to take that route. What a beautiful trail we found.
Now we did read there were “directional” trails where bikes can enter only on certain days of the week and walkers/hikers the other days. Nice concept in theory but for out of towners like us, it was confusing to say the least.
Fortunately, not many people were on the trail. We saw several young ladies and only one person on a bike. And then we bumped into a couple, a little younger than us, from Chattanooga. We ended up talking maybe 20 minutes! And so funny, they were going one way and we the other on this directional trail and wouldn’t you know, the biker came from the direction we were on…..that should have been a clue. Anyway, the husband has been wanting to get an RV and travel. We had so much to talk about. I hope we can reconnect with them one day. They told us growing up, all they wanted to do was leave. The wife did and returned after being away 20 years to be surprised at how much it had changed and all for the good. So we really appreciated how nice the downtown now is. Finally we headed on our separate ways….
only to discover, we were wrong and somehow we turned the 3.2 mile loop into a 2 mile loop! Oh, I was upset! This trail had the potential of probably 5 miles if we wanted, but we were back at the car. So much for the long hikes we were yearning for on this stay. But actually, we were ready to head home. As I write this, I guess we were pretty busy as I think back on all we did these five days, in addition to the sights we took in and all the short hikes and walks!
In between all the exploring, we also found time to use our $25 gift certificate to shop at Camping World (for renewing our Good Sam membership); to exchange our broken can opener from Bed Bath and Beyond; Grocery shopped at Aldi’s – they aren’t easy to find, only in certain states – and there was one not too far from us; and of course, we seem to always have to run into a Walmart for more staples. So between all these stops and learning our way around Chattanooga, we were busy! All in a good way.
We will cherish our memories from our stay here and can’t wait to return one day. As we reflect back upon the amazing monuments, markers, museums and reminders of our United States Civil war, it is a great reminder about the true meaning of Memorial Day. We don’t know how we will “celebrate” the holiday, but I know we don’t actually celebrate the loss of lives lost during wartime. I do know we will reflect on what it took to make America such a GREAT nation and what our Holy Bible reminds us, there is:
a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. Ecclesiastes 3:8