Our 2007 Road Trip, Part 11 of 12: Chattanooga Rock City

Lookout Mountain!

Hiking the Appalachian Trail for hundreds of miles is one way to see the mountains. Or you can settle for these spiffy decks up Lookout Mountain.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 Anne and I have taken a road trip to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, marvels, history, and institutions we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. For 2007 we changed up our strategy a bit and designed an itinerary for what would prove our most kid-friendly outing ever. Granted, my son was now twelve years old and less kid-like than he used to be, but the idea was sound in principle.

Thus in this year of our Lord did we declare: the Goldens are going to Florida!

Driving through the Appalachian Mountains and/or its various spinoffs on our way to Florida had been one part traffic ordeal, three parts staring at sightly scenery. For the return trip we knew we had to view some of that ruggedness up close. Lookout Mountain, right around the Chattanooga area and nearly reaching 2400 feet in elevation, was the perfect opportunity for one last round of exploring the sort of stupendous terrain we don’t have back home in Indiana. Granted, we have caves not unlike Ruby Falls (and we have better photos of one of them). But mountains in general are nearly as foreign to us flatland Hoosiers as Martians.

Please Stay in the Trail!

Do you dare enter…the Mysterious Mouth of Mountainousness?

Our last stop in Tennessee was at Chattanooga’s other major natural billboard celebrity — Rock City, whose driveway is a few miles worth of narrow, winding, inclined road up the side of Lookout Mountain. At times it felt dangerous on a Hitchcockian level. I was grateful to find it was paved. Rock City itself is a sizeable rock garden that provided a cornucopia of visual treats, from the elaborate stone architecture to the assortment of oddly shaped formations, several of them bearing clever names.

Tortoise Shell Rock!

Tortoise Shell Rock looks like Super Mario just finished stomping it.

Balance Rock!

The thousand-ton Balance Rock, which looks precarious but is assuredly secured, provides a great photo-op backdrop for anyone who’s ever wanted to look mighty. Or, in some cases, even mightier.

Fat Man Squeeze!

Fat Man Squeeze is exclusionary and Othering and a candid reminder that sometimes rock climbing is at least as hard as James Franco made it look.

Goblins Underpass!

A few enclosed areas were decorated inside with gnome statues because gnome statues love the underground. Goblins Underpass was either one of theirs or the property of imaginary, invisible rivals.

Bridge Arches!

Some of their wonders were a little less natural than others.

Rock Bridge!

No idea how many labor-hours were required to construct an attraction of this magnitude.

Anne + Forest!

I guess forests are okay, but we were there for ROCKS, not stupid trees.

Anne + Waterfall!

High Falls are slightly shorter than Ruby Falls but much higher in elevation. The proprietors confess they’re man-made, but that doesn’t make them uncool.

Rock City Waterfall!

The Rock City path winds in and out of the mountain, providing multiple vantage points on its various sights. You can just barely make out the “SKY BRIDGE” sign at right.

Waterfall from Above!

High Falls seen from on high.

Rock City Big Cliff!

Sources tell me High Falls should be called Lovers Leap, but the sign was so far over to the left, I assumed it was intended for the cliff.

Cliff Viewers!

The end goal of the trail is the observation deck, which allows for a breathtaking miles-around view, optional acrophobia and vertigo.


Appalachians to our left. Don’t even ask me which compass direction was which up here.


Appalachians to the far right of us, plus deck railing.

Lookout Mountain!

I don’t even remember where this view fit into our walk. The important thing is it’s all rather vast. VAST.

Foggy Panorama!

That view of allegedly seven different states, if you know where to squint, use your imagination, and wait or wish for the fog to dissolve.

We appreciated Rock City’s whimsical self-awareness along with the overwhelming views. Also satisfying in a practical way was their lunch cafe, which served surprisingly tasty meals for a tourist attraction but of course required a long wait because competition is scarce that high above sea level. As added incentive to rate them all the possible stars, Rock City’s snack shop was accommodating enough to sell sugar-free fudge, a rarity that I liked keeping in stock for those intermittent moments of sticking to my diet.

And if that hadn’t been enough to contain us, we found later in this remote location on the side of a mountain, miles away from heavy traffic or haute couture, perched across the street was that quintessential 2007 punchline, a Starbucks.

To be concluded!

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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