On a short road trip to continue checking out Southeastern national parks
Do you know that there’s an International Towing and Recovery Museum in Chattanooga? I was trying to find Lookout Mountain in Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park – ChickChat, as they call it. I was looking for Chat but there were more brown signs for the Towing museum than for Lookout Mountain. My car GPS was confused as well. I saw many signs for Point Park along with Ruby Falls and Rock City. It turns out that all those black Point Park signs pointed to Lookout Mountain.
At the Chat visitor center, the ranger was disinterested and just handed me the park brochure. But at 10 AM sharp, a volunteer showed up who was willing to talk to visitors.
A bit of history
After Union troops were defeated in Chickamauga (Chick), they retreated to Chattanooga. Confederates then blocked the roads and rail lines, preventing Federal supplies from entering Chattanooga. With reinforcements, Federal troops were able to open a shorter supply line, which they called the Cracker Line, because they brought hard tack, a cracker than could break whatever teeth soldiers still had. But, hey, it was food.
That reinvigorated the Union army which pushed the Confederates out of their defenses, on hills above Chat, which became known as the battle above the clouds.
Chat, the gateway to the Deep South, was now in Union hands. It was a very strategic victory because the area had roads and railroads in every direction in addition to the Tennessee River. Chat became the base for Sherman’s drive to Atlanta and the sea.
The visitor center has the obligatory film and displays but it also has a huge painting titled The battle above the clouds by James Walker. From the web and as described at the visitor center:
In 1864 artist James Walker completed a painting commissioned by the federal government of the action of November 24, 1863, which he called “The Battle of Lookout Mountain.” In 1870 General Joseph Hooker commissioned Walker to paint a much larger version (13 feet by 30 feet) of his original painting for $20,000. Walker returned to Chattanooga and studied the landscape. He paid a photographer to take pictures as well. After Walker presented the painting to Hooker it toured the United States and remained in Hooker’s family until 1970, when it was donated to the National Park Service. Today the painting hangs in the Visitors Center near the entrance to Point Park.
But enough history.
I left the visitor center and toured the top of Lookout Mountain. The biggest memorial is from New York State. From Lookout Mountain, you can see the Tennessee River and the whole city of Chattanooga. See the picture above.
No place to go but down into a network of rocky trails, below cliff towers.
I walked down past rock climbers and a man reading in a hammock to Sunset Point. The trails were lush with late summer flowers, kudzu, and poison ivy.
I could have spent a couple of days exploring the trails but I was eager to move onto Chickamauga and check it out tomorrow.
PS I know. Most visitors would have done both areas in one day and more. But I can’t absorb more than one park or one site a day.