Friday, July 10, 2015

2015 Road Trip, Day 19: Over and Under Lookout Mountain

Continuing our way through the Civil War, we headed to Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park this morning.  The Battle of Chickamauga raged simultaneously with Gettysburg and Vicksburg.  The win at Vicksburg gave the Federals the Mississippi River,  Gettysburg's success for the Army of the Potomac kept the Confederates from marching north, and Chickamauga & Chattanooga was a fight to control the railroads into the deep south.  In addition to being the final key to unlock victory for the Union, the battlefields for this fight became the first national military park, and the model for the parks at Gettysburg and Vicksburg.

We began at the Chickamauga side of the battle, in current Fort Oglethorpe, GA.   At each of the parks, we've purchase the ThinkBrain tour, and been very pleased with it.  This time, we enjoyed what we learned, but spent an extra hour getting turned around (both accidentally and on purpose) because it doesn't follow the NPS auto tour.  At all.  (There are a couple of spots where we do stop at the marked Auto Tour stops, but not in the NPS order.)  We laughed about how many times we had to find a spot to make a u-turn, but we also got to see this guy as we drove down the wrong road.

After two days of bloody fighting (casualties are second only to the 3-day Gettysburg battle), the Army of the Tennessee retreated to Chattanooga, where the Confederates laid siege.  However, Ulysses S. Grant was brought in to take charge, and he began sneaking supplies and men into the town.  By November, the Union was prepared to take on the Confederate army again, this time at Lookout Mountain.  After we toured Chickamauga, we headed back to Chattanooga to visit Lookout Mountain.

Confederates had held the high ground, but Union soldiers stormed the mountain and overtook it.

The roads up are crazy, but worth it for the view.  I can't imagine RUNNING up the mountain.

After we went to the top of the mountain, we went under it.

Ruby Falls is home to a cave system through Lookout Mountain.

 We enjoyed the formations as we went along.  One of our favorites? The one shaped like bacon, of course..

These were gorgeous too.

 The centerpiece is a spectacular underground waterfall.

As we walked through the caverns, Jude and I had a conversation:

Jude:  "This is like going to the center of the earth!  How far is the center?"
Me: "Pretty far."
Jude: "Are we there yet?"
Me: "Nope."
<walks four steps>
Jude: "How about now?"
Me: "Nope."
<repeat for the next 400 feet>

We got home in time to eat dinner and crash.  Next we're moving to Pigeon Forge and the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains.

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