B-Day Part 5: Hardy House & Manchester Ruins

30 08 2017

I’m overdue with this final b-day post after spending a week in Pennsylvania (which means more travel posts in the not too distant future!) and then facing the nightmare that is work after missing a week. But…here we are!

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On our way home, we stopped outside of Atlanta near Sweetwater Creek to visit the Manchester Mills ruins. I do love me some old ruins!

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This is also where they filmed a few minutes of one of the last Hunger Games movies…there’s a short scene right at the ruins.

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It’s fantastic to look at, but they do have  fence surrounding it. Frustrating! Also I’m not sure if there are paths or not on the other side of the water (we only had 1 hour there, so not much time to explore). If so, you might be able to get some good reviews of it with the water in front of it.

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We did try to walk around it, and ultimately tried going out on the river rocks, but firstly we weren’t dressed for that, and secondly the river curves away so even if you’re standing out there, I don’t think you can see a lot.

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It’s still a beautiful park even without the ruins….lots of people hiking, bringing their dogs. Peaceful place.

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I just realized I’m doing this post out of chronological order, because we saw the ruins last, and this next part we actually saw back on Lookout Mountain. One evening we had a short amount of daylight left so decided to follow the signs to Cravens House, thinking everything would probably be closed. The house was, but the park itself is open (even at near-twilight), so we could park and walk around. Great place to look down over the city itself. Also, as we started down a path, there’s a really cool old, abandoned house:

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(Sorry for the pic quality here; all I had was my cell phone.) Initially we saw what looked like an abandoned garage, but looking to the left we could see a house behind a fence (with some stone built in – how awesome!).

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I LOVE abandoned old places, and if urbex wasn’t basically illegal (“no trespassing”), I would totally do it. So I wasn’t going to try going in the house, but I wanted to get a closer look.

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Beautiful! Later on I did some research and found out that this is the “Hardy Home,” former home of Richard Hardy (who was mayor of Chattanooga at some point). Couldn’t find a year it was built, but looks like he lived there for some time between 1910-1927. Can’t believe this is just sitting there! Not sure what the park service will do with it, but sadly there looks like some talk of tearing it down.

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It has so much character. Look at this rock/stone storage thing! It’s creepy and cute all at once. Here’s a closer look:

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So neat how they built stuff into the natural landscape.

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Still has an old bird fountain..

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…and another cool/creepy storage thing…We walked around and tried to see the front of the house, but can’t see too well as that area’s gated. Here are the stairs up to the front:

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The base of the stairs feeds into an empty old road – I think some people use it as a hiking path.

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Of all the times not to bring my real camera! Anyway, happy birthday to me – was a great trip all around. Now somehow in between work and more trips, I want to get some new art content on this site (not to mention some Pennsylvania “dark sky park” photos!)

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B-Day Part 3: Arboretum and Cloud Canyon

8 08 2017

On my actual birthday we stopped by the Reflection Riding Arboretum, which is also on Lookout Mountain, followed by an unplanned but amazing hike at Cloud Canyon State Park. The highlight of the Arboretum is undoubtedly the tree house!

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The rest of the Arboretum I found a little disappointing. Maybe I was expecting too much. They do have an area with animals they are rehabilitating, which is nice, and then the rest of it is mainly this huge grassy area you can do a driving tour around, and they give you a brochure outlining the path with points of note, but the brochure doesn’t always match to what’s there. Anyway, this tree house was fantastic.

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It’s not very big and is really built on stilts over this wetlands area, but the trees run right through it and the architecture – well, just look! Plus it has some cute details…

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The interior is fairly sparse but quiet and peaceful. There’s a little bench-swing and some other chairs inside. I didn’t get a good shot of it, but there’s also some interesting carvings.

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..not to mention some cool stained glass windows.

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I just love the aesthetic of the place!

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One last tree house shot, walking away toward the canoe launch and animals:

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The Arboretum didn’t take as long as expected, but it was around 4:00 I think, so near closing time for many attractions. However, state parks are open til sundown. We discovered Cloudland Canyon State Park not too far away and decided to head there.

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For something unplanned, Cloud Canyon ended up being one of the most memorable parts of the trip. You park up on a mountain (obviously), and immediately come to one of many overlooks on scenes like the one above. I took a ton of shots with my camera and cell and not a single one captures the grandeur of the place (needed a wide angle). You can barely see a waterfall in the bottom left of the picture. The main waterfall attractions are down in the bottom of the canyon – a very long trek!

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Rock formations everywhere! Above, this is pretty early on in the journey. Before we were sweating with burning calves from countless stairs.

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Impressive rocks tower over you as you make the descent. At one point, there’s a fork and you choose – the waterfall to the left is easier to get to, and in my opinion, prettier to look at. People climbing back up from the right side looked like they were about to pass out (to be fair, it was really hot).

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…making our way down to the waterfall on the left (I’ve forgotten its name!)…and here it is, a first glimpse:

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If I’d had a towel I would have loved to have taken my shoes off and gone in the water, even though it says you aren’t supposed to (observe: no one heeding the sign).

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Beautiful!! Next we made our way to the waterfall on the right. You can’t get as close (technically, you can, but you have to go down off a boardwalk so it’s trickier).

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And then back up we go…

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This is just partway. It doesn’t look like much, but according to my FitBit, we climbed 56 floors. Oye! Learn from my mistakes and bring a water bottle. Oh and when you get back to the top (overlook part), go all the way to the right to the furthest overlook – it has the best views!





B-Day Part 1: Rock City and Fairyland Caverns

25 07 2017

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For the past 3 – 4 years, I’ve made a point to take some time off at my birthday in May and go somewhere fun. This year it was a blast from the past – visiting a place I last saw at age 4: Rock City on Lookout Mountain! Lookout Mountain shares land with both Georgia and Tennessee and is basically right on the edge of Chattanooga.

Rock City was beyond amazing – not a single picture I took begins to do it justice.

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We got there on a Friday close after opening – which I would recommend. It’s great to have it mostly to yourself before the crowds show up.

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At first it was overcast, and the early morning + height and scope of the huge rocks kept in the cool. Everything had a misty, dewey feel.

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The path works its way around and through rocks, taking you up on outcroppings, under and through narrow passageways… it feels like an adventure.

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Look at the scope! Did not have a proper lens for capturing it. What I don’t show here but did take pics of are the cute labels they have for rock formations like “Mushroom Rock” or the little gnomes set up in random places.

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The few animals were a surprise. A couple deer reside here in an enclosure, and wild chipmunks run around everywhere, usually too quickly to get a decent shot, but I did try:

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The waterfall under Lover’s Leap has a couple great “selfie” spots and a rainbow wall (with glass windows in each color of the rainbow) that you can walk behind. Only got cell phone shots there, and they weren’t great.

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At the top-most area is the lookout over 7 states at once. It’s actually a big area with viewing binoculars and a café.  You then make your way down through more bridges and cavern-like areas with cute names:

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My childhood memories revolved around a part of Rock City called Fairyland Caverns, which you wander into near the end of the path:

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It’s definitely a hold over from decades past (mostly the 30s) when these kind of attractions (specifically the dark park and walk through sites) were big. Well, I still thought it was awesome.

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First, the entrance is decked out in all these crystals (see the one peeking out under the plants above?), and the ceiling is embedded with coral.

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You descend down into the cavern which becomes super dark except for little scenes embedded in the walls of gnome life:

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Above, green light illuminates the path behind us. Then finally you get to the main area with fairy tales depicted in individual cave windows. I took a picture for each but will only show a few here.

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Little Red Riding Hood…and Cinderella:

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My favorite was Snow White:

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It concludes in a large room with a huge castle and other fairy tale characters surrounding it.

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Looking back, I wish I’d taken different lenses because the whole attraction was amazing and so different than anything you see anywhere else. Would def recommend. Even better, you can buy joint tickets to Ruby Falls which is practically right around the corner, and coming up next!








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