I’m sitting at a Starbucks in Chattanooga right now, but coffee is out of reach. There’s some student trip here that has hundreds of kids swarming downtown, last night and tonight, and every one of them seems to be wanting starbucks right now. So I’m stealing internet until the line turns into something resembling reasonable.
Yesterday was great! The driving went by fast and I had a few cool pit-stops. I left super early and made it to High Falls Park by the early afternoon. It was known for cliff jumping and swimming in the river, but unfortunately, that wasn’t happening yesterday. There was an enormous waterfall but I’m guessing some recent rains overloaded the falls, it was so much water and didn’t seem particularly conducive to swimming. I found a little beach to stick my feet in but it served as a short hike and beautiful picture to punctuate the Alabama drive.
I pulled into Rock City without a clue what it was. I happened upon it looking for food and a bathroom and when I arrived I was pretty sure I was in some off-season ski resort. A little bit of googling told me that that’s the place where you can climb up Lookout Mountain and see seven states at once. I would have been all about that view but the $20 entrance fee was obnoxious. Plus I could see like 3 of those states without going all the way in, who needs to see 7 states at one time anyway..
Just outside of that little town is Chattanooga. I went downtown and walked around during sunset and it was lovely. The Tennessee accent was totally different from the Mississippi/Alabama accents and everyone seemed to have it. The downtown area was really nice, really clean, and not too crowded. It’s nested right along the Tennessee River so there’s nice water views and several iconic bridges.
The campground lady said I could check in whenever I felt like it, so I interpreted that as “do what ever you want tonight cause it literally doesn’t matter when you come.” If I was slightly more responsible and adult I would have realized that things are infinitely easier when you show up to a campground in the daylight. I would have also opened all the helpful attachments she emailed me before my phone lost service.
Turns out the campground was like 30 miles further west than I thought. Driving through the mountains at night was already unpleasant (if only because I knew I was missing great views), but I was really getting out in the boondocks. FINALLY I find the state park and pull into a basically empty camping area. Not only that, but the campsites were hike-in sites, maybe a quarter mile from the parking lot. It was dark and getting chilly and I did not anticipate having to lug my sleeping stuff over a bridge and through the woods for a few hours of shut-eye. It may have been different if there were more people, but the emptiness made things a little spookier. I felt dumb for not having figured things out better, researched my location, gotten more gas, not been so remote, but I didn’t do that stuff and here we are. I decided to just sleep in the car. I listened to some podcasts to help disperse the Alone In The Mountains vibes and I feel asleep almost instantly (shout out to Gaby Dunn and Paul Sagal). In fact, I probably had close to 9 hours of sleep so I’m not sure why I’m so drowsy. Anyway, the lonely feels made me want to leave the park before I had originally intended, so I made the excessively long drive out of the mountains and back into town in search of coffee and an internet connection (ugh that sounds awful, who even am I? just some millennial?). And now I’m doing some trip planning for the day ahead. I have lots of time, a Blue Ridge Parkway stint planned, and an evening near Asheville, NC in the forecast.