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Raccoon Mountain Caverns and Campground…

Posted by on July 27, 2017


CHATTANOOGA, TENNESSEE. Here we are in Tennessee at the Raccoon Mountain Caverns and Campground in Chattanooga. The city is located in the southeastern part of the state, along the Tennessee River in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. It is one of the top destinations in the South. It’s trolley-like Incline Railway scales steep Lookout Mountain before reaching Ruby Falls and Rock City, just across the border from the state of Georgia. From the observation point, it’s possible to see more than 100 miles to the Great Smoky Mountains and it marks a point in the US where 7 states meet along their borders: Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. We’re now on the last leg of our years-long motor-home adventure across America. By November we’ll reach Oregon, which will become home for us. But we’ve got lots to see and do before then, right now in Chattanooga and then as we make our way to the West coast. So here’s a bit about Chattanooga. 

SUPER-FAST INTERNET. But first, here’s an interesting fact: Chattanooga may not be the first place that springs to mind when it comes to cutting-edge technology. But thanks to its ultra-high-speed Internet, the city has established itself as a center for innovation – and an encouraging example for those frustrated with slow speeds and high costs from private broadband providers. The city rolled out a fiber-optic network a few years ago that now offers speeds of up to 1000 Megabits per second for just $70 per month. This is light-years ahead of average U.S. connection speed, which is typically about 10 megabits per second. A city-owned agency, the Electric Power Board, runs its own network, offering higher-speed service than any of its private-sector competitors can manage. We became aware of the super-fast internet shortly after we pulled into our campsite. Wow! It’s even faster than the T-3 connection I had in my office when I was practicing law in San Diego, and at 45 megabits per second that was about as fast as one could get in those days.



Market Street, Chattanooga, in the 1930’s.


City park in Chattanooga today. Market Street bridge in the background.

CHATTANOOGA CHOO-CHOO. It was on March 5, 1880 that the first passenger train leaving Cincinnati for Chattanooga was nicknamed the “Chattanooga Choo-Choo.” This historic occasion opened the first major link in public transportation from the North to the South. The “Choo-Choo” was operated by the Cincinnati Southern Railroad, America’s first municipal railway system. The popular Glenn Miller tune of the 1940’s has forever made famous this railway station. Today, the station is the site of a hotel, restaurants, bars and meeting rooms. Hotel guests enjoy today’s conveniences and amenities while staying aboard Pullman Train Car guestrooms.


Chattanooga Choo-Choo Hotel as seen from Market Street. 


This is one of the Pullman car guest rooms at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo Hotel.


Hotel guest area outside the Pullman Car sleeping rooms.


One of the guest lounges at the hotel.


The original ceiling of the train station is now part of the hotel.


RACCOON MOUNTAIN CAVERNS. One of the local attractions I wanted to see is located right at the campground where we’re staying. Discovered in 1929, Raccoon Mountain Caverns is one of the top ten caves in the United States. Several folks along our travels told me that the caverns here were a “must see.” I foolishly assumed it would be like the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. We had a great time there. Or maybe it would be similar to the Kartchner Caverns in Arizona near the little town of Benson. So, the morning after we arrived, we marched across the campground to the Raccoon Mountain Cave. Oh, no! Once the tour was described I decided there was no way I’d try to fit my rotund body into the narrow passages and pitch black darkness of that place! These are the famous “get muddy” tours which require participants to wear gloves,  pads, lights and helmets. The tour requires physical exertion including crawling, pulling and pushing yourself forward using arms and legs and a 15 foot rope climb. Right! Thirty or forty years ago slithering through these caves with an experienced guide would have been terrific. But not now. I’ve learned, reluctantly, to accept the limitations imposed by age. Here are a few pictures some of those who emerged from the cave shared with me. Would you be brave enough to enter? If you have even a little bit of claustrophobia I guarantee you that your answer should be “no.” But otherwise, I think you’d have a blast!


Each caver is issued a flashlight, helmet and gloves. Expect to get dirty and muddy!

Look at that ledge! One slip and you’d be gonner!


It would take dynamite and the National Guard to get me out of there! No thanks.


LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN. Lookout Mountain perches atop a ridge that has been a faithful landmark in a constantly changing world. Until the mid-1800’s, its Native American inhabitants called the mountain “Chatanuga,” a Cherokee word which means ‘mountains looking at each other.’ Also, the early pioneers warned each other to “look out” for warring Indians and marauding pirates as they traversed the rapids below the mountain. The attractions here are Ruby Falls, Rock City and the Incline Railway. The Incline Railway, the steepest passenger railway in the world, makes the Cog Railway we rode in New Hampshire seem like a children’s attraction!


We rode the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway. This ride was even steeper than the Cog Railway to the top of Mt. Washington in the state of New Hampshire.


We got a seat in the front row for the ride down Lookout Mountain.



From the railway, you can see the entire Tennessee Valley.


Two trams operate at the same time. As we went down the mountain I took this picture of the other tram ascending.



Lookout Mountain Incline Railway, the steepest passenger railway in the world. It climbs a distance of one mile up Lookout Mountain in about ten minutes. In this photo, the tram is arriving at the passenger terminal on top of the mountain. 


Point Park, also atop Lookout Mountain, marks the site of a Civil War battle, circa November of 1863, now honored at the Battles for Chattanooga Museum and called the “Battle Above the Clouds.” The battles for Chattanooga changed the outcome of the Civil War. The decisive victories on Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge and Orchard Knob spelled the beginning of the end for the south and allowed Sherman to stage his “March to the Sea.


It’s hard to imagine how the Union troops and the Confederates battled in this rugged terrain. Remember, these battles occurred at the top of Lookout Mountain, so the troops would have to have climbed a mile up the steep terrain. The prize for the winner was, of course, a pristine view of the area and any approaching soldiers.


There’s not really much to see on a battlefield without soldiers and artillery. So, signs are strategically placed and one can imagine what the scene must have been so long ago.


Old artillery piece used in the Civil War.


Statue memorializes the Union Army’s victory over the Confederate forces on Lookout Mountain.






THAT’S A WRAP. Heavy thunderstorms are predicted for this afternoon, so we’re heading back to our coach to pack in preparation for tomorrow’s drive to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It’s nestled at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited national park in America. We’re excited to see it and hope you’ll join us there. Subscribe to my blog and get notifications by email every time there’s a new post.

I’ll continue my story next time.

2 Responses to Raccoon Mountain Caverns and Campground…

  1. Kitty

    Beautiful country! So happy you’re back on the road.

  2. Greg Alford

    Thanks! We’re enjoying ourselves. How long will you guys be in Montana?

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