Chattanooga and Surrounding Areas – The Gateway to Adventures
(Spoiler alert – the key for us all is at the end of the article!)
“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so… get on your way!” – Dr. Seuss
The Chattanooga area is a perfect gateway to outdoor adventures waiting to be explored. Whether you are a born and raised local, young adult like Rachel Ragghianti, or a recently moved to the area and older adult like myself, Mae Shelley, there are always new places to explore.
This has been the summer to enjoy outdoor activities while still social distancing, and Rachel and I are pleased to share some of our summer activities.
Caving – (Rachel and Mae)
Rachel and I visited Stephen’s Gap Cave in Woodville, Alabama, which is only an hour and a half drive from Chattanooga. After a 1.5 mile easy hike to the cave entrance, we were rewarded by the view of the 143-foot pit with a spectacular waterfall inside. Stephen’s Gap is one the most photographed wild caves in North America. The bottom of the pit can only be reached by vertical rappelling through a keyhole entrance at the top, requiring safety equipment and vertical caving skills. However, there is a walk-in entrance with an excellent view of the cave’s waterfall, and the opportunity to observe those who are rappelling into the cave. You must wear a safety helmet while inside the cave, and a headlamp is handy for lighting as you navigate through the cave. For more information on Stephen’s Gap Cave and other caves to explore in the area, go to www.saveyourcaves.org.
Kayaking and Stand Up Paddleboarding – (Rachel and Mae)
Getting on the water is a great way to cool down on a hot summer day and even get a little exercise while you are at it. There is an abundance of waterways in this area to enjoy; from the calm waters of the Tennessee River flowing through downtown, Chickamauga, and Harrison Bay, to the creek paddles along the Conasauga River, the lower Ocoee River, and Hiwassee River. The trees and surrounding flowers make for a relaxing ride floating down the waterways. If you don’t own your own kayak or paddleboard, there are locations in the area from which to rent them. Always have your lifejacket, protective sun gear, and a plan of where you are putting in and taking out.
Snorkeling – (Mae)
Chattanooga is surrounded by rivers and creeks, but many people have not explored what is under water besides sport fishing. I had the privilege of meeting Casper Cox, a local expert and author of “Snorkeling Hidden Rivers of Southern Appalachia.” He showed us how to find clear water areas along the rivers for snorkeling. Armed with only a mask, snorkel, and a curious mind, we spent several afternoons exploring easily accessible shallow waters finding diverse aquatic life I never knew existed. The Conasauga River flows through southeast Tennessee and northwest Georgia and has 76 known species of fish, many of them unique to the river and found nowhere else on earth. The Hiwassee River offers its own species of fish quite different from the Conasauga River, including the elusive hellbender salamander which grows up to 24 inches long (two feet)! Always be mindful of safety in the water, especially on the Hiwassee River, as the Appalachia Powerhouse releases water from the damn upstream; be sure you are out of the river at the appropriate time so you are not swept downstream.
Foraging Mushrooms – (Mae)
Spending so much time along the rivers and in the woods, I was also introduced to foraging for mushrooms. I have never noticed the vast variety of mushrooms along the banks of the river and creeks until Casper Cox encouraged us to slow down on trails and truly look at what is growing around us. I quickly became fascinated by the details and diversity among the differing fungi. Foraging keeps you moving and connected to nature while also engaging the mind to observe details and identify mushrooms. When you have the experience to safely identify edible mushrooms, you get to enjoy eating what you foraged. Of course, be extremely careful and absolutely certain when identifying a mushroom to determine if it is edible, and do not forage on private property without permission.
The Key to a Great Adventure
Nothing spoils an adventure more than disaster. Planning ahead ensures you are prepared for danger, delays, and possible disappointments. All adventures have an element of danger which can be minimized or avoided all together by planning ahead – whether that be ensuring you have proper safety equipment and advanced route planning in a cave or on a kayak/paddle board, being conscious of water safety while snorkeling, or taking caution to ensure you have correctly identified a mushroom before consuming.
These same lessons of planning ahead for life’s great adventures also apply to estate planning, retirement planning, and tax planning. Contact a member of the Chambliss Estate Planning team to make sure you have carefully crafted your plan for the adventurous future you envision for you and your family.