Fire Tower

Inside the Prentice Cooper Wildlife Management Area, along side the gravel road that leads to Snoopers Rock, there is a Ranger Station.  Like many ranger stations, it looks like someone’s home.  Unlike any other ranger station I’ve seen, in the grass-covered yard outside the house sits a tower.

The tower stretches impossibly high for it’s width.  Just looking up at the top from the ground makes me dizzy with the probability that it will topple over in a strong wind.  I am not the only one who thinks so–the national forestry service, or some such official organization, saw fit to tie the tower off to a post on one side, presumably to prevent such toppling.  It’s left to the viewer’s imagination as to why the wind blows from only one direction at least in the minds of the people who added this safety precaution.

There is a sign at the bottom of the tower.  It tells visitors that they may climb to the top of the tower at their own risk.  The first time we stopped to see this tower, I thought I might be brave enough to scale the steep and narrow wooden steps that lead some 70 feet straight into the air.  I was wrong.

Like a giant mouse trap baited with the promise of a spectacular view, the tower felt poised to spring the moment I set foot on the first step. The steps creaked and groaned their surprise at being asked to bear my weight. There was nothing about their rotted appearance that promised they would be strong enough.

I crept up one flight, and then two.  As I got higher, the structure seemed to sway more.  When the wind picked up momentarily, I felt like I was high on a tree branch swaying on a branch.  I have more faith in a tree supporting me than the tower.  By the time I made it up the third flight of steps, I was paralyzed with fear.  The vision of the entire tower imploding with me deep in its belly was too much for me.  I turned and made the even more frightening descent, learning how truly steep the steps are as I reached one foot downward in space, finding the faith that another step would be there as I shifted my weight past the point of no return and gratefully landed on solid wood.

This trip.  I did not attempt to climb more than half of the first flight of steps.  I went up just far enough to sit down on the steps, my back to them, and lay back so I could take some shots of the belly of the beast.  Even then, I could feel the entire tower swaying in the wind.

Snoopers Rock

Having lamented missing most of the summer, I was happy when my husband asked if I wanted to go for a hike today.  As I was reminded yesterday, the summer isn’t over yet.  In spite of it being one of the more hot and humid days we’ve had in a while, I was anxious to get outside and spend some time in motion.

My husband and I have different ideas about hiking, however.  I want to go at least 5 miles and am willing to go much further if there’s something to see.  My husband, who is on his feet all day, prefers to pick very short, easy hikes.  We compromised by choosing a place that had 3 overlooks and parked in the middle so we could bail if it turned out to be longer or more difficult than expected.

We headed out to Prentice Cooper Wildlife Management Area, which runs along the Tennessee River Gorge.  It’s a beautiful area.  Even the drive to get there is inspiring.  We saw wild turkey and deer along the way.

The down side of the wildlife management area is the popularity of ATVs and hunting.  Fortunately, between the heat and a predicted thunderstorm that never came, there were only a handful of ATVers and we didn’t hear any gunshots.  Both make me nervous when we’re hiking with dogs.

Twiggy, visiting with us for the weekend, and Tisen were very enthusiastic when we got out of the car.  We headed down what was called Snoopers Rock Trail, but it was really a road.  We were passed by a jeep and later a Hyundai sedan, but we weren’t sorry we walked.

The view is fantastic from Snoopers Rock.  Of the views I’ve seen of the river gorge, this was the best–the rock is perched above a bend in the river, providing scenery in both directions.

Unfortunately, when we headed off to the second overlook, it wasn’t clear if we were on the right trail or not.  We hiked through the woods enjoying the shade and the tiny wildflowers along the trail, but the moisture in the air was gathering like a cloud around us as we walked and the mosquitos reminded us why we used to use insect repellant.

When we’d walked about as far as we thought it was supposed to be to the next overlook, we decided it was time to turn around.  The trek back was all uphill.  I was shocked by how hard I felt like I was working–it wasn’t that uphill.

It felt great to be in the woods and moving.  Even sweating felt good.  I feel more alive when I’m pushing my body, even if it’s only a little.  The mosquitos I could have done without.  But, after all, it is still summer.

Tisen and Twiggy were far less enthusiastic on the way back to the car.  I guess I’m not the only one who hasn’t been working out.

Train Tracks

My boys and Twiggy hanging out on the tracks Hipstomatic style

My boys and Twiggy hanging out on the tracks Hipstomatic style

Chattanooga became a household name in 1941 when the Chattanooga Choo Choo song topped the record charts.  The first train to be called the Chattanooga Choo Choo went from Cincinnati to Chattanooga in 1880.  It strikes me as vaguely appropriate that both the Choo Choo and I came from Ohio, although I started my journey 2 hours further North.

What surprises me, however, is that the train that made Chattanooga so famous is no longer in operation.  I guess it’s not too much of a surprise–after all, most passenger trains have gone by the wayside in the US.  In fact, I looked into what were the options for taking a train to Portland, Oregon from Chattanooga.  The closest train starts in Atlanta, goes up the East coast, across the Northern US through Chicago, up to Glacier National Park in Montana, and over to the West coast, going through Spokane, Washington and heading down to Portland via Seattle.

Looking down the tracks using HDR Pro, the brilliance of the azaleas just barely show up in the distance

Looking down the tracks using HDR Pro, the brilliance of the azaleas just barely show up in the distance

Pat and I took the train from Portland to Glacier a couple years ago.  It took about 14 hours.  To get all the way from Atlanta to Portland takes about 8 days.  As fun as traveling across the country by train sounds, 8 days of travel pretty much eats up an entire vacation.

It’s a bummer that we don’t have better public transportation here–the trains are one of the things that makes traveling around Europe so easy.  But, our penchant for driving seems to have made a passenger railway unsustainable.

The azaleas up close are so bright I had to pull down the saturation to keep it from hurting my eyes (HDR Pro app)

The azaleas up close are so bright I had to pull down the saturation to keep it from hurting my eyes (HDR Pro app)

As for the Chattanooga Choo Choo, the last train left the terminal in 1970.  The Chattanooga Choo Choo ran for 90 years from 1880 to 1970.  61 years after its first run, it was made famous by a WWII era song that was so famous, even I know the song in spite of the fact that I was born 26 years after the song hit the charts.  Even today, 72 years after the song made the train famous, I meet people from halfway around the world who are 20 years younger than me who have also heard the song.  The song was apparently easier to sustain than the train.

In spite of the demise of the Chattanooga Choo Choo, the former train station remains an attraction for visitors to the area.  I’ve stopped in there once, but some day I’ll get over there with my DSLR and do a blog post on the resort and museum that’s been erected there.

Twiggy and Tisen just spotted a cat up on the walkway by the building

Twiggy and Tisen just spotted a cat up on the walkway by the building

In the meantime, the best I have to offer are some iPhone shots of some of the vestigial tracks in the neighborhood.  There are still many active tracks in the area–the trains still serve industry–but in the downtown area, the tracks are left only as reminders of the past.

Tisen and Twiggy enjoyed their walk around the tracks–especially when they discovered a cat hiding out under the shrubs.  The building is an office building now–I don’t know the history of it, but I appreciated the azaleas.

One last look down the tracks in Hipstomatic's tintype effect

One last look down the tracks in Hipstomatic’s tintype effect

Warehouse Row

The Warehouse Row sign makes a great subject for the tintype effect of Hipstamatic

The Warehouse Row sign makes a great subject for the tintype effect of Hipstamatic

Warehouse Row is one of those really cool concepts that, as a fan of a given city, you really want to see succeed.  They took a bunch of warehouses (which apparently grew out of a military fort some time in the past) and turned them into a collection of shops and restaurants inside the original architecture.

This area was originally reinvented in the 1980’s and renovated again in 2006.  I really hope it takes off, but people are fickle.  People flock to anything new and cool.  But, new and cool wears off quickly and it’s hard to keep reinventing oneself fast enough to keep pace if “new and cool” is all you have to offer.

A brighter, more modern look at the Public House side of Warehouse Row

A brighter, more modern look at the Public House side of Warehouse Row

There are some other things going on in the area that may help Warehouse Row gain some more momentum in lieu of another facelift.  First of all, the city’s South side is starting to become a residential area.  It’s re-development from a manufacturing area to a mixed-use residential area was slowed (like all development) by the economic crisis, but as we continue to recover, more and more of the neighborhood transitions to a desirable place to live.  This combined with the growing number of shops and restaurants in other historical buildings just a couple of blocks from Warehouse Row should help keep a steady stream of customers in the vicinity.

Views around Warehouse Row

Views around Warehouse Row

Restaurants like Public House bring people in the doors. It’s an extremely popular place that people have told us about on more than one occasion.  When we decided to give it a try for the first time last weekend, we went early enough to check out a couple of shops as well.

The pedestrian walkway connecting two of the warehouses

The pedestrian walkway connecting two of the warehouses

The home decor shop we stopped in was extremely high end.  I spotted a floor lamp I liked, but it was $850.  Not what I was expecting to spend on a floor lamp.  They did have some nice things, however.  Although many of their items were oversized for our tiny condo.  It made me wonder if perhaps the reason the shops are not crowded with patrons is because of the price range they’re targeting.  That said, we didn’t make it in the doors of any other shops before getting so hungry we had to go get food.  The shops were all closed by the time we left, which was only 5PM on a Saturday.  I wondered a second time if the hours of the shops would be a limiting factor to their success.  Of course, I have no idea how successful they are or aren’t with their current price range and hours.

The entrance to the warehouse at the Public House end

The entrance to the warehouse at the Public House end

When we left, we had the dogs in the car so we took them for a little stroll before heading home.  This gave me the opportunity to take some photos of the area with my iPhone.  As I was shooting, it struck me that if I were looking at photos of this neighborhood, I would not guess it was in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

From the parking lot at Warehouse Row

From the parking lot at Warehouse Row

Vintage Twiggy

Miss Twiggy looking cozy in black and white

Miss Twiggy looking cozy in black and white

 

Well, it’s 12:48AM.  I just finished working (although I took a break to go to an Audubon Society meeting for a couple of hours).  Just for fun, I added up how many hours I’ve worked since Monday morning.  I’ve worked 35 hours so far this week.  I guess that’s not so bad.  But, it looks like I have some longer days ahead of me and I’ll probably be working this weekend.

Miss Twiggy looking a bit like lemonade

Miss Twiggy looking a bit like lemonade

Such is life.

But, in the interest of self-preservation, this is going to be a really short post.

I did a little experiment with Hipstamatic the other day.  Our friend and his dog, Twiggy, joined us for dinner.  Twiggy was lying on our sofa on top of the blanket we use to protect the sofa from the dogs.  Twiggy and the blanket were an almost perfect match.

A more realistic coloring on Twiggy and Sofa, but still a bit yellow

A more realistic coloring on Twiggy and Sofa, but still a bit yellow

I pulled out my iPhone and used Hipstamatic with the Jimmy lens (I think) and tried it with both the color and black and white tintype film.

I wanted to get Twiggy blending into the blanket in color, but for some reason the images all came out more yellow than they looked in real life.  I did not adjust any of the images–these are how they came out of Hipstamatic.

Final black and white version--I didn't notice how she holds her back feet until just now

Final black and white version–I didn’t notice how she holds her back feet until just now

Cove Lake

 

A nostalgic version of a fisherman sitting by the lake

A nostalgic version of a fisherman sitting by the lake

For anyone who has gone boating on a lake, one of the more popular boating activities is referred to as “coving.”  While coving sounds like something romantic two doves might do, coving can be among the most dangerous of activities that boaters undertake.  It largely consists of bobbing around in the water with adult beverages and hoping that no one runs over you with their outboard motor when they decide to leave after bobbing around drinking large quantities of said adult beverages.

I knew of one person who lost a leg when one of those inebriated boat drivers failed to avoid running him over in spite of dozens of people screaming at him to stop.  I was not there, but the story has soured the concept of coving for me.

A collection of clouds formed over the mountains in the distance in an otherwise clear blue sky

A collection of clouds formed over the mountains in the distance in an otherwise clear blue sky

On the flip side, coves are also coveted by water skiers, especially early in the day for their calm water that can look like glass when there’s no traffic on the lake.  Where there are water skiers and power boats, coves can be both exciting and dangerous.

Where there are no power boat, coves become a quiet area coveted for fishing.  Cove Lake State Park appears to have no power boats, only row boats (although I didn’t see any boats on the water on my way home last week).

What is perhaps the most odd circumstance of Cove Lake is that in spite of the quiet, secluded solitude its name implies, it’s cradled in the nook of two major highways, one of which is I-75.  When I got off the highway to check it out, I saw a lake from the freeway, but I assumed that was not Cove Lake.  I was wrong.  You can watch cars zooming by on an overpass from some parts of the park.

The row boats was patiently for someone to take them for a spin

The row boats was patiently for someone to take them for a spin

Curiously, the proximity to the freeway doesn’t make the park any less peaceful.  If there was noise from the freeway, I didn’t hear it.  From the number of fisherman gathering in the parking lots, preparing for their evening fishing, I’d guess it has a healthy fish population.

Tisen and I didn’t stay long enough to see anyone catch a fish, but it seemed like the guys in the parking lot had the kind of equipment only serious fisherman own and made a regular habit out of fishing at this little lake.

As we made our way back to the car, a Canada Goose couple started honking their alarm to their young, who immediately started hustling toward the safety of water.  I have read that geese who have never seen a canine will still respond with alarm to a canine-shaped animal, suggesting innate fears can be passed from one generation to the next.  I don’t know if these geese had seen a dog before, but Tisen barely had time to decide whether he was interested in the geese or not and turn his gaze their way before they were all in the water.  I’ve never seen goslings move faster!

One final shot of the lake as it continues its course around the bend and out of sight

One final shot of the lake as it continues its course around the bend and out of sight

Berea College

I believe this is a dorm--Hipstamatic tintype style

I believe this is a dorm–Hipstamatic tintype style

Berea and Berea College are an interesting place.  I say “an” because it’s not clear to me that they’re separable.  The founder of Berea College was also the founder of the town.  It seems they grew up together.

Having done no research on the place besides having seen signs for Berea and stopped in their visitor’s center once when we needed to make a quick pit stop on the way home, I had only a few second-hand pieces of knowledge about the place to work from.

I was fascinated by this giant tree in front of the dorm

I was fascinated by this giant tree in front of the dorm

First, I knew there was an artisan community in the town.  Second, I knew the college has a work-study program where the students are required to have a job and they get a portion of their tuition covered in exchange.  Finally, I knew of a girl in my nephew’s class in Indianapolis who was attending Berea and studying opera singing–they apparently have a good music program and are affordable even for out-of-state students.

A more modern spin on the same dorm and tree

A more modern spin on the same dorm and tree

When Tisen and I took a short walk in Berea, we managed to see a couple of buildings on the Berea College campus.  The buildings look much like buildings found on any college campus started in the late 1800’s.  What surprised me was when we were across from the Boone Tavern, there was a sand sculpture on the lawn of a building I would guess was a dorm.  The sand sculpture said two things that gave me pause.

Sand sculpture in lawn of the dorm

Sand sculpture in lawn of the dorm

First, “interracial” appeared as one of the values of the college.  I was rather shocked that in 2013, a liberal arts college felt the need to declare “interracial” as an important value to the college–are there any colleges that aren’t interracial in the US?

The second was, “Christian.”  I had never heard that Berea was a Christian school.  These two words caused me to do a little reading about Berea College online.  As it turns out, while Berea identifies itself as Christian, it also believes that you don’t have to identify yourself as a Christian to further Christian ideals.  As long as you accept the college’s mission, which includes doing work and doing it well, providing service to others, and promoting the notion that we’re all of “the same blood” whether we’re black, white, female, or male, you’re welcome to attend or work at the college.  So, while the college is Christian, the students and faculty may or may not be.

I love the big old trees on older campuses

I love the big old trees on older campuses

The fact that the college was conceived before the civil war explains why being interracial warrants comment in its mission.  It was among the first interracial schools in Kentucky, but was stopped from being interracial for about 45 years when Kentucky law prohibited it.  Berea College assisted with the creation of another school near Louisville to serve black students during that time and then re-integrated the school when the law was changed again in 1950.  They have good reason to consider integration an important value of the school, even if it is 2013.

I thought "Sustrainable" was a clever name for a group training others on sustainability until I realized it was a mistake in this hand-created sign

I thought “Sustrainable” was a clever name for a group training others on sustainability until I realized it was a mistake in this hand-created sign