June 24, 2019, Chattanooga-
I stopped here, “en route” from Crossville to Knoxville, as I have driven on through this fascinating city, several times, on the way to this or that appointment- when going from Atlanta to Nashville or Knoxville. My idea was to visit at least one of Chattanooga’s Big Three: Ruby Falls, Lookout Mountain Summit and Rock City. Ruby Falls got the nod, as it sits off by itself, whereas the other two are closer together. Of course, I could have walked the steps up to the Summit, after the two hours or so spent underground, but the heat was lingering-so, another time. Ruby Falls and Rock City are equally pricey-each is $21.95 for an adult; a package runs $43.50. There is also the “obligatory” photograph, taken before one is allowed into the cave. In the end, one can choose to purchase the photo ($40 per person/group) or, as I did, say “No thank you”.
The cave is privately-owned, thus the entrance fee. It is, though, well worth the time and money, to see the deepest underground waterfall in North America. ( I think VietNam has one that is actually deepest on the planet.) Several tour options are available- I took the Classic Waterfall Tour, with a group of about twenty people. Down we went, 26 floors, via elevator.
Here is some of what we saw, in Leo Lambert’s boyhood playground-which he later named for his wife, Ruby, after exploring professionally with a team of spelunkers.
Leo had to crawl, for seven hours, through places like this, to reach an area where he could actually stand.
Crystal deposits added a magical sense to his meanderings. (The blue lighting, of course, was added by the family, later.)
It looks like this stalactite is actually holding up the cave, but it just kept on going downward, until it met the ledge.
Here is where Mr. Lambert was first able to stand up, after seven hours of crawling. I don’t know as my circulation would allow for that.
Below is one of the few formations which people are allowed to touch, and even sit.
The Leaning Tower actually does resemble the landmark in Pisa, though it’s not subject to shifting ground.
This looks like it came out of a pasta maker.
Imagine tobacco, drying in the sun.
This looks like a frozen waterfall, but it’s more mineral deposit.
It was for this, that the Lamberts opened the caverns to the public, in 1929- a year when Americans needed all the comfort they could get. So this afternoon, 24 of us stood, 1,120 feet underground, and marveled at what nature has put together. It’s not Niagara, but it’s subterranean.
This is one place that Chattanooga Choo Choo isn’t going. Once off the mountain, though, I took an hour to check out downtown and get some fine ramen, with bubble tea on the side.
Back up to Knoxville it was, afterwards. I had seen a news report about a gas station robbery, on the east side, a day or so ago. I ended up at a motel just down the street from that gas station. No worries, though-people just did their own thing and left me alone, for a comfortable night’s sleep.
Life goes on.
NEXT: The Little Town That Almost Became Home Base