Our second weekend at Cloudland Canyon State Park felt more like what we’ve experienced at other state park campgrounds than our first quiet, almost subdued, weekend here. The campground was packed by sunset on Friday, not a single empty campsite. While still subdued in contrast to the past campgrounds we’ve stayed at, the wafting campfire smoke and laughing, playing children were more like we’ve come to expect on a weekend.
Any state or Federal campground located this close to a large, urban area always fills up from Friday night until Sunday morning. These are campers who aren’t traveling, at least not more than an hour's drive from home. There are no families camping Monday through Friday with school age children after the school year starts. We are more campers than travelers, even though we travel constantly during the summertime. Unfortunately, we don’t always know what we will enjoy until we get there, regardless of the research effort we put into the location. We did well at Cloudland Canyon State Park, the vistas are beautiful, the trails are great, and we are only twenty-five miles south Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Our “mission” is to escape the heat and humidity of southwest Florida in an enjoyable, comfortable, yet affordable, manner. We tend to stay in the Georgia or North Carolina mountains high above the heat of the cities and campgrounds further south. We have found, however, that staying only a couple of days at any given campground has diminished our ability to fully enjoy areas around the campsite. We have found too much time spent in an area of minimal interest causes cabin fever, no matter how many books we have to read or how cool the mountain breezes.
When friends recommended Cloudland Canyon State Park in northwest Georgia – and research of the surrounding area showed we could expect many things to see and do – we reserved a full, two week stay and we expected to not only enjoy the weather, but to hike beautiful canyon trails and explore the area around nearby Chattanooga.
During a second trip to Chattanooga, we took the Tennessee Aquarium’ s River Gorge Explorer two-hour boat tour of the historic Tennessee River. A modern, 70 seat, high speed catamaran powered by 3500 hp water-jet engines occasionally hit speeds as high as 55 MPH, and then dramatically splashed down to a crawl to the delight of the children and those who have never driven a boat. The water-over-the-bow deceleration was done several times each way, but I noticed when we were in regular river traffic, the mundane and far less dramatic, comfortable slow throttle-back was the standard operation. No one is allowed out of their seats while the boat is on a high-speed plane, and we were warned beforehand whenever a rapid deceleration was imminent. The trip went far enough downstream – one hour – to escape the commercial river sections and show case riverfront homes at the beginning of the Tennessee River Gorge that lay farther south. The naturalist/guide was outstanding. We had a young man who knew every phase of the river and its ecosystem with personal knowledge of the entire system. That part of the tour was outstanding.
After twelve days of exploring the area around Lookout Mountain, where the campground is located, we are ready to roll. Living with high-speed bumper to bumper traffic is how I spent the most of my adult life, so in my retirement I choose to relax and kick back, enjoy the subdued pursuit of tranquility and relaxation. Driving Interstate 24 through Chattanooga is not the answer. Luckily, we’re only twenty-five miles away so that nerve-wracking Interstate construction zone driving experience only lasts a few minutes, either into or out of the city. The alternative, driving the Scenic Parkway along the top of Lookout Mountain and down into Fort Oglethorpe is a unique alternative, but not a viable one.
We did notice one major change in American restaurant protocol while eating in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. I have no doubt the MBAs who run America’s restaurants will soon implement the cost-saving procedure country-wide. There are two basic kinds of restaurants: those with settings and those with set-ups. A setting is found with table cloth restaurants and includes all the requisite silverware, such as forks – including a salad fork – spoons and knives placed carefully and sequentially on a cloth napkin. Setups on the other hand, are usually silverware/plastic-ware wrapped in a paper napkin held together with a tear-off wrapper casually tossed in the center of the table. Two restaurants we ate at, including a Thai restaurant we liked so much we returned for a second visit, and a Barbecue restaurant in nearby Trenton, had only one utensil in their set-ups: a fork! Cut your meat? Naw, just chew off a chunk. Push your veggies on your fork with your finger, although which one is considered proper. It wouldn’t surprise me if they reuse the wrapper the fork comes in. I wonder if this is catching on with restaurants country-wide?
This weekend the RVs are back in full force, except for a friendly, disciplined group of Asians which has replaced the Indian family camped in the same sites last weekend with yet another tent city. Their campsites last night were a problem for us as we tried to decide what kind of firewood they used in their campfires. Every once in a while we come across great smelling campfires, flavored with hickory or even mesquite, and conversely, sometimes we have neighbors who use old creosote-soaked, railway cross-ties. We retired early and turned on the air-conditioning.
Next: James “Sloppy” Floyd State Park, just in time for the solar eclipse, at:
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