Cherohala Skyway

Cherohala Skyway

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ruby Falls, Chattanooga, Tennessee

 

Blairsville, Ga  (high 70, low 40)

 

We’ve had frost two mornings this past week, but it looks like it’s going to warm up a little the next week.  The weather has been perfect.  Blue skies, and cool crisp air.  This is the perfect time of year here in the mountains.  Even though we’ve been here since early July, we are NOT anxious to leave next week.

We’ve been busy trying to find the fall foliage.   There are some areas that have been pretty, but for the most part the color is not spectacular this year.  We saw some nice color almost 2 weeks ago at Brasstown Bald (the tallest peak in GA) and the Cherohala Skyway, but it’s very spotty.

A few days ago we took a drive to Chattanooga to see Rock City, Ruby Falls, and the birthplace of a very special boy.

We drove to Chattanooga via hwy 64, hoping for some fall color.  Unfortunately, it looked like it had already peaked.

It was a pretty drive though. 

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It was a three state day.

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Highway 64 in Tennessee, runs alongside the Ocoee River, which is the home of the 1996 summer Olympic kayaking events. 

We had intended on going back there this week-end for the water release, but due to lack of fall color, we scrapped that plan.

At one point, there were some huge rocks that had fallen down into embankment.   I thought of this later in the day when we were 1100 feet underneath these type of rocks.

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We arrived in Chattanooga and followed the signs to Lookout Mountain and Ruby Falls.

The caves at Ruby Falls had been used by native Americans and both Union and Confederate soldiers who set up hospitals inside.  There was a cave opening in the side of the mountain, but in  1905, the original cave entrance was sealed off when the Southern Railway completed a tunnel through the base of the mountain.

In 1923, cave enthusiast, Leo Lambert decided to attempt to reopen the cave by drilling an elevator shaft straight down 420 feet through solid rock, and into the base of the mountain.

In 1928, while drilling the shaft, workers felt a gush of air at 260 feet.  Leo Lambert and a small crew crawled down into an 18 inch shaft and explored the cave.  He was gone for 17 hours.  When he came back, he had wonderful stories of the wonders of the cave, including the amazing underground waterfall.

On his next trip into the cave, he took his wife Ruby who crawled on her belly in a 18 inch opening, in a dress!   Leo named the waterfall after his wife.

In 1975, the secondary exit from the falls to the base of the mountain was cut.  On our way out, going up the elevator, it occurred to me that there may only be one way in and one way out.  What would happen if there was a power outage, or the elevator quit.   I was glad when our guide told us there was a back up exit.     Maybe I should have thought of that going in.

That elevator shaft took us straight down into the solid rock mountain, but now you can only go down 260 feet because OSHA stopped allowing visitors to the lower caves that are some 400 feet down.  

Our cave tour was guided, and as usual, they went way too fast for me.  We took our spot at the end of the group, so that we could snap pictures and not hold up everyone else.

We were constantly getting left behind but fortunately there were signs telling you where to go. 

There were well placed lights and with the right camera settings, you could get pictures without using your flash.   I wasn’t happy with my pictures.  Some of it was operator error, and some of it was lack of time to even focus.  I hate rushed cave tours.

Some areas were wide and high.

Ruby Falls

Ruby Falls

 

Ruby Falls

There were beautiful formations.

Ruby Falls

Some resembling animals.

Ruby Falls

 

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This was a reflecting pool.  If the guide would have just slowed down a little, I could have gotten a much better photo.

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Ruby Falls

 

The 145 foot waterfall is at the end of a large chamber. 

At this point, we were 1106 feet below the surface!

There are automatic lights that go on for a few minutes, changing colors the entire time.   I would have liked to have seen it with natural lighting like in the next picture that I borrowed.

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The guide mentioned something about going behind the falls, but when we got there, that area was roped off.

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We thoroughly enjoyed Ruby Falls, but would have enjoyed a more leisurely tour more.  There were so many people touring the cave, so I know they have to get you in and out quickly. 

Afterwards, we drove up the road to Rock City, and then to a special place we had last visited many years ago.

I’ll post about those later as this blog is already too long.

see Rock city