Hernando, Florida to Sheboygan, Wisconsin, 1,360 Miles
Chattanooga, Tennessee, June 22nd – June 26th
Seriously I visited so many things related to the Civil War in the second leg of my trip. On day 5, on the way from Forsyth to Chattanooga, I finally stopped at Sweetwater Creek State Park, another Atlanta site that I’ve been meaning to go to for years. The park is beautiful but I was really there to see the ruins of the New Manchester Manufacturing Company textile mill which was destroyed during the Civil War. The burned out brick building along the river is so picturesque that it was used as a film set in the Hunger Games. The interior unfortunately is closed off but it’s an easy hike to see them & the museum at the visitor’s center has a model of the ruin along with several very nice exhibits of the machinery from the days when the mill was in use.
On Day 6 I took a short trip my steam locomotive at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. Chattanooga was a rail hub of the south during the Civil War so a lot of the sites that aren’t battlefields have to do with trains. Which are usually presented in their relationships to battlefields. Anyway the train trip was fun, aside from the guy who made train noises THE. WHOLE. TIME. At the opposite end of the tracks from the main rail yard the museum has a workshop where they repair historic trains from all over the country. They also have a turntable which they use to switch the engine around & that was really cool to watch. That trip was only about a hour but if you’re really into historic trains they also have an all day trip that goes all the way to Summerville, Georgia. In the afternoon I went for a hike at Moccasin Bend National Archaeological District, where parts of the trail follow the original route of the Trail of Tears. It was a sobering experience to walk on those paths. (Be careful not to accidentally wander onto the grounds of the Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute like I almost did!)
On Day 7 I took another short rail trip, this time on the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway, the steepest funicular railway in the U.S. It runs at a 72.7% grade up the side of Lookout Mountain (home to a battlefield) with beautiful views of the city & surroundings all the way up the incline & from the observation tower at the top. It’s actually a legit form of public transit used by locals, especially in the winter – it’s certainly safer than driving down the mountain in the snow. Coming back down off the mountain I headed back into Georgia to the Chickamauga Battlefield (the Chickamauga & Lookout Mountain Battlefields plus Moccasin Bend, Chattanooga National Cemetery, & a couple of other properties collectively form Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park). Chickamauga has like 762,000 monuments, pretty much one for every single regiment that came anywhere near the war. I did the cell phone tour, where you drive around the loop & call in to hear the audio tour. I didn’t stop to see every single monument but I did climb up to the Wilder Brigade Monument for a panoramic view of the whole area. They also have an insane firearms collection at the visitor’s center, I’m not kidding when I say I think they have every type of gun ever made (at least up until the collection was donated in the 1950s).
Day 8 was dedicated to a totally different activity – a drive to Scottsboro, Alabama to the Unclaimed Baggage Center. This place is A.MAZ.ING. It’s like a garage sale, thrift store, junk shop, all rolled into one & on steroids. It’s literally a huge warehouse full of everything that gets left on planes AND YOU CAN BUY IT. HOW some of this stuff gets lost I will never know. The walls have permanent displays of some of the weirder things – ethnic headdresses, musical instruments, priceless antiques. I think those must be the things that airlines lose entirely (which is pretty wild, I mean how many people are flying with giant Alpine horns that nobody can reunite that with its owner?); there most be some intense angry airline customer stories behind some of it. Then there’s the stuff that’s for sale – wedding dresses, cameras, laptops, jewelry, mountains of clothing & purses, it just goes on and on and on. THEN, there’s a warehouse behind the main warehouse where they have clearance stuff & lost commercial shipments so there hundreds of rolls of toilet paper or a zillion tubes of toothpaste. I bought a charger pack for my phone, a head band for my GoPro, & a practically new U.S. atlas for like $15.
Next stop: historic sites & wild animals in Nashville, Tennessee!