Life on Lookout Mountain (Fall 2013)

Lookout Mountain Parkway

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text and photography by JOHN DERSHAM

All over our planet there are little pockets of beauty and culture that seem different from those anywhere else. These areas are so distinct they tend to be viewed as their own mini worlds.

The Lookout Mountain region of Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee is a place like this. The mountain, along with the surrounding valley towns, cities and communities, has a very special ambiance. Part of this is due to our location. This is a geographic boundary area where north meets south, so much so that we support both northern and southern flora and fauna. The best of both flourish here.[s2If !is_user_logged_in()]

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[/s2If][s2If is_user_logged_in()]Even the weather is in-between: not too hot and not too cold when compared to farther south and north, respectively.

Culturally, we are a bridge too. Dekalb and Jackson counties voted against seceding from the union during the Civil War. These areas were neutral enough that union soldiers spent much of the summer of 1863 camped at the foot of Lookout Mountain in valley head; many went on to fight in the Battle of Chickamauga in northwest Georgia.

The city of Fort Payne, just south of valley head, became a “Boom town” in the late 1880s as New Englanders, mostly from Boston, poured in to develop the iron and coal industries. They built an opera house still in use today as a wonderful hall for theater and music. They constructed beautiful downtown buildings, a giant hotel, gorgeous Victorian homes and a fantastic sandstone railroad depot. A majority of this architectural influence still stands today, and much of it has been restored.

Here on Lookout Mountain we have always been a magnet for artists, writers, craftspeople and spiritual souls. Many people have moved here because something lured them to this mountain. We have great musicians here, too. I have never seen a place where so many people sing, write music and play stringed instruments.

The Little River runs its north-to-south course on Lookout Mountain. It’s the only river in our hemisphere that flows almost its entire length atop a mountain. Over the millennia it has carved a 650-foot-deep canyon. There you will find gorgeous waterfalls and magnificent rock outcroppings and bluffs. in 1992, Little River Canyon became a national park service property now operated as Little River Canyon national preserve. And that’s not all: Noccalula Falls and Desoto state park are both great places on the mountain to visit, too.

My wife and I live near the Lookout Mountain scenic parkway, which runs the 93-mile length of Lookout Mountain from Gadsden, Ala., in the south to its northern tip in Chattanooga, Tenn. It is one of reader’s Digest’s top scenic drives and includes an alternate route that runs along the rim of Little River canyon.

With fall foliage coming soon, our area turns into a colorful palette of yellows, reds, maroons, oranges and everything in-between. I look forward to pulling the top down on my 23-year-old Mazda Miata and letting the cool fall air blow in my face as i drive the scenic parkway, relax and enjoy our fantastic mini world here in the Lookout Mountain region. I hope you can join us.[/s2If]