Life on Lookout Mountain (Spring 2014)

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text and photography by JOHN DERSHAM

The Lookout Mountain region possesses just about the perfect climate if you solidly insist on four seasons, like I do. We have the beauty of the mountains without the extreme cold associated with points farther north. Our spring comes a little earlier and our fall lasts a little later. The climate is mostly comfortable, yet has  distinct seasonal changes.[s2If !is_user_logged_in()]

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[/s2If][s2If is_user_logged_in()]For me, each transition engages the senses and conjures up fond memories of the same season in the past.

Now is my favorite seasonal change. The days are growing longer, and for the first time in several months, the sun  in my face warms my skin. I go hiking with my wife and dogs, and along the way daffodils are beginning to bloom and dwarf crested irises are starting to break ground. Lookout Mountain is a place of great biodiversity. Our landscape is shared by plants and trees that are considered Northern or Southern species.

My wife and I have giant, sculpted-looking rock outcrops on our property; some are two stories high and cover an acre. In the old days, this devalued land because it made for less productive farms…the rocks were in the way of the plow.

When we bought our land, I figured rock outcrops would drive up the cost of the property. I was surprised to find the  great beauty and texture did not impact land value. Lookout Mountain is covered with large and small rock outcrops. Once upon a time, our area was a shallow sea full of creatures and plants. Over time, compression and upheaval frombeneath formed our mountains. Gradually, wind and erosion wears down the mountain and exposes the rock outcrops. Our limestone and sandstone composite rocks erode at different rates, giving them their sculptured look.

I love the first weeks of spring when the sun and wind team up to create the perfect feel in the air. The earth is racing to give birth to the multitude of plants turning from brown to green almost before our eyes. Soon the cherry trees will be blooming. The Southern red maple trees already have their tiny red blooms. Next  comes the dwarf crested iris, which covers our area in late March and early April, the wild azalea, dogwoods and then rhododendron.

Now is a good time for our waterfalls, too. The rivers are full of water, and the falls are fantastic. Lookout Mountain has waterfalls from the northern-most point of the mountain at Ruby Falls in Chattanooga, Tenn., all the way to Noccalula Falls at its southern end in Gadsden, Ala. DeSoto Falls in DeSoto State Park, Little River Falls in Little River Canyon National Preserve and a host of smaller waterfalls lie in between. Most are easy to get to during a nice spring hike. My wife and I enjoy this area for many reasons, from the great scenery to the unusual number of talented musicians, writers and artists who call this place home. We have some great places to eat and shop, too. Our area is well located if you need to leave the big city from time to time. Chattanooga, Atlanta, Huntsville,  Birmingham and Nashville are just a short drive away.

John Dersham is president/CEO of DeKalb Tourism.