NPS Unit count: 54
Hey there adventurers! Hot on the heels of my epic Alaska adventure, it was time for Bark Ranger Bella to do some exploring! My mother, in Indiana, was closing on a house and moving, so Bella and I went up there, but took some side adventures to and fro! BE SURE TO VISIT AND JOIN Bark Rangers of the U.S. National Parks!
My hometown of Evansville, IN is about 900 miles from my house in St. Petersburg. The drive sucks. There’s no 2 ways about it. It’s 3 hours to even get to Georgia, then another 6 plus to get out of that state, then about 4 more hours from there. At this stage in life, both for me, and for her, it’s a two day trip. This time we stayed the night in Chattanooga, TN on the drive up.
On our way, we stopped for a bit at Cloudland Canyon State Park about 30-45 minutes outside of Chattanooga. This is a really cool spot! It is one of Georgia’s 40 some state parks and I have to say that this is my 4th or 5th and they are all awesome so far! This one definitely has some sketchiness of both drive and area to get to it, but it’s definitely worth the side trip! This park, as the name suggests, features a large canyon. What I didn’t know is the canyon is actually a part of Lookout Mountain. I guess that mountain is actually very long and has many area to explore! Anyway, as with many state parks, this one has on-leash and picking up poo as the only rules! B and I did some hikes and I got some adorable pictures of her in her new hat. She was a hit with the others there! (Of course!).
I will say that Chattanooga has always been the grungy looking river town that I breezed through many times. This time though, I stopped and looked around, found some breweries, got some decent food, and was quite pleasantly surprised by the town! Chattanooga is SEMI DOG FRIENDLY. They don’t seem to be allowed inside, but many places have outdoor areas for them. I went to two breweries that were able to accommodate us. They were the Chattanooga Brewing Company and also Oddstory Brewing Company. Oddstory told me no dogs inside, but I was ok bringing her in to wait in line to order beer. Heads up. Both breweries were actually really good! The next morning we got up early to catch the sunrise at Raccoon Mountain. As luck would have it, the La Quinta I selected was literally only about 3 miles or so from this great viewpoint. Totally not planned! I didn’t even look up good sunrise locations until I went to bed that night!
After we finished up with son duties a week later, we were back on the road! This time we planned on driving from Evansville to Macon, GA. Bella and I have stopped over in Macon before. Atlanta is the halfway point, but from Evansville, it’s about 10 or so hours, realistically, to Macon. On our drive down Bark Ranger Papa had some stops in mind! We stopped at Stones River National Battlefield in Murfreesboro, TN. The Bark Ranger inspected some canons and was just cute in general! This park is preserving a battlefield from the civil war. There is no Bark Ranger program at this park, but it is very dog friendly. Per federal regulations, dogs are NOT allowed in federal buildings, which include buildings on National Park grounds. Also, this park has a cemetary. Dogs are NOT allowed within the cemetery either.
After departing Murfreesboro, we headed back to Lookout Mountain, specifically Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, also referred to as Point Park. This is also what everyone considers “Lookout Mountain”. It is a tourist trap in every sense of the word. If you know you know: this is where Ruby Falls and Rock City are as well…however, the park itself is a great stop for the Bark Ranger! This park preserves a civil war battlefield area and it offers awesome views of Chattanooga and actually does have quite a bit of hiking in the area. Unfortunately, there is no Bark Ranger program, but dogs are quite fine here other than the usual on leash and not in the visitor center type stuff. The human ranger working the entrance even had treats, which the Bark Ranger happily accepted!
After getting some cute pictures on Lookout Mountain we headed toward Macon, GA. We checked in to our La Quinta and headed toward the Ocmulgee Brewpub. We (I) got an awesome turkey burger and some decidedly Georgia health quality fries (see delicious and dripping in bad stuff) and some great beer. In contrast to St. Pete where dogs are pretty much allowed inside just about anywhere I ever go to, other places, including Georgia are not as cool…it had been raining earlier, and the bar staff told me that usually we’d have to stay outside, but considering the weather, the rules could be bent ;). The next morning we went to the brewery’s namesake park: Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park. This place is very interesting! It is basically right in Macon and charts a settled history of thousands and thousands of years, up to nearly modern times, of mound builders. The park is not very large and is extremely dog friendly. They have a bark ranger program! We hiked all the trails, saw all the mounds, then Bella had to go into a cool Earth Lodge, which contains the only, or the oldest original native temple floor in the country. It’s actually really neat. I appreciated that they not only allowed her inside there but that it was “required” for the Bark Ranger tag!
Afterward, with a long drive ahead, we departed to go visit the Jimmy Carter National Historic Park in Plains, GA. On the way I discovered there was ANOTHER National Park unit nearby, Andersonville National Historic Site. We stopped there first. This place serves three purposes. Number one: it is an active National Cemetery, and while we were there, there was a funeral occurring. Dogs are not allowed in the cemetery grounds. Number two: it memorializes the dead from a civil war prison camp here. This was a pretty sobering spot – there is a large section where the tombstones, which thankfully are all labeled, are almost touching each other. Apparently, soldiers during the civil war were buried in a mass trench grave at this spot. At least they recorded their names so stones could be put up, even though they might not be in the right spots. And thirdly, there is a large open field which was the location of the inhumane prison that union soldiers were kept in during the civil war. The history here is amazing!
After leaving Andersonville, it was only a 30 minute drive to the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in Plains, GA. This is an pretty depressed area and the only claim to fame is being the birthplace of President Carter. His old school, his campaign office, and his old home are all part of the national park area. Again, very dog friendly, but no dogs inside the school/museum/visitor center and no bark ranger program, as of now! The farm is entirely dog friendly! The problem here were the bugs, which were driving me and the dog insane! We did as much as we could. It is a working farm of sorts, goats and horses reside there. Jimmy’s childhood house, his tennis court, the barns, etc, are all still here for viewing. The campaign office is interesting, and so is the school, but the dog was in the *turned on and air conditioned* car, so I was only in those spots for a few minutes. Fun fact, Jimmy and Rosalynn still live exclusively in Plains! You can drive on the road by their house, but no stopping! I also saw a mean looking suburban pulling out of a church parking lot. It could have been them! After finishing up in Plains, we departed for Florida.
Bella was pretty tired after all of this, and so was I! She has a new bark ranger tag, I got 4 new national park units in and all in all, everything went very well!
Overall Impressions: Pros: Cloudland Canyon was the only outdoorsy spot and was superb. All of the rest were historical in nature and part of the NPS system. I am not as history loving as I used to be, but still, it’s some great history! All of them were very dog friendly, outside of the usual rules. Cons: Only one Bark Ranger tag to be found out of 4 pretty dog friendly national parks sites!
The Adventurer Final Word:
5 Stars! If the Bark Ranger gets to be a part of it, 5 stars!