Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lula Lake Land Trust - A Little Known Gem on Lookout Mountain

The Lula Lake Land Trust is a privately owned 4,000 acre preserve on Lookout Mountain in Northwest Georgia. Lookout Mountain is a massive, cave riddled, and heavily forested limestone ridge that stretches from North Alabama to Tennessee. Lula Lake is very near the town of Lookout Mountain, Georgia and a good many entertaining attractions typically associated with Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Lula Lake Land Trust has a lot to offer a family with energetic children. Its natural beauty and outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, wildlife watching, and fossil hunting make this a memorable destination. Oddly, the land is open to the public only on the first and last Saturdays of each month. Just show-up, sign-in, and enjoy. If you want to make arrangements for a group field trip, you can contact the land manager to request special arrangements.

The property was the home to the Durham coal mine around the turn of the 20th century, and the mine's tailings have tons of fern fossils. The part of the property that
contains the mine tailings is not typically open to the public, but the Land Manager told us arrangements could be made for small groups to visit the site.

There are numerous trails covering the property, and a new trail connecting the Lula Lake property to Cloudland Canyon State Park is being cleared for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. The main trail we walked on is an old rail bed for the train that carried coal off the property. It's a really interesting walk along Rock Creek. Lula Lake itself is little more than a pool in the creek that accumulates just before a small waterfall, but the view from the old renovated Iron bridge is quite nice. Further down the trail is another larger waterfall, and the climb down to the base and back out makes for some pretty good exercise.

While in the area, consider visiting the tourist attractions like Ruby Falls, Rock City, and the Inclined Railway. All these attractions overlook Chattanooga and its awesome Tennessee Aquarium, Tennessee River, Chattanooga Choo Choo, a really neat little zoo, and lots more.

For more pictures and information, visit the PB&J Adventures website.
Fern photo credit-

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Bucket Full of Memories

A Bucket Full of Memories - Rockhounding on the Road 
Funny thing about rocks, you can find them just about anywhere. From mountain streams to the seashore, rocks have been revealed and eroded by wind and water, blasted out of the Earth by volcanoes, pushed from the ground by unseen forces, and exposed by construction and mining. You might assume that since rocks are so common, they must not be very interesting, right? Well, that depends on your perspective.

We initially began collecting rocks because one of the kids received a rock polisher for Christmas a few years back. It was cheap and didn't last long (Santa didn't know how to shop for a good quality rock tumbler, but that's another story).

Coincidentally, it was around the same time that we visited James H (Sloppy) Floyd State Park, a place with an abundance of collectible rocks and fossils. Quite by accident, while hiking to the park's abandoned marble mine, we found some very unusual rocks. After some research, we discovered they were agate, and they polished beautifully. On that same trip, we also found rose quartz, pink marble, and a few fossils. It was this trip to Sloppy Floyd State Park that inspired the purchase of a camper, and the rest is history.

What do we love about rockhounding? Our list is pretty long, so I'll try to be brief.

1- Rocks are everywhere, so no matter where you go or what you do, rocks can't be too far away. It's a relatively easy and inexpensive activity, at least until you start polishing the rocks.

2- Searching for rocks, minerals, fossils, and artifacts keeps kids entertained (distracted) on those long hikes resulting in fewer complaints about boredom or sore legs and feet. The twins were just three when we went on that hike to the marble mine at Sloppy Floyd, about a 2 mile round trip.

3- Searching for rocks (colors, shapes) encourages kids to keep their eyes on the ground so they can watch their their step (and watch for snakes).

4- It's educational. Every rock, fossil,  is a lesson in history, science, and mathematics. Learning how the various types of rocks and minerals are formed and why they are shaped or patterned the way they are is very interesting when you can hold the evidence in your hand. We let the kids take some of the rocks to school when they are covering Earth and geology. They are always a big hit.

5- Rockhounding can take you places you wouldn't have otherwise discovered. We have visited several really neat towns and remote areas based on research for rockhounding. Geocaching is also a great activity for finding new places.

6- Rocks you find at various locations will always remind you of that place and the things you did while there. It's kind of  like a souvenir without the gift shop. I call our rocks a "bucket full of memories".

7- Rocks are beautiful. We have found some of the most astonishingly beautiful rocks in some of the most unlikely places. Semi precious gemstones are great, but some of the prettiest rocks in our collection are more or less worthless. That's ok, their value is much greater than any amount of money.

8- Commercial gem grubbing mines typically provide some pretty good inexpensive and not so clean fun. Give the kid a bucket of dirt and tell them to go play in the water. You won't get much argument. We spent two full days at Gold n Gem Grubbin in Cleveland, Georgia, Panning for gold in the creek and grubbing for Gems at the (nice place to camp too!).

9- Using the rocks and special wrapping wire, you can also learn to make jewelry. The pendant shown here, I made with square silver wire and a shaped and polished agate I found in Summerville, Georgia near Sloppy Floyd State Park.

10- The act of looking for and collecting minerals, rocks, and fossils, and gem grubbing and gold panning gives each and every family member something in common with their siblings and parents. The kids have learned about different types of crystals and rocks, and it gives them something to talk about. I can't tell you how many times I have had one of the kids come running up shouting Daddy, look at this rock I found. The kids will compare their rocks and brag about who found the best one.

One of my favorite benefits of collecting and polishing rocks is the uncanny way they can bring back memories. Sometimes we pull the bucket out and spread the finely polished agate, quartz crystals, amethyst, chert nodules, garnet, and various other rocks and minerals out on a towel covered table. We'll turn the lights up and go through them one by one talking about where we found them and what we did while we were there..

So there you have it, 10, no 11 reasons we rock hound. We're making memories, and I'd be willing to bet the kids will fight over the collection when Mommy and Daddy are gone. 

Proofed and Edited by Lee Thomas Richardson

For more stories and pictures from our adventures in the Southeastern US, visit our website  -