Chattanooga Redemption by Julie Terrill


I will try anything twice. An initial bad experience may have been a fluke or a food item may not have been well prepared. I am game for just about anything… except Chattanooga. I considered my initial encounter with Chattanooga to count twice – my first and last.

To be fair to Chattanoogans, this was not about your city.

This was about it being the unfortunate setting for living out my worst fear; getting lost and never being found. 03 Obviously the latter was not the case but I was quite certain that it would be.  I had taken my children to Tennessee for a grand adventure and now we would be lost and gone forever.

This was back in the day of “dumb phones” –  no Siri, no GPS, no Google Maps at my fingertips. It was dusk and I could see the lights of the highway but could not find an on ramp.  Nightfall only made matters worse.  One of my oh-so-witty teenaged children began to sing “Hotel California”.

Following a humiliating freak-out in front of my children, and with much assistance, I eventually became found and everyone lived.

For over a decade I twitched at the mere mention of Chattanooga.

My new friend, Linda, and I discovered that we are both involved in anti-trafficking efforts. She introduced me to Blazing Hope Ranch, a nonprofit organization in Tennessee that works with individuals who had been trafficked and was in the planning stages of its first summer camp experience for at-risk kids.  I was excited about the prospect of working with an organization that utilizes equine therapy. I submitted an application, provided references and underwent a background check.

Meanwhile, Linda and I began making travel plans and I assured her that I was an easy traveler. “I will try anything twice,” I said, “except Chattanooga. “

No words were necessary; the look on Linda’s face and awkward silence said it all.

Really??  You’ve got to be kidding me! During the months leading up to camp I worked hard not to ruminate about 04“Dreaded Chattanooga”.

Upon arrival I discovered that downtown Chattanooga and the Riverfront District have undergone an extensive redevelopment since my last visit.

The area is home to trendy restaurants, bistros, breweries and an arts district.  There is a bicycle share program with several hundred bikes available for rent at over 30 docking stations throughout the city.

The aquarium, art museum complex, children’s museum, a minor league baseball stadium, a renovated pedestrian bridge and the Tennessee River Walk, a thirteen mile long urban trail adjacent to the river, contribute to the welcoming atmosphere.01a

As a history nerd, this area is like one stop shopping!

The region contains numerous Civil War battlefields and memorials, historic mining sites, the setting of The Scopes Monkey Trial in nearby Dayton, and many Native American mounds, archeological areas and The Trail of Tears.

One serendipitous evening, we were offered the opportunity to see a reenactment of the Scopes Trial that was held in the very courtroom where, in 1925, William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow captured the attention of the nation while arguing this historic case. Be still, my nerdy little heart!

07While the city initially captured my attention, it was the wilderness areas; the waterways, caverns, waterfalls, mountains and temperate rainforests that captured my heart.  We walked, hiked, stacked rocks, watched wildlife and spent a glorious afternoon cooling off in a swimming hole. It was probably best that we didn’t meet up with the ranger until we were leaving. The knowledge that water moccasins also enjoy the swimming hole may have lessened my bliss.

So, am I glad that I went? Absolutely! Would I go back? In a heartbeat!

Like I always say… I will do anything twice.


About the Author: Julie Terrill


Julie Terrill is a photographer and writer with a passion for travel. For ten years, she’s told stories of empowerment through the lens of her camera in an array of unique landscapes, environments, and projects – from a shelter for children rescued from trafficking in Thailand to Faces of Courage, complimentary portrait sessions she offers to cancer patients in her community. She is a photographer and facilitator at Beautiful You and Soul Restoration retreats.

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