Starting to Circuit the Best of Southeastern Bouldering (With my Proudest Send!)

My crew of lady crushers at Rocktown in Georgia.One of my favorite things about the climbing culture of the southeast is our pride. Folks around here are proud of their local boulderfields, proud of hard-earned sends, proud to be a part of a community with camaraderie, hospitality, and deep-rooted, well, pride unlike any other population of climbers I’ve encountered on this trip. This is my favorite place in the entire country, and it feels so good to be home in the southeast.

For the remainder of my yearlong trip (less than 12 weeks, whoa!), Niko and I will be circuiting the climbing areas throughout Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, and a bit of North Carolina. Our main focus is what we consider the true triple crown of the southeast: Stone Fort in Tennessee, Rocktown in Georgia, and Horse Pens 40 in Alabama. Now, I love Hound Ears more than anything, but it’s only open one day a year (and no days this year), so I think it’s about time Rocktown earned some respect with triple crown status.

We spent the weekend climbing at Rocktown with old friends from Tallahassee Rock Gym, and Vikki and Spenser from The RV Project. For once, the ladies outnumbered the men! It is so good to be crushing with Vikki again – she is the queen of short lady beta, and has helped me crush a few problems I was struggling with.

Finishing the top-out on Grape Ape (V4) at Rocktown in Georgia.Rocktown impressed us with some crazy autumn colors, easily the best we’ve ever seen out there. I spent the weekend getting a little mileage with a few new sends mixed in, like Belly Button (V3), and a totally-intimidating-can’t-believe-I-sent-it V4 called Grape Ape. It’s a fairly committing, tall boulder that demands you to trust your feet and lean over a funky slab to a great, but slightly out of reach, jug. I was mildly terrified at the top, but somehow made it work.

I’ve yet to find any big projects that really inspire me at Rocktown, but we’ll be spending a lot of time there so I’ll do some exploring until I stumble upon a climb that pushes my limits and motivates me to challenge myself on it. In the meantime, I returned to Stone Fort near Chattanooga to tango with a climb that has haunted me for way too long: Shotgun (V6).

During our last southeastern climbing trip before starting our yearlong trip, I fell in love with a boulder problem that was way out of my league, but absolutely enchanting. The fellas I was with quickly sent it, while I fumbled around on the first move without making any progress. For some reason, I was convinced that this was the one, and vowed that my goal for my yearlong adventure was to come back to the southeast and send Shotgun.

And I tried and tried. I came up with crazy beta that doubled the amount of moves I had to do compared to most folks who climb it. And I made progress. Then I got shut down, left Stone Fort for a while, and trained a bit at Tallahassee Rock Gym. And then I came back, and everything clicked.Gunning for the big pinch on Shotgun (V6) at Stone Fort. I’m still not entirely sure how I managed to get up to the top out of this boulder, but it happened. It was my last attempt for the day, and I wasn’t quite feeling it, so I decided to just really throw myself at the big pinch move that had been shutting me down – and it worked. I reached up to the victory jug, recollected myself, and prepared for the notorious top-out.

I’ll admit, I spent a LOT of time hanging out on those slopers. There’s seriously just nothing there. You have to slap your hands on the flat nothingness, trust your feet, and stand up. Luckily, I had Spenser snapping pictures from the top of the boulder, plus Vikki and Niko cheering me on from below. It was an ugly struggle, but I had to do what I had to do.

Sussing out the top-out on Shotgun (V6) at Stone Fort in Tennessee.Working out the slopers on the top-out of Shotgun (V6) at Stone Fort in Chattanooga.Photos: Spenser Tang-Smith of The RV Project – he’s the best. 

Folks, it was a big moment for this little lady. There was totally a happy-dance on top of the boulder. Now I need a new project to keep me motivated at Stone Fort. The icing on my yearlong trip cake would be to send a V7 before the adventure officially ends – but that’s definitely dreaming big.

Since we’ll be around the Chattanooga area for the next few weeks, Niko and I (along with Vikki and Spenser of The RV Project) decided to show some love to my favorite climbing organization, the Southeastern Climbers Coalition. We’ll be volunteering at the second annual Buy Your Own Boulderfield fundraiser party at The Crash Pad on Friday night – and if you’re in town you ought to be there! (And if you’re not in town, it’s totally worth making a weekend trip for – we’ll go crush some boulders afterwards!) The SCC will be auctioning off awesome swag like crash pads, climbing videography workshops, rock gym passes, and even a climbing day with Lisa Rands.

Come to the BYOB party in Chattanooga –
I’ll be serving up all-you-can-eat chili all night!

Cozy bunks, robust coffee, and a killer crew at The Crash Pad hostel in Chattanooga

Throughout my travels, I’ve slept a lot of places. My tent has been pitched on plenty of plots of land, and then there have been the less dignified nights snoozing at truck stops or sleeping in my hatchback in Walmart parking lots.

I ain’t too picky when it comes to catching a few hours of rest.

During the summer’s final hoorah, a climbing trip to Georgia and Tennessee, I was spoiled with the most wonderful accommodations I have ever experienced during an outdoor adventure: The Crash Pad hostel in Chattanooga. I’ve been dying to check out this innovative lodging venue designed specifically for adventurers, but wasn’t able to make it happen until I won two free nights during their Ultimate Adventure contest – then it was game on.

After a hot and sticky day climbing at Rocktown, Niko and I drove up to Tennessee and made our way to Chattanooga’s charming Southside neighborhood. To my delight, The Crash Pad sits just around the corner from one of my favorite landmarks in town, the flashing signage from the Chattanooga Choo-Choo.

Immediately upon walking into the hostel, I was greeted by the hostel’s directors of all things awesome, Al and John. They were as stoked to meet me as I was to finally meet them, and they totally made me blush with compliments about The Morning Fresh. Those fellas know how to woo a lady!

We checked in, and then got a little tour of the hostel. The cozy bunk area offered sturdy beds with great privacy curtains, and tons of outlets. Seriously, +100 for the abundance of outlets all over this hostel. We wandered towards our private room, and were instantly impressed by how perfectly simple the set-up was.

Just a big bed (with all linens provided), a little shelf with an alarm clock and lamp, a bright window, and a sweet modern sink. What more could you need? Everything was in pristine condition, and I loved the no-fuss, no-frills feel.

Bonus points: The property had recently broken ground on a new bar/restaurant, to be named the Flying Squirrel, which will make it nearly impossible to ever leave this pleasant plot of land. While it was a slight bummer for me wanting to take lots of pictures of the hostel’s exterior, I am elated to see that The Crash Pad’s success story is adding a new chapter – especially since it involves beer.

Basically, I am smitten with The Crash Pad.

[Read more…]

I’m adventuring north to Georgia and Tennessee for some climbing and Chattanooga lovin’

If you know me, you know one thing: I don’t like to stay put for too long. After two weeks of recovering from my adventures in (and around) Salt Lake City, I’m once again packing my bags –

I’m off on a climbing trip to Rocktown and Stone Fort!

Niko and I visited Stone Fort (more lovingly known as Little Rock City) earlier this summer, and nearly melted in the swelter while I sent my ultimate project, Super Mario. It’s still August, but the temperatures have leveled off considerably, and I’m looking forward to highs in the mid-80s, and a gorgeous low of 61°. Top off that forecast with a mere 0-10% chance of rain, and you’ve got my ideal summer climbing conditions.

We’re also spending a day climbing at Rocktown, one of Georgia’s best crags – but honestly, what I’m most excited for this trip is finally getting the chance to stay at The Crash Pad in Chattanooga. This hostel caught my attention when it was a mere concept and a patch of neglected land; it now proudly stands as one of the most innovative and inviting hubs for adventurers visiting Tennessee. I won second place in their Ultimate Adventure contest a few months ago, and after multiple failed attempts at booking my two free nights (seriously, these folks are killin’ it; they’re always booked solid), I finally snagged myself a private room! It’s going to be way snazzy, and certainly beats the hell out of camping in a Walmart parking lot.

Stay tuned for lots of updates on my experience at The Crash Pad!

Naturally, I’ve got my eye on a few boulder problems at these two classic crags. I’m keen on a repeat of Super Mario, but really want to send my first V5. At Stone Fort, I’m hoping to crush the juggy underclings and allegedly smooth mantle on Steam Roller – and if I have enough steam left in me, I might hop on a sweet roof problem called Bonesaw. My main project at Rocktown will be a V5 named Police Brutality, but I might also give Double Trouble a chance. Both Rocktown routes have been calling my attention since my first trip out there years agos, and now I’m finally strong enough to actually give ‘em a go.

We’ll see how it goes!

While I’m out romping around in the woods, you ought to keep yourself busy by entering my giveaway for a Rig 500 hydration pack system from GeigerRig! Check out the contest – all you have to do is submit your best summer adventure photo for a chance to win! (Giveaway ends August 31st.)

Psssst... You should also keep your eye out for some really exciting announcements from me and Niko’s yearlong 2013 Simply Adventure trip – we’ve got some awesome sponsors we’re partnering with, and we can’t wait to introduce ‘em! 

I’m out in Tennessee, and I ain’t coming home until my climbing project is sent

In November of 2009, I set out on my first climbing trip to a place called Little Rock City in Tennessee – which I now more often refer to by its proper name, Stone Fort. I had only been climbing for a handful of weeks, and don’t even remember if I sent any routes during that inaugural outdoor excursion, but I do remember one distinguished boulder, and the legendary route that sat on the featured rock:

Super Mario.

Over the course of half a dozen trips out to Stone Fort, spread across a handful of years, I have always been drawn to Super Mario. The first few climbing trips spent working the route were admittedly doomed for failure; I was hardly a V4 climber when I decided this route would become my conquest. My most recent visit to the area was during January, during a time when I hadn’t been climbing consistently for about six months. It was no surprise when I was yet again unable to make the send.

This time, I’m ready. (I think.) I’ve sent multiple V5s in rock gyms across the country, I’ve been training for the past few months for both sport climbing and bouldering, and despite a two week break from climbing to galavant all over Arizona, I feel strong. This is it. Super Mario’s reign of defeat is coming to an end, and I’m not coming home until I finish it.

Mind you, Niko has to be back for classes on Monday,
so this boulder problem better go down quickly. I’m just sayin’. 

While I enjoy my weekend of chalky, sweaty hands, torn up finger tips, aching muscles, a tricky knee-bar, and (hopefully) a victory slice of Lupi’s Pizza after sending Super Mario, check out this great video by Andrew Kornylak that gives insight to the beta and beauty of this classic Stone Fort climb.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/7388463]

Send lots of positive, rock-crushin’ thoughts my way – I’m going to need as many good vibes as I can soak up!

The first climbing trip of 2012; wintry adventures at Stone Fort, Rocktown, and beyond

I confess: I’m wretched at embracing the moment and writing about my adventures right as or after they happen. I tend to let photos mull in my memory card, and have the awful habit of posting pictures on social media sites before I actually make proper use of them.

I hereby vow to never let more than 72 hours pass before blogging about an experience.

But first I have to clear out my vault of outdoor photos, adventure stories, and memories of all the tasty eats I’ve devoured along the way. Our first tick off the list of adventures to be discussed? My New Years climbing trip to Georgia and Tennessee.

The trip commenced with a late start on New Years Eve as Niko, Max, and I crammed into my beau’s small pick-up truck, and then barreled down rural back-roads towards the Georgia state line. Max quickly passed out in the backseat, so Niko and I shared a quiet New Years kiss – and in what I call an omen of good couple’s travel for 2012, the clock struck midnight just as we were passing over long bridge on the Chattahoochee River in Georgia.

The trip began in a rather wet manner, with a day of rain on the agenda. We left our lodgings in LaFayette, Georgia, in hopes that the hour trek out to the Chattanooga, Tennessee area would welcome us with some sunshine – but it didn’t. After a few hours spent killing time around town, we decided to brave the weather and drove out to Soddy Daisy.Miraculously, the sun came out for a few hours, so we drove out to a newly established, and very locally guarded, crag called Pep Boys. With locals who specifically asked that the location of this climbing spot be kept secret, I can’t quite divulge the whereabouts of this gorgeous destination – but let me tell you, it was enchanting.

The climbs were all still dripping from the morning storms, but I was pleased to wander around the trails and scramble up large hueco formations in my sneakers. Two beautiful cave areas sat divided by a gushing brook, and their magnificence alone was enough to make me determined to revisit this spot during a drier day.After declaring Pep Boys a bust due to climbs that were all sitting out of the sun, and therefore would take hours to dry, we retreated back up the mountain towards a favorite spot of mine, Stone Fort (Little Rock City). This crag sits directly on the Mont Lake Golf Course, making for a unique collision of dirty climber folk, and refined country clubbers.

We had much more success at this climbing spot, and I spent my day challenging myself on old classics, watching the boys defeat burly new discoveries like The Blacksmith, a surprising V9 that John crushed early in the afternoon.

Revisiting Super Mario (V4) was a frustrating affair for me. This problem holds a special place in my heart, because it was the first ‘real’ problem I ever witnessed outdoors. During my very first outdoor climbing trip in 2009, I sat transfixed in front of this iconic boulder as I watched climbers years beyond my skills easily traverse the route and top out over the bulging rock. I have been determined to send it ever since, but my return visits to Little Rock City have been few and far between.

Most recently, over summer perhaps, I had almost finished the problem – save for one tricky move. However, this return trip was a harsh wake-up call about the repercussions of my little climbing hiatus that began when I moved out to Denver; my strength and skills were totally trashed. I could hardly even get as far as I once had, let alone make any progress. I’ll admit, it was slightly frustrating to watch everyone else easily send Super Mario, but more importantly, it served to light a fire under my ass about getting back in shape. Satisfied with salvaging an otherwise rained-out day, we celebrated our trip with a visit to Lupi’s Pizza in Chattanooga before heading back to Georgia for the evening. At this point, I began obsessed over the morning’s weather forecasts; the Rocktown area was threatened with even more rain, and worse, below-freezing temperatures and gusting winds up to 30 mph. Yikes.

The day began relatively pleasant, albeit undeniably frigid. We felt our climbing inspiration surge as we spotted a few famous climbers in the gas station at the base of the Rocktown mountain.

I hardly climbed at all on this last day, largely because I could hardly warm my fingers up enough to even take my gloves off. The crew gathered around Sherman Photo Roof (V7) to watch Libbi work what has become her favorite project. In true Niko fashion, without even warming up, Niko surveyed the tricky route, said “this looks pretty cool,” tossed on his shoes, and flashed the problem as if he had climbed it a million times.

Eventually, our big group splintered off as we split up to focus on various problems throughout Rocktown. At this point, the wind began to really pick up, and the frosty gusts of humid Georgia air transformed from mildly unpleasant to unbearably frigid. Niko and I tromped around the crag in search of our remaining party members before retreating to the car, where we hid from the cold and stuffed our faces with Cheez-its while chatting with a group of Florida climbing friends we bumped into.

Eventually, our group convened in the parking area, and thus concluded our adventures to Georgia and Tennessee. Half of the clan continued on to Atlanta for an evening training session at Stone Summit, while our car gladly sped off back towards Tallahassee.

While my climbing was admittedly pathetic during this trip, it was a great way to motivate my New Years resolution to be crushing first V5s, then V6-7 by the end of the year. My move to Colorado saw an unacceptably long break in my climbing, and returning to my home rock gym in Florida was a huge eye-opener, mercilessly reminding me how much strength I had lost during my climbing hiatus.

You’ll all be pleased to know that since returning to Denver after this revealing trip, I invested in a rock gym membership at the climbing wall near my house, and have been consistently climbing ever since – I even sent my first V5.

Roadtripping across America in search of climbing, beer, adventure and glory – Three Days Until Departure!

I’ve spent months saving, planning and daydreaming about my trip across America, and in three very short days, Road Trip 2011 will begin with a bang – well, more of a 24 hour haul towards Colorado, but a bang nonetheless.

Naturally, the plan is to take you along for the ride. I’ll make plenty of updates on the road, and will do my best to post pictures as I go. To get you acquainted with the plan, here’s a map of our route, compliments of my AAA.com road trip planner:

We’ll start the trip off with a grueling 24-hour haul to Denver, Colorado, where we’ll be spending a few days hanging out with McGoo and the boys. After Denver, it’s off to Aspen for a beautiful 8.5 mile hike to Conundrum Springs. Next we’ll spend some time in Moab, Utah, climbing and rafting with our buddies Jeff and Ryan. The climax of our trip will be our week spent in Yosemite and Bishop, California. Once we’ve climbed ourselves raw, we’ll relax for a few days in San Francisco. We’ll end the trip with a few days exploring Chattanooga, looking for some houses and job opportunities for me.

Basically, I could ooze my excitement for hours. The packing shall begin tomorrow, and then on Monday morning at 5:00 AM — we’re off. Hell yeah.

Update on The Crash Pad and a Peek at Tally Rock Gym’s “Save the South” benefit!

Today’s post is an update on two of my favorite things: The Crash Pad of Chattanooga and the Tally Rock Gym.

In late January, I shared my enthusiasm about a project put together to create an adventurer-friendly hostel in my beloved city of Chattanooga, Tennessee. My original post only showed an artist rendering of the future plans for the hostel.

Here’s two shots of the actual site of The Crash Pad. The first is from December 11, 2010 – not much to see besides an old pre-existing brick building covered in old tacky paint.

This next shot was taken on February 23, 2011. Now we’re talkin’! The building now seems to have all outer walls, a second story and I believe they’ve also begun work on the roof.

Awesome progress. What’s even better is that The Crash Pad has very generously become one of the sponsors for our upcoming “Save the South” fundraiser comp for the Southeastern Climbers Coalition!

What’s this “Save the South” shenanigan, you ask? Tally Rock Gym hosts an annual benefit event to raise money for the SCC, and I am working to make this year’s comp the best yet. Not only is The Crash Pad donating some awesome swag, we’ve also got some great local and climbing companies involved with our cause – Kendal Jackson Bags and Pusher/Revolution, to name a few.

Climbers, save the date. March 19th shall be a glorious spring day filled with brand new routes, awesome prizes and the usual ruckus. Oh, did I mention that The Morning Fresh is one of your lovely sponsors? I’m makin’ treats, get excited.

Stay tuned for the official event flyer, and loads more information about TRG’s “Save the South” event.

The Crash Pad of Chattanooga revolutionizes the hostel concept for adventurers of all breeds

Throughout the winter months, my climbing pals have been itching to head north to crags in Tennessee and Georgia. I have also craved an outdoors adventure, but the thought of spending a night sleeping outside in below freezing conditions usurps my desire to get my hands on real rock.

Frigid wind blowing through a flimsy tent as I shiver and shake my way through the night? No thanks, I’m a lady. Sleeping in a hotel is hardly an acceptable alternative; no self-respecting climber retreats to a fancy hotel after spending the day trekking through wilderness.

Thankfully, The Crash Pad is changing everything. The geniuses behind this phenomenal concept are bringing a hostel-style lodging facility to downtown Chattanooga, offering a haven for climbers, kayakers, hikers and every explorer in between.

According to their website, their mission is “to further establish Chattanooga as an ultimate outdoor destination by providing a base camp and community hub for adventurous travelers.” Hell yeah!


My favorite aspect of this establishment is their goal to blend the free spirit and sense of community you find in a hostel with the cleanliness and charming atmosphere of a small hotel. They hope to open by May 2011, and I will definitely be making a trip out to my beloved Chattanooga to scope it out.

Check out The Crash Pad’s Facebook page for constant updates on their construction process and related community events. They also post some sweet climbing videos.

Seriously, do I really need any more reasons to move out to Chattanooga? This place is just screaming my name. Someone needs to find me a good writing gig out there ASAP.

Meet Lumpkin, the Ageless Pumpkin from Chattanooga

To celebrate my 22nd birthday in October, Niko and I adventured off to Chattanooga for a weekend of exploring, local eats and even a little climbing. We visited the Tennessee Aquarium, strolled the streets of downtown and spent a few hours at my favorite crag, Little Rock City.

The most lasting impression was made by a small, plump vegetable gifted to me by Niko at the Chattanooga State Farmers Market. Our trip occurred during the peak of autumn, so naturally I insisted on getting a pumpkin souvenir to commemorate my travels to a destination that experiences marked seasons.  I picked him out from a pile housing dozens of pumpkins. His perfectly round body and firm stem made him a perfect choice. He earned the name ‘Lumpkin’ during our drive back to Tallahassee, where we passed a ghost town bearing the appropriate name.

Months passed, and I sadly watched as pumpkins perched on doorsteps throughout Tallahassee became soggy with mold and were carelessly slumped into the trash. I refused to carve my darling Lumpkin, but considered painting him gold and dipping him in glitter a few times.

Lumpkin has traveled from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Tallahassee, Florida, and even made two trips to Miami, Florida for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. He’s a natural adventurer.

Today, little Lumpkin remains firm and hearty as ever. He bears a single little mark, where it appears that a fingernail pierced his thick hide, but his wound is entirely healed over and shows no signs of infection or impending pumpkin demise. It has been three months since I acquired my little vegetable buddy, and I reckon that it’ll be a few more before I am forced to abandon my prize to the inevitable decomposition that awaits him.

Top 6 Reasons I’m Moving to Chattanooga

I didn’t come up with this plan on my own – in fact, I probably never would have realized how perfect Chattanooga is without outside influence. However, as soon as someone asserted that Chattanooga would be an ideal city for me to live in, everything clicked. How had I not seen it before? Everything about the Tennessee city is screaming my name. The local food scene, the amazing aquarium, the buzzing downtown area, the proximity to sweet climbing – it all makes sense. So here you have it, the Top 6 Reasons Why I’m Moving to Chattanooga:

1. Downtown Chattanooga

If you have never visited Chattanooga, you are truly missing out on one of America’s best ‘little’ big cities. The downtown district offers the best of both small local community and big city conveniences. Locally-owned boutiques sit beside apparel chains, yet the city achieves a seemingly perfect balance between the two different worlds. Strolling through downtown is easy and charming. One of my favorite shops is the mismatched book store on Broad Street, which is overloaded with a cluttered haven of books, knitted goodies and all sorts of trinkets. Local art adorns countless street corners, and some buildings have been entirely dedicated to artistic causes. The community here is humble, friendly and not the least pretentious.

2. The Food

By now, you should have a fully realized understanding of my passion for eating. I may be startlingly thin, but don’t let my skinny appearance fool you – I am a lean, mean eating machine. Chattanooga boasts some of the best grub in the southeast. First, there’s the Chattanooga Cupcakes shop that serves outrageous bakery creations. Then we have local grubberies like Lupi’s Pizza, comparable to Tallahassee’s hometown favorite Momo’s. If you’re looking for something more upscale, the Terminal Brewery serves the most fantastic – and beer-friendly – food in town. I ate there for my 22nd birthday dinner with Niko, and we still talk about our delicious meal of juicy burgers, sweet potato fries, freshly-brewed beer and tantalizing hummus. I can only imagine the culinary spread that awaits throughout the rest of Chattanooga.

3. Climbing Accessibility

One of the biggest drawbacks of living in Florida is the distance between my house and a decent crag. It’s at least a 5 hour drive to the nearest climbing area, which is a big bummer for days when I wake up craving some real rock. Living in Chattanooga would put me within day-trip distance to excellent spots like Little Rock City and Rocktown. Imagine, waking up on a Saturday morning to perfect weather, and being able to load up the car with gear and simply head out to climb in the boulder fields for a day. After a long day of crushing rock, it’ll be a short drive to the comfort of home. Chattanooga claims to have a pretty sweet indoor gym as well.

4. Chattanooga’s Beautiful Outdoors

I will defend Tallahassee’s modest attempt at autumn until I become blue in the face, but there is no denying that Chattanooga offers a vastly greater fall experience. The trees blaze with fiery shades of orange, red and yellow. Aside from the stunning fall foliage, the Tennessee area is home to a host of different natural wonders. You’ve got the Tennessee River, rolling mountainsides, roads winding through steep forests – it’s all right in Chattanooga’s backyard.

5. The Farmer’s Market

The tomatoes I bought at the Chattanooga Farmer’s Market during my birthday weekend were undoubtedly the best tomatoes I have ever tasted. The little cherry variety came in lush golds, deep purplish greens and bold reds. The market is bursting with fresh, local produce. Everything from string beans and sweet potatoes to warm loaves of bread and bison jerky can be purchased for an extremely reasonable price. I would love to have a reliable venue to stock up on quality food. I could seriously eat those tomatoes forever.

6. The Tennessee Aquarium

Words cannot describe my love for the Tennessee Aquarium. Personally, I think the word ‘aquarium’ is inappropriate for the facility; it’s more like an underwater and above-ground wonderland. Not only do they have enormous tanks filled with marine life, this establishment houses a beautiful butterfly garden and a sweeping collection of amphibians and reptiles. I could get lost in there for hours. I recently spoke of a little fantasy where I became the night staff of the aquarium, and hung out in the jellyfish exhibit with all the lights off except the changing colored glow from the jelly tanks.

My list of reasons could continue for quite some time. There’s the ridiculously affordable mountainside housing, the friendly community of green-minded people that inhabit the city, the beauty of the Tennessee River, etc. I may be nestled in Tallahassee for another year or so, writing for an online travel guide company, but the promise of Chattanooga will keep me forging onwards.