Monday, February 17, 2014

Chattanooga Mountaintops and the Bragg Reservation

I'm in 7-days-a-week mode for work but I managed to get out for a couple of hours for a ride on Raccoon Mountain on Sunday and still had enough time to find the Bragg Reservation on Missionary Ridge. We got 6 to 10 inches of snow in the Chattanooga area with the exact total depending on elevation and location on Wednesday of this week. It got above freezing and started melting off almost immediately but it takes a long time for that much snow to melt and it persisted longer on the mountain tops.
Snow on the upper parts of Lookout Mountain. The situation was just slightly more melted where I was standing on Raccoon Mountain. Sunny areas were clear but shady areas were still snowy.

I had a strange encounter with another rider that wanted to know what sign I was riding around. This was, I have no doubt, a reference to the fact that the trails were closed. I was not intending to ride around any signs so I quickly diverted him. If it's too wet then riding pavement and gravel is a perfectly good substitute for trail to me. He then began to fabricate an elaborate lie, in which he pretended to be poaching trail, yet interrogated me about what single track I had ridden recently. I'm pretty sure that was because I had some dirt on my bike leftover from a ride the previous weekend at the Chickamauga Battlefield. By this time I figured out that he probably was not really wanting to ride anything but rather was a "trail Nazi," one of the people that take it on themselves to police who is riding the trails when the conditions are too wet to tolerate a bicycle. While I agree with the idea of not riding when the trails are too wet, I think it's pretty lame to lie, and act like some kind of trail detective, and stupid. I'm not sure if he was planning a full on confrontation if I had said I was going to ride trail but I was annoyed either way. I also think he would have concluded from the small amount of dirt on the bike that it could not possibly have been recent as there would have been much more. I don't always clean my bike after every ride - sue me.

Snow along the road on top of Raccoon Mountain.

At any rate I had a very nice ride on the road, with a side route up the one good gravel road that leads for a half mile or more up to a cell phone tower complex near the eastern crest of the mountain. There was only one area of shade with snow, but it was just a little bit of wet ground and didn't slow me at all. I had to skip the other section of gravel road by the dam because it was still fairly covered with snow. I'm still out of shape due to the short days of winter and unwillingness to hit the stationary bikes in the fitness center at work so I took it slow on the hills and enjoyed the scenery. Incidentally, I did see a few people poaching the closed trails off in the woods but also saw a few other people riding mountain bikes on road like I was.
The Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance from the East Overlook on Raccoon Mountain. In person I could see a solid snow cap on Big Frog Mountain, some 30 miles distant, but I couldn't coax a very good photo out of my iPhone. 

After finishing my ride, I decided I had plenty of time to go look for something else I've been wanting to check out for the last year or more, the Bragg Reservation on Missionary Ridge. After wandering through the steep, hilly streets of East Ridge, Tennessee, I found it. It's a Civil War site, the location of the headquarters of Confederate General Braxton Bragg during the siege of Chattanooga in 1863. At that time, the Union forces were occupying the town and the Confederacy hoped to contain any Union advance. The effort failed spectacularly when Union General Ulysses S. Grant ordered an attack on Missionary Ridge and the Confederates broke and ran. The reasons for this rout have never been fully explained but it appears that some of the Confederate positions atop the ridge were constructed too far back from the edge and the Union forces were able to climb the ridge without being subjected to rifle and artillery fire until they had already gotten to the top and it was too late to stop them. At any rate, the defeat led eventually to the burning of Atlanta and the sacking of much of Georgia and South Carolina. It was a disaster for the Confederacy and perhaps cost them the war (although everybody always says that about every battle).

The Illinois monument at the Bragg Reservation on Missionary Ridge. It is a monument to Union victory.

It's an extremely neat place and offers great views of Chattanooga.

South Crest Road where it crosses over I-24 at the point known locally as the Ridge Cut. It's one of the more spectacular roads in the Chattanooga area.
The view over the old part of Chattanooga from the Bragg Reservation. From here General Bragg would have been able to see the Union attack climbing the ridge on the right of the photo. I can imagine the continuous crackle of distant rifle fire and the rolling thunder of cannon accompanied by clouds of smoke.

Snow barely visible on the mountain on the left in the distance. Below is the Brainerd area of Chattanooga.
A peculiar footnote of history. Arthur MacArthur, the father of WWII General Douglas MacArthur, won the Medal of Honor during the assault on Missionary Ridge, not far from where this picture was taken.
If you have a view, then someone else does not. On the one hand I think this would be an awesome place to live. On the other hand I can't help but think how much better the view of the Appalachians would be if a developer had not built this right here. There was a controversy at the time but the construction went forward anyway.

Here is the Strava from the ride on Raccoon Mountain.

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