What makes Lookout Mountain home

Only five miles from Chattanooga, spread across the top of a beautiful and richly storied mountain – two communities that cross the state lines of Tennessee and Georgia come together to make up Lookout Mountain.

A wonderful place for young and old, for families and professionals, to carve out a space between the life of the city and the quiet of the blue sky. This is the heart of the mountain. It’s what makes us a community, and makes Lookout Mountain home.

The Key to a High Flyin' Summer

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When was the last time you stared down a red-tail hawk, or had your hair rearranged by a swooping vulture? Every weekend until Labor Day you can get up close and personal with these fascinating birds (and others) with the Rock City Raptor show.

Held in the Critter Classroom four times a day, the interactive shows are hosted by Dale Kernahan and John Stokes, founders of the nonprofit Wings to Soar. The husband and wife team care for non-releasable birds of prey in hopes of connecting people with these impressive hunters.

During the show, they walk the aisles with each bird, allowing you to look into the large yellow eyes of a Barred Owl, or admire the blue and brown wings of an American Kestrel. You even get to meet Asta Yasha, a Bald Eagle with an interesting back story.

While you’re there, be sure to visit Lover’s Leap for live music compliments of Old Time Travelers. Chattanooga natives Clark Williams and Matt Downer pick their guitar and fiddle strings for passersby, filling the summer air with early Southern string band music (a predecessor to bluegrass).

Both the concert and bird show are free with the cost of admission as part of Rock City’s Summer Music Weekends, giving you yet another reason to see the garden’s more than 400 native species at their peak.

So the only question is…what are you doing this weekend?

On July 21, two peregrine falcons will be released into the wild thanks to Wings to Soar’s peregrine release program. Read more.

Remember you can purchase an annual pass to Rock City, with prices ranging from $19 for children to $119 for a family of 6.

Buy a Painting, Change a Life

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The right piece of artwork can transform a room; Diane Reed’s paintings can help change lives. Next Wednesday, July 23 you have an opportunity to impact children on the other side of the globe simply by showing up to dinner.

From 3:30 to 7 p.m., Lookout resident and artist Diane Reed will host a showing at Talus Restaurant. The reception will feature vintage pieces from her collection – many never displayed before – and proceeds from each sale will benefit Reed’s projects with education and nutrition in Kenya. During the reception, Chef Erick Wood will offer complimentary hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar with Happy Hour pricing.

“We want folks to make a night of it – stay for dinner and eat local,” says Reed.

For the past seven summers, Reed has worked at St. Lazarus School in Nairobi, Kenya, which accepts children who otherwise would have no hope of education. These at-risk kids rarely have three meals a day, and Reed is raising money to support the school’s breakfast program.

But her work doesn’t end there. Her relationship with St. Lazarus inspired her to seek out children she could help in her own hometown. For the next two years she will work as artist in residence for the Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy, seeking to bring encouragement, empowerment and healing through art.

She will paint for one month in Nairobi, one month in the slums of Argentina, and the rest of her tenure at CGLA. At each school she will share her craft and teach the beauty of self expression through after-school enrichment programs.

Most importantly, she will listen and give a voice to the voiceless. Through painting, video and photography she will intertwine life stories of kids on opposite sides of the world. Through these stories of struggle and resilience, Reed hopes to inspire others to stay strong, creating a unique international support system through art.

“Sometimes realizing that we are not alone in the fight makes it all worth the battle,” says Reed.

Snag a Ticket to the Summer's Hottest Party

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You are officially invited to the hottest party of the season. On Thursday, July 17 from 6 to 10 p.m., the Lookout Mountain Conservancy will host its second annual “Hot Fun in the Summertime” benefit. Held on the outdoor patio of The Crash Pad, the casual event embraces everything wonderful about summer, including a low country boil, cold beer, gourmet popsicles and bluegrass by local bands Hot Damn and Three on a Trio. Sandals and shorts are required attire.

"The thing I love about this party is we never know who’s going to show up,” says Chief Executive Officer Robyn Carlton. “Instead of formal invites, ticket sales are driven by social media. It’s always a nice surprise to see who comes and meet new people."

The party was created to expand LMC’s support base. While they will always have a strong presence on the mountain they help protect, they realize the benefit of engaging people who enjoy Lookout’s recreational opportunities as well.

In addition to relaxing under oversized umbrellas, compliments of The Patio Shop, guests are introduced to some of LMC’s innovative programs such as The Howard Program. For the past few years, LMC has partnered with Howard High School to employ interns that help them revitalize the many properties under LMC’s care. The unique program expands beyond conservation, giving at-risk students an opportunity to learn more about themselves and helping them become better citizens and community leaders.

So many land trusts focus on the traditional work of acquiring land,” says Carlton. “To me, that’s boring. It’s fun that you’re conserving land but if you’re not connecting people to the land and giving it life and purpose, I think you’re missing the boat.

For just $40 per ticket ($45 at the door) you not only support LMC’s mission, you can also peel shrimp on tables covered in butcher paper and topped with bright sunflowers from Grafe Studio. The “tables” are actually old doors, reclaimed from past LMC projects and propped on sawhorses.

The all-you-can-eat low country boil will be catered onsite by 1885 Grill, and passed hors d’oeuvres will be provided compliments of board member's wife and caterer Mary McGinness. Big River Grille has donated kegs of their frosty brews, or you can purchase wine at cost from Riverside Wine and Spirits. Dessert is provided by King of Pops gourmet popsicle cart.

For more information, visit LMC’s website. For tickets to the event, click here

The first 75 folks to buy a ticket will have their name entered in a drawing to win an “Extreme Sock Drawer Makeover,” courtesy of Goodhew Socks and Jim Markley. Valued at over $200, there will be a drawing at the party for both a men’s and women’s sock drawer.

Cloudland Connector Trail Grand Opening

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This Friday, Lula Lake Land Trust (LLLT) will unveil the final phase of its Cloudland Connector Trail. All told, it includes 60 miles of trails weaving through 10,000 contiguous acres of Georgia’s most biologically diverse land. And while that’s an impressive feat, land isn’t the only thing getting connected with this project.

The partnership between Lula Lake Land Trust and Georgia Department of Natural Resources is truly one of the best partnerships we have ever experienced,” says Joe Yeager, Region 1 Manger for Georgia State Parks. “The dedication of so many folks has made this project successful.

The Connector Trail has brought together the “A-team” of the conservation community, including the Benwood Foundation, Lyndhurst Foundation, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, SORBA Chattanooga, Friends of Cloudland Canyon State Park, Walker County Government, Dade County Government, Georgia Land Trust, The Trust for Public Land, WILD Trails & Rock/Creek, USDA Forest Service, Rock Creek Fellowship, local contractors Stan Gravitt and Charlie Smith and of course, Lula Lake Land Trust.

“It’s a testament to the strength of private/public partnerships,” says Tricia King-Mims, LLLT development director. “The state helps manage the trailheads and provide rangers, while we utilize our strengths of acquiring land, structuring conservation easements and engaging our volunteer base.”

The project has also connected residents and tourists to the land – a key part of Lula Lake’s mission. The 5-Point Trail, which opened several years ago, is hailed by mountain bikers as some of the finest single track in the country. The world-class trail system also attracts trail runners, horseback riders, hikers and even bird watchers from all over.

“The trails so far have created a tremendous amount of tourism for this rural area,” says King-Mims. “It’s really a great story of land being reclaimed and repurposed, and driving economic development rooted in conservation rather than mining or clear-cut timber harvesting.”

From 2012 to 2013, the state reported a 25 percent increase in revenue from the $5 parking fees at already open trailheads. This final phase, which links the trail system to Cloudland Canyon State Park, promises to drive even more eco-tourism to the area.

A decade in the making, the Cloudland Connector Trail is the capstone of Robert Davenport’s vision to protect and promote the land of the Rock Creek watershed. Since establishing Lula Lake Land Trust through his will in 1994, the organization has worked to acquire and protect as much land as possible. In 2004, the Trust realized their unique opportunity to form a greenway from Nick-a-Jack Road all the way to Cloudland Canyon State Park.

The ribbon cutting on Friday provides locals the unique opportunity to be some of the first on the new trail section, namely the 60-foot bridge spanning Bear Creek. In addition to food, the Folk School of Chattanooga will provide traditional Appalachian music.

Lookout residents are incredibly lucky to have a world-class trail system like this in their backyard,” says King-Mims. “As more people find out about it, we think it has the potential for raising property values as well as attracting new residents and businesses to the area.

(NOTE: The ceremony will take place inside Cloudland Canyon State Park. Follow signs from the front entrance or ask directions at the welcome center.)

See map of the entire trail.

Life On Lookout

Cloudland Connector Trail Grand Opening

Be the first to walk the final section of the Cloudland Connector Trail Friday, June 27, 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. 122 Cloudland Canyon Park Road, Rising Fawn, GA

Life On Lookout

Cloudland Connector Trail Grand Opening

Be the first to walk the final section of the Cloudland Connector Trail Friday, June 27, 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. 122 Cloudland Canyon Park Road, Rising Fawn, GA

Why I Love Lookout: Melissa Lusk

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While Melissa and Ryan Lusk enjoyed their Manhattan lifestyle, they knew it wasn’t the place they wanted to start a family. So when a recruiter contacted Ryan about a job in Cleveland, Tenn., the couple decided to take a chance. Neither had ties to the area – Melissa grew up in California and Ryan in Chicago – but his parents had relocated to Atlanta.

When house hunting, they immediately dismissed Lookout because they didn’t want to drive up and down the mountain every day (let alone the 40-plus minute commute to Cleveland). But their realtor convinced them to just look. They were completely taken aback.

I think Lookout Mountain is the best kept secret in the South,” says Melissa. “It’s funny because prior to moving here, if I had to imagine the perfect place to live, I don’t know if I could have even come up with this. It has surpassed all of our expectations.

Their new hometown wasn’t the only surprise. Just weeks after moving, they found out Melissa was expecting. Months later when they welcomed their daughter Savannah, complete strangers were dropping off casseroles and gifts on their new front porch.

"I’ve been blown away by how supportive this community is,” she says. “The ironic thing is before moving to the South I worried we’d be entering into this impenetrable niche community. It’s so different that what I thought it would be.”

I've been blown away by how supportive this community is.

While Melissa and Ryan aren’t native Southerners, both have spent time below the Mason Dixon. The two met at graduate school at Duke, and Melissa lived briefly in Virginia. Even so, nothing compares to Lookout, says Melissa.

“This is so rare to find,” she says. “When Savannah was born my mom came and stayed with us for a month. She’s lived all over the world, and even she says she’s never seen anything like Lookout Mountain. I don’t know of another place like this.”

I don't know of another place like this.

If there is, she probably won’t find it. After nearly two years on Lookout, she can’t imagine living anywhere else. “I definitely see why people move here and never leave. We don’t see ourselves leaving anytime soon – we just love it here.”

Why I Love Lookout: Michelle Workman

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Michelle Workman knows about the price of fame. While she had built a wildly successful interior design firm in L.A. – designing spaces for the likes of Kirstie Alley, John Travolta, Jennifer Lopez and more – she craved a break from big city life. Fortunately her husband, Justin agreed that a slower pace would be best for their family, particularly their sons, ages 6 and 9. So after an exhaustive search across the country, the family settled on Chattanooga as their new home – more specifically Lookout Mountain.

“I remember feeling like our first realtor tried to talk us out of Lookout Mountain, forcing us to look at houses on Signal and Riverview,” she says. “I think people have this strange idea that it’s very exclusive up here, that nobody is going to be nice to you and you’ll have a hard time making friends. It couldn’t be more opposite of that.”

I think people have this strange idea that it’s very exclusive up here, that nobody is going to be nice to you and you’ll have a hard time making friends. It couldn’t be more opposite of that.

Michelle’s journey to Chattanooga began on a City Data message board, where she stumbled upon another big-city transplant, Christy Falco, who relocated from Miami to Lookout Mountain. After much back and forth online, the two met for coffee on Michelle’s first trip to the mountain. Later, Christy invited Michelle to the Fairyland Club for dinner.

“After that I couldn’t have been more sold on Lookout,” recalls Workman. “Everyone was so open and genuinely interested in getting to know me. I remember thinking it was strange that it didn’t matter that some people lived in Georgia and some in Tennessee. It felt like a single community. In most other areas there would have been dividing lines.”

Growing up in Hollywood, Lookout Mountain was undoubtedly a culture shock – but a welcome one, she says. “It feels like a town that hasn’t moved out of the 1940s – not in style or fashion – but in the sense that everybody is super friendly and loves their neighbor. There’s such a sense of community. Where I’m from, you don’t ask people for favors. But here, if something comes up and you need your child picked up from school, you can call your neighbor.”

After more than two years of researching and discussing, the Workmans officially moved in July of 2013. There have obviously been adjustments. The grocery store is no longer around the corner, and the nearest design center is in Atlanta. Michelle is learning to juggle clients on both coasts while building her business here. Justin’s job as CFO for an internet company requires monthly trips to San Francisco. But whatever hurdles the family has had to overcome, they’re more than happy to accommodate.

There’s a reason it was named Fairyland. I truly believe there is something magical on this mountain.

“I recently asked my son if he was happy where we lived and he said, ‘Mommy, this was the best decision you and daddy have ever made,’” says Michelle. “There’s a reason it was named Fairyland. I truly believe there is something magical on this mountain. I don’t know what it is, but I’m along for the ride.”

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