What makes Lookout Mountain home

What's on your summer bucket list? A hike to Glen Falls? A mountain bike ride on the Cloudland Connector Trail? Or maybe a road trip to Nashville to see Alan Shuptrine's new watercolor exhibit?

The season has already kicked off with Community Movie Night. There's another in August and here's 5 reasons you can't miss it. Get ready for the fun, because summers on Lookout are anything but lazy!

Local Reactions to Proposed High School for Lookout Mountain

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Locals have been both surprised and excited at the prospect of a new charter school for Lookout Mountain. While still not formally approved by the state, Lula Lake Academy hopes to open its doors by next fall. Immediate plans include offering grades 6th through 8th, adding a high school grade sequentially each year.

We caught up with some local residents to hear their reactions.

While I was surprised to hear about the school, I am excited as well. Obviously they have a long way to go, but the prospect for the children up here is very encouraging. If anyone is familiar with Rabun Gap School in North Georgia, this seems to be modeled somewhat along those lines. Rabun Gap, with a 1,400 acre campus, is both boarding and day school. It will be interesting to see this progress. Of course it would be nice to have this available for the Tennessee students as well.

- Don Stinnett, Education Commissioner, Lookout Mountain, TN

It is a wonderful opportunity for the communities of Lookout Mountain in Dade and Walker counties. It is such a beautiful area; a middle and high school will only serve to make the community more desirable.

- Dawn Pettway, Lookout Mountain Resident

I and my office have been working closely with Debra Tringale and recruiting several Georgia citizens to facilitate the involvement in this project as I feel it is of utmost importance to the communities of Lookout Mountain to pursue this educational opportunity. The new school should become a draw to folks looking at our community in order to relocate from any other part of town as well as out-of-towners looking to settle in the Chattanooga area. The school’s intimacy and focus upon the environment, emphasis on higher education, and the trades will make it very desirable for attendees as well as students’ interest level. Also, with the level of financial costs for our exceptional private schools, the Lula Lake Academy will be an excellent alternative for many students and parents. We are 100 % in favor of the school and its concepts.

- Charlie Walldorf, co-owner of Herman Walldorf & Co., Inc.

While we are not directly involved, it is our understanding that the focus of the Lula Lake Academy will be the natural world, with an emphasis on natural systems as the learning environment and classroom. The mission of this school is consistent with what we do at Lula Lake Land Trust. Our mission is to preserve the natural and historic landscapes surrounding Rock Creek and Bear Creek (and their tributaries) through conservation, education, and low impact recreation. Lula Lake Land Trust routinely hosts schools groups at our property, including fossil hunts, water and habitat education. Our intention is to work with the Lula Lake Academy to do similar programs to support its curriculum.

- Brad Cobb, Chairman of Lula Lake Land Trust

I was surprised to hear about the possibility of a new school, but am excited about the news. I'm sure there are many unanswered questions, but I hope that this school will allow children from both sides of the mountain to attend.

- Jack Webb, Crye-Leike Realtor

Read more about the school.

Clumpie's Opens Two Locations for Lookout Mountain

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Can’t stand the heat? Eat some ice cream!

Chattanooga’s beloved ice cream store, Clumpie’s recently opened two locations for Lookout Mountain. The one at the foot of Lookout, located in the St. Elmo Incline Railway station, opened in March with lots of media coverage. They even created a new flavor to pay homage to their new ‘hood – a Mayan-spiced chocolate with cayenne candied pecans called St. Elmo’s Fire.

Several months later, they quietly opened a walk-up window at the top of Lookout, located in the back of the Battlefield Visitor’s Center near Point Park. Open from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m., the new spot makes it almost too easy to get your summertime ice cream fix.

Clumpie’s Ice Cream has been keeping Chattanooga cool with its handcrafted flavors since 1999, when they opened a small shop on Frazier Avenue. A loyal following formed quickly thanks to original flavor combinations and quality ingredients (their Key Lime ice cream literally has chunks of key lime pies in it).

Rock City purchased the company in 2013 with plans to grow the brand. They’ve tossed around ideas such as sporting event service or food trucks. For now, Lookout Mountain is grateful to reap the sweet benefits of expansion.

Mojo St. Elmo Returns Tomorrow

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Artist Steve Terlizzese putting his spin on "Stairway to Heaven"

Tomorrow, Lookout Mountain gets its Mojo back.

It’s just been one week since the original Mojo Burrito closed its doors to make the move across the street. The colorful new building atop the hill has been taking shape for months, but the finishing touches have run down to the wire.

“I’m on about third shift right now,” says owner Eve Williams. It’s well past 10 p.m. Tuesday night, and she hopes to catch a few winks before the final Health Department inspection and her appearance before the Beer Board on Thursday – also her opening day.

While this marks Williams’ sixth buildout, each one has been totally different and with its own set of challenges. “It’s kind of like having kids,” she jokes. “But totally worth it in the end.”

You could say the small brick building on St. Elmo Avenue was always her problem child. It was her very first location in 2002, converted from an old pottery shop. Williams introduced Chattanooga to the fresh-mex burrito shop concept and was virtually an overnight success.

But since her landlord wouldn’t let her install a vent for the stove, the kitchen has never been able to properly handle its volume. The challenge forced her to be creative from the beginning, first renting a secondary kitchen across the street; then opening a second location downtown.

When the Red Bank store opened in 2007 – now her No. 1 volume location – it became the kitchen for St. Elmo,
requiring food deliveries once or twice a day. The situation was taxing to say the least. So when an opportunity arose to upgrade her space without leaving the neighborhood, she jumped at the chance.

It definitely felt like the right place; right time,” she says. “It’s hard to leave your nest but we’re not really leaving – we just flew to the next branch.

The new, larger space remains true to its roots with loads of local artwork inside and out, including graphic, rainbow-colored stairs leading to the front door. You’ll still find the tried and true Mojo menu, but Williams is already eyeing expansion (she’s tossing around the idea of a breakfast menu).

For those die-hard Mojo fans grieving the change, Williams is excited to announce she will be holding onto the building that started it all. She isn’t disclosing her plans just yet, but promises a non-food concept that everyone can enjoy.

It will be a special space,” she says. “It’s my home and I want to still be there. I hope to transition it into a labor of love for everyone who’s gotten me here.

Update on Lookout Mountain's Treehouse Hotel

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Andrew Alms and Enoch Elwell had a feeling Chattanoogans would dig sleeping in a tree. But the tidal wave of enthusiasm and support they've received has surpassed even their wildest dreams.

In less than six months they’ve secured 30-plus corporate partners for their treehouse hotel, recently named Treetop Hideaways. Their Kickstarter campaign raised a whopping $33,333 with 232 backers, and folks from all over have donated product, money and services. Many have even shown up at the construction site to swing a hammer.

Everyone connects to the concept, but it's been really neat to see how deeply those connections run,” says Alms.

Perhaps the excitement has to do with the project's participation in the Living Building Challenge, the most rigorous performance standard in the building industry. One implication (of many) requires the structure actually produce 5% more water and electricity than it consumes. Once complete, the hybrid hotel will be the first treehouse in the world to earn this prestigious designation.

Many fellow "tree huggers" have gone above and beyond to help make the project a reality. When a formal survey revealed their property line fell short of original estimates - thereby threatening the entire project - their neighbor Rock City quickly and generously agreed to a land lease.

EPB has been instrumental in helping plan the electrical and alternative energy systems, and arborist Scott Wood of Timberline Tree and Lawn Care drove down from his Memphis office one weekend to personally help eradicate the pervasive Chinese Privet.

And while things are coming together, the project hasn’t been without some knots. There are no shortcuts when you have to haul every material up a steep hill by hand. Extra consideration must be made for virtually every aspect of the project. Not only is the building site unique, perched atop a boulder and two trees, but piecing all of the reclaimed building materials together feels a bit like a giant Rubik's Cube.

Again, their supporters stepped up. From the funds to get the project going to the materials used and the many, many hands that carried them up the hill and put them on the treehouse, "this has been a team effort," says Alms. Even the Powerade that fueled those volunteers was donated by Coca-Cola Bottling, who signed on early as a five year corporate partner.

A friend of Elwell's donated an 1860's barn to provide much of the exposed reclaimed lumber used throughout the treehouse, and Rudd Montgomery of Push Hard Lumber helped the team source the specialty pieces. He even milled a few timbers when they ran short hanging the exposed beam ceiling.

Sourcing new materials hasn't been much easier. Every sealant, grout, epoxy and stain must meet the stringent Living Building standards. This means Alms has had to contact several companies for a list of their proprietary ingredients, then follow up with advocacy letters for declaring their products eco-friendly status. Happily Michael Walton of GreenSpaces and Sam Young of Green's Building Supply have been early supporters, helping them vet materials and supplies throughout the project.

I am continually amazed at how many things take extra time,” laughs Alms. “But it’s worth it to take the time to be creative.

Creativity is a cornerstone of the treehouse project. The two hope to create a special hideaway that allows guests to recapture the imagination of their youth and reconnect to the natural world around them.

Driving up to the site you're greeted by a natural spring. Bees swarm the purple flowers hugging it's bank, while tadpoles swim happily in the clear water. The treehouse is a short walk up the hill, and the temperature seemingly drops five degrees once you step inside the old-growth forest.

From the treehouse's back porch, which offers a beautiful view of Hawkins Ridge, you catch a breeze that Alms says is nearly constant.

"Nature's air conditioner," he smiles. "All the time I've been working up here - when I'm not hauling materials up the hill - I can usually go without sweating."

The structure is wrapped in a bright orange, eco-friendly air barrier - another generous donation by Vaproshield rep, Aaron Gould. Gould also introduced them to Roxul Insulation, who donated all of the insulation used in the project.

The few remaining items on the punchlist include the exterior wood siding, bathroom and finishing touches to the windows salvaged from a Southside factory. All are underway, and Alms says they hope to let down the draw bridge later this month (there is literally a drawbridge entrance – one of many playful design elements.)

Others include the shower pan in the bathroom - a halved Chattanooga Whiskey barrel. The bathroom floor will be pennies set in epoxy, representing everyone who has helped the project since sapling status.

"We are eternally grateful to all of our supporters, and count many of them as new friends," says Elwell.

They would like to secure a few more backers to help with finishing touches as well as foster future plans. They envision up to eight units in the next three to five years, highlighting other natural features on property such as the gurgling creek.

With backgrounds in both construction and start-ups, they've dreamt big since the beginning. Their capital campaign was ambitiously fast, as was their construction timeline. Then again, in the treehouse business, the sky is the limit.

Lookout Mountain Underground

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Lookout Mountain has a deep, dark secret. Underneath the charming houses and sunlit paths lies a world known by few; explored by even fewer. These brave souls are called cavers.

“Lookout Mountain is basically hollow,” says Tripp Lichtefeld, a beloved bartender at the Fairyland Club. “From Point Park to the Fairyland Club there are probably 20 to 30 caves, and that’s less than 3 miles. Lookout Mountain stretches at least 90 miles.”

Lookout Mountain is basically hollow.

Our area is known within caving circles as a worldwide destination. But those circles are rather small. The sport remains tight-lipped about cave entrances and maps. Cavers learn the ropes from other cavers, like some underground fraternity.

That’s not to say you can’t dive in. Lichtefeld is always willing to take first-timers along. The secretive nature of the sport is for safety reasons.

Caving is inherently dangerous if you’re not prepared or equipped,” he explains. “I’ve almost gotten stuck, I’ve had equipment fail while dangling almost 400 feet in the air, I’ve run out of rope. You have to always be aware. When I’m caving, I’m not thinking about anything else.

People have gotten lost in caves, and hypothermia can quickly set in underground. If you’re a member of the National Speleological Society you might have access to cave surveys, but exploring them still requires you to mentally note specific formations along your route, periodically looking backwards to note what it will look like on your way out.

It’s an acquired skill,” says Lichtefeld. “You may have a map but ultimately you have to figure it out as you go, which is what makes it such an adventure.

Falls are another common hazard. At any given time, you might have to slide across a tiny ledge on your stomach, with nothing but dark expanses below. Other times, caving is like a leisurely stroll through a subway tunnel.

Each cave is different, which is the main attraction for folks like Lichtefeld. He also appreciates the quirky wildlife that have adapted to life without light, such as the translucent crawfish with no pigment or eyes.

It’s the closest you can come to being an astronaut on Earth,” he says. “It’s truly like being on another planet.

When Lichtefeld isn’t working at the Fairyland Club, he’s either caving or trying to locate and survey undiscovered caves. He’s underground at least once a week, and while he’s explored more than a hundred different caves from here to Kentucky, he rarely sees the need to venture far from home.

Lookout Mountain is home to so many great caves and there’s potential for many great caves still,” he says. “A huge flood or uprooted tree could reveal the next one, and it could be the biggest one yet. That’s exciting to me.


Those interested in diving into the sport can join one of the NSS’s local clubs, known as “Grottos.” Chattanooga’s Grotto has approximately 50 members and regularly sponsors trips, offers training and teaches conservation. To learn more, visit the NSS’s website.

National Trails Day on Lookout Mountain

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Every year thousands of people hike, bike or run across Lookout Mountain’s vast network of trails. These well-worn pathways are one of the mountain’s top selling points, but they don’t maintain themselves.

The world is always changing, and Mother Nature is no different,” explains park ranger and volunteer coordinator Will Sunderlin. “We’re continually having to assess how to protect trail right of way.

This weekend you have a chance for a behind-the-scenes look at how Lookout Mountain’s trails were formed – and now maintained – with guided bike rides, living history demonstrations and a volunteer work day on the Mountain Beautiful Trail.

The festivities are part of American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day, the country’s largest celebration of trails. National Parks in every state will hold special events such as horseback riding, geocaching and bird watching.

“The idea is to connect people to the outdoors, and encourage them to give back to the areas that allow access to these natural areas,” explains Sunderland.

A majority of America’s trails wouldn’t exist without the back-breaking work of the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC). Created by Roosevelt during the Great Depression, the CCC provided desperately needed jobs while implementing a conservation program in every state.

Between 1933 and the outbreak of World War II, the CCC employed more than 2.5 million men. Look for living historians throughout the weekend at Point Park discussing the impact of the CCC on Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.


June 6:

Volunteer Work Day on Lookout Mountain Beautiful Trail
8:30 – 2:00 p.m.
Meet at Lookout Mountain Battlefield Visitor Center and staff will lead to worksite
Wear sturdy, close-toed shoes and long pants; supplies, tools and lunch provided

CCC Living History Presentations
Point Park
9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m.

June 7:

Ranger-led Bike Ride
9:00 – 12:00 p.m.
Meet at Cravens House. Trail includes CCC presentation at Camp Demaray. Must wear helmet. All participants must supply their own mountain bikes and water. Open to adults and children ages 8 and older.

CCC Living History Presentations
Point Park
10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m., and 2:30 p.m.

Mountain Spotlight: Mountain Escape Spa

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When Cindy Stiles opened Mountain Escape Spa 18 years ago, things like massages and facials were reserved for cruise ships or fancy resorts. The day spa trend was in its infancy, especially in communities like Lookout Mountain. She recalls doing a lot of education in the early days.

I gave a lot of Lookout Mountain their first massage,” she laughs. “I started as a massage therapist in an old doctor’s office, near where the Mountain Mirror is today. But it was my dream to open a day spa.

That dream came true after five years, when she bought her current space from Sam Robinson. The small brick building had been a pharmacy for nearly 100 years, but Stiles converted it into a different place of healing.

“We love to pamper our clients, but many people don’t realize the health benefits of spa services,” she says. “Our skin cells rejuvenate every 28 days, and if you’re not regularly exfoliating the dead skin cells with facials, your skin gets congested.”

We love to pamper our clients, but many people don’t realize the health benefits of spa services.

Congestion can cause all sorts of problems, accentuating lines and wrinkles and aggravating breakouts. For teens, the Spa offers the “Teen Clean” facial, which specifically targets bacteria that causes acne.

"I compare it to getting your teeth cleaned at the dentist,” she explains. “You can exfoliate at home but it doesn’t compare to the products we use, such as Jan Marini’s gentle glycolic peel."

In addition to facials, the Spa can have you glowing from head to toe with things like spray tanning, detoxifying body wraps and anti-aging hand treatments. You can book a manicure or pedicure, or melt away stress with a deep tissue or hot stone massage.

Stiles originally thought she’d go into the medical field herself, but when she didn’t get into nursing school she decided to try massage therapy. When she visited the Wildwood Lifestyle Center to learn about hydrotherapy and other alternative ways of healing, she knew she’d found her calling.

I’ve always wanted to help people feel healthier and better about themselves,” she said. “Our spa is a place you can go to feel special – where you’re treated unlike anywhere else.

Not surprisingly, Lookout Mountain residents quickly caught on to the concept and the Spa now boasts loyal clients spanning three generations. The word has gotten out among tourists too, with people from all over the Southeast booking appointments.

“We have a group of friends who come up several times a year and rent the spa for the day,” says Stiles. “That’s something many people may not realize, but we’re happy to reserve the entire space for as many as 12 or as few as two.”

The concept is becoming a fun twist for bridal parties, with locals like Zane Brown and Ellen Moore recently hosting spa showers for their daughters and bridesmaids.

Stiles’ loyal following undoubtedly comes from her unwavering commitment to keeping each customer happy. She’s constantly soliciting feedback, and strives to integrate the Spa into the community as much as possible.

Mountain Escape has also recently revamped their partnership with the Fairyland Club, which offers exclusive privileges to club members. For example, merchandise is always 10 percent off and different discounts on services are featured each month – all of which can be charged to one’s membership account.

“I love being a part of this community,” says Stiles, who lives just down the road. “We’ve watched clients’ kids grow up and get married, and mourned the loss of our older clients who’ve passed away. It makes my heart happy to feel we’ve helped them in some way.”

Everything You Need to Know About Monday

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Memorial Day means barbeques, pool time and – if in Chattanooga – bike racing. The Volkswagen USA Cycling National Championship returns to the Scenic City this weekend. It’s our third go of it and while we’ve grown accustomed to traffic delays, there are some tricks to ensuring a stress-free holiday.

Here’s everything you need to know about Monday’s events as a Lookout Mountain resident (or visitor). To see a race map, visit USA Cycling's website.

  • Traveling up and down the mountain is ONE WAY all day (from 8:00 a.m. until approximately 7 p.m.). You must go UP Ochs Highway (GA side) and DOWN Scenic Highway (TN side). This follows the flow of cyclists and is in effect whether they’re on the mountain or not.

  • There will be a window from approximately 11 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. when no cyclists should be coming through. If you need to get up or down the mountain, this would be an ideal time to avoid any rolling closures.

  • Forget the traffic hassles and park yourself at the American Dudes Bikin’ Party, where there will be barbeque, live music, food and lots of jean shorts. Party central is at the corner of South Forest and Scenic Highway and a good time will be had by all. Be there or be square.

  • If you get stuck in one of the rolling closures don’t panic. Things should get moving within 20-30 minutes and you CAN get up and down the mountain. Just allow extra time if you need to be somewhere. Main roads to, from and throughout Lookout Mountain will remain open when cyclists are not on them.

  • There will be a “Mountain Express” complimentary shuttle leaving every 20 minutes or so from the St. Elmo Incline Railway station. It will make stops at key viewing spots such as Rock City, the top Incline Station and Ruby Falls (in that order). The last bus to leave Lookout Mountain will be approximately 6:45 p.m. See CARTA's website for details.

  • The Women will be taking two laps at approximately 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. The men will take 4 laps around 2:30 p.m., 3:00 p.m., 3:45 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.

  • Things can change quickly if there's a wreck on the course, so stay tuned to our Twitter page for live updates. If you want to report a traffic condition, share it with us: @NewsOnLookout.

American Dudes Bikin' Party

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Dust off your jean shorts and American flag bikinis…the American Dudes are having a party!

For the third year, the Volkswagen USA Cycling National Championships will be pedaling up Lookout Mountain on Memorial Day, May 25. That means the American Dudes are hard at work setting up for their annual Bikin’ Party.

Live music, real-time race footage on the big screen and plenty of frosty beverages will all be at “Party Central” (aka the corner of Scenic Highway and South Forest Avenue). The American Dude limo is already parked there to mark the spot.

Come hungry, because Ruth Oehmig of Café on the Corner will be serving her famous smoked and slow-roasted barbeque. You can buy a plate there (pulled pork sandwich, bleu cheese slaw, chips and a drink), or you can order by the quart to take home for later.

Pre-order options include pulled pork, bleu cheese slaw, Tennessee BBQ sauce and So Good Mac n’ Cheese, and must be ordered by this Friday, May 22. Give her a call (423-825-5005) or email ruth.cafeonthecorner@gmail.com for details.

Everyone is welcome, and CARTA is providing free shuttle service up and down the mountain all day. The special “Mountain Express” loop will run continuously starting around 8:00 a.m., leaving from the St. Elmo Incline Railway Station. Stops include Rock City, the top of the Incline and Ruby Falls, in that order.

To access, you can either park at the St. Elmo Incline or catch the downtown feeder route from Finley Stadium, which runs every half hour from 8 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. The last bus to leave Lookout will be around 6:45 p.m. See CARTA's website for details.

Lookout Mountain’s vertical portion of the race course is known as “King of the Mountain” (or “Queen of the Mountain”) and awards will be presented to the triumphant male and female competitors.

The women will make two loops up the mountain, and should be whizzing by about 10 a.m. The men begin the first of their four loops at 12:30 p.m. and should zip by every 45 minutes starting around 1:30 p.m.

Expect plenty of family-friendly entertainment during the downtime, including the American Dudes ever-popular frozen t-shirt contest. All attire is welcome, crazy costumes applauded.

Thriving On Lookout - Brow Wood Update

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The Chattanooga area has been named a top retirement spot by U.S. News and World Report and Money Magazine. So it’s little surprise that Lookout Mountain’s first active adult living community, Brow Wood, has attracted people from all over the country.

Folks from Massachusetts, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Florida and everywhere in between have purchased lots at Brow Wood, with several breaking ground this spring. Of course, there are several Lookout Mountain natives moving in, excited to downsize yet remain in a place they know and love.

Many want more than just a house, they like the idea of a community,” says founder Frank Brock. “Brow Wood is a natural extension of the Lookout Mountain community.

The development’s proximity to Covenant College means residents can take a class, attend cultural events or utilize the library or fitness center. Hiking and horseback riding trails come right up to the property and downtown Chattanooga is just a short drive away (without having to access the highway).

Everything at Brow Wood is geared toward simplifying life in the later years. A commercial area is in the future plans, which might feature doctors’ offices, an eatery or even beauty parlor. The homeowners association maintains the lawn, yet green thumb residents can still pitch in at the community garden.

HOA president Gerry King has created a homeowners’ website with valuable information on everything from pictures to utility providers. Residents will soon be able schedule community activities, reserve the pavilion, or launch their own blog from this unique site.

In addition to convenience, Brow Wood also offers peace of mind. All homes are designed for “aging in place,” and a state-of-the-art assisted living facility is currently under construction across the street. All lot owners will go to the top of the reservation list for any given unit should the need arise.

Named “Thrive at Brow Wood,” the $10 million complex on the woodlands side of Scenic is slated to open by Christmas and will feature 49 rooms, 15 of which will be secure rooms dedicated to memory care. There will also be independent living townhomes available for month-to-month rental. As early as this July, Thrive plans to pave the entrance and open a model unit and an office in two of the four units.

More information is available on Thrive's Facebook page.

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