Growing up in East TN, I frequently encountered barns painted with the iconic Rock City sign across their roofs. While the signs were a familiar presence, I never actually visited Rock City as a child. It wasn’t until my late twenties that my mom took me for the first time. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend it. Miles of stone lined paths through some of the most beautiful gardens the Tennessee Valley has to offer, light displays at Christmas, Mother Goose’s Village inside the Caves, and you can see 7 states all at once from the look-out point.
Last October, Joy and I wanted to take Ian out to experience autumn to the fullest. We decided that Rock City would be a fun place. We had no idea how well it would really go over, though. All of the paths have stacked stones on either side, creating a barrier to contain toddlers to the path. Rock City is also a very dog friendly park, and allows your four-legged children to partake in the fun, so long as they stay on a leash. We would have had fun had it just been us girls, but Ian’s delight with the park pushed this venture up to being one of the most fun of my life. We chose to take a Wednesday off of work when the park wouldn’t be as crowded. For once, I was able to take a toddler to a public place where he could squeal and run without disturbing others or risk injury. As I only had the one prior visit to reflect on, we chose to only take one dog this time to see how it would go having Ian and Mogwai together in a public setting. (Chaco has since received her own special treatment to atone for her abandonment on this day.)
Mogwai wasn’t a fan of the swinging bridges, while Ian enjoyed them entirely too well. This was the one encounter of the day that made me too nervous to turn him loose.
My mom and I took turns wrangling the child and the dog. Mogwai was on his best behavior, despite the abundant squirrels tormenting him.
Rock City has stairs at every turn. In my previous, non-maternal life, I groaned with dread when faced with more stairs. Now, however, I eagerly anticipate the quiet evening I will have as Ian sleeps soundly from stair climbing exhaustion. Stair climbing continues to be one of Ian’s favorite activities.
The caves and caverns throughout the park provided a cool relief from the sweat we worked up climbing the many stairs.
This was about the time that Ian started to tire and needed a lift for a while. Have I mentioned how heavy he’s getting? Actually he’s still a fly weight, coming in under 30 pounds, but after 15 minutes of hiking, he started feeling more like a 50 pound sack of grain.
At one point on the trail, we encountered one of those painted plywood props that you stick your head through for a funny picture. We thought it would be funny to stick Mog and Ian’s heads through. We could get Mog’s head through, or Ian’s, but we just couldn’t seem to get them both to cooperate at the same time. When Mogwai would stick his head through the hole, Ian was too busy cracking up to remember to hold his on head through his hole.
Finally, after plenty of strenuous hefting of child and dog, wrestling, and a little shoving, we managed to get both of them to cooperate at the same time!
As much fun as Ian and I had through the day with his Nana, the absolute best part of the day was that Joy and I finally had a day we got to spend together! We’ve already made plans to purchase season tickets soon to repeat this fantastic trip frequently.