Sandwiches? Check… Apples? Check.. Water? Check… Trail bars? Check. Map? (Well technically, we didn’t think about our map and trucked off into the wild blue yonder anyway…)
A picture perfect Georgia Spring day stretched out in front of us as we headed up I-75 North toward Hwy 136 towards Lafayette, A honey hole of hidden trails, waterfalls and other exciting things you might find outdoors. After missing a Dames trip to the Pocket and hearing of the splendiferous display of spring wildflowers, this was our first destination. Having been to the Pocket for an overnight back in the day with my mommy friends in a pop-up camper and as a lunch, stick your feet in the creek stopover with the kids, I knew RIGHT WHERE WE WERE GOING…..
We arrived shortly after 9:00 am and were greeted by several large teams of bicyclist and the entire fleet of police from Lafayette as we made the turn onto Pocket Road. Fortunately when we arrived at the parking area, not a soul or car was in sight. We took off on the short 3 mile trail anxious to spot mounds of wildflowers……There were several trees blown down on the trail, an aquatic viewing area, (which we stood by and viewed only aqua….) some marshy areas but no wildflowers…..hmmmm. We continued up and across a ridge and then down into more seeps, springs and wetlands crossing the creek several times and spotted an occasional stray violet, some budding dogwoods, azaleas, sourwood, and mountain laurel but no massive mounds of wildflowers….
All in all it was a sweet little trail, perfect for warming our legs up and the solitude was magnificent. The unusual limestone made for unusual topography. The trail loops around back into a small recreational camping area along a beautiful bubbling creek. (You cross a little bridge to get back to the parking area, so don’t panic when you can’t find your car.) Still confused over the lack of wildflowers, I concluded that there must be more than one Pocket…(more on that later)
Our next stop was just up the road a piece to a spot called Keown Falls.
Again, we pull into a parking lot that is totally empty. (I am so excited over this; I have to do a little dance!!) I just can’t believe our good fortune that on this PERFECT SPRING day there are no people in this area! We head up to the trail head which is beautifully lined with decades old rocks along it. Do you ever just think about those people who laid the rocks, or made the bridges or hammered rock and wood steps into the trails for us and if they could imagine that all these years later that we are still thankful for them? The path makes an ascent to Johns Mountain which is part of Georgia’s natural geological rock formation famously known as the Ridge and Valley.
This trail is a loop trail about 2 miles in length; it crosses the Pinhoti Trail in a couple of spots and connects to the Johns Mt. trail. (David and I famous for getting off track and we ended up on all three!!) The trail begins its accent in long wide switchbacks taking us in turn close to the water and then away but inches upward toward a boulder ridge with an amazing vista of the Johns Mountain and mountains of Rome Georgia. You will also get your first glimpses of the falls. As you continue along this rocky, narrow trail, you will approach your first set of rock steps leading to the waterfall. You can continue up to the observation deck at the top of Johns Mt. but it pretty much looked like a death trap for renovation for safety reasons. No worries, the view from the top of the stairs was pretty amazing. We continued down along a rocky path that took us underneath the falls. Fortunately, we have had a good bit of wet weather and the falls were running beautifully. (These falls run dry in the summer and during periods of drought.) Sitting under the cave like rocks looking out through the water you can see the ridge and the valley below. The trail continues across the ridge and there are many dripping flowing mini falls from the unusual rock formations. We sat and had our snack marveling at one. (Of course this appeared to be the graffiti favorite for what I would assume to be locals.)
The trail is pretty rocky and steep in areas, but again wanders down Johns Mountain along streams and through beautiful forest. The dogwoods were just beginning to blossom and I am sure will be beautiful after this week’s rain. The trail ends at a wonderful picnic area with tables tucked in the woods surrounding the stream easily accessed by a small wooden bridge. This is a beautiful area and well worth a day trip just to explore the general area. Directions to The Pocket and Keown Falls:
Take I-75 North to Exit #320/GA 136. Turn left on GA 136 and travel about 14 miles. Turn Left on Pocket Road and go about 4.8 miles. Turn right on Forest Road 702 and go about .6 miles to the dead end at Keown Falls Recreation Area. To get to the Pocket continue on Pocket Road past the falls and watch for the signs on the left
On to ROCKTOWN
I had visited this amazing northwest Georgia gem with the Trail Dames back in December and couldn’t believe we had never even heard of it! The Rocktown trail follows the ridge line to the tallest spot on Pigeon Mountain. Toward the end of the trail is a “rocktown,” rocks of unusual shapes and sizes. More than 200 million years ago this area was once Great Ocean that at one time completely covered both Pigeon and Lookout Mountains. The water washed away the softer limestone while leaving other, more durable rock. In many places the effect of the water is apparent, from curved holes in solid rock to tiny mazes of stone netting. The trail itself is level and wide with the first glimpse of boulders appear about half a mile in.
One mile in, the trail takes you to a strange series of rock formations and boulders with numerous squeezes and caves. Both times I have been there “boulderers” have been present. Carrying blocks of pads on their backs, looking like SpongeBob Square pants, they scatter throughout the “town” testing their strength and patience on the rocks. They are a very friendly bunch, eager to share what they do. One young man offered his pad and David tried his hand at lifting himself off the ground and up onto the stone. I was happy just to rock hop and climb over, under and through. We spent some lazy time on top of one formation looking out over the mountain ridge still visible through the budding trees. On a humorous note, we heard quite a commotion down below and crawled over to view a couple of families pulling a cooler on wheels! On the way out we passed two guys with pizza boxes and a dad attempting to push a stroller along the rocky, root lined path. We recommend comfortable shoes and a backpack!! Happy Trails!!
Directions to Rocktown:
About 1/2 way between Atlanta and Chattanooga watch for I-75 exit for Resaca, Lafayette, (HWY 136) – Turn L onto HWY 136 & cross over I-75 stay on HWY 136 to HWY 27/136 (traffic light) – continue straight ahead to HWY 27 in the town of Lafayette, Georgia. Turn Left onto HWY 27/193 and go a short distance. HWY 193 north will turn Right. Go 2.7 miles on HWY 193 to Chamberlain Road and turn Left onto Chamberlain (Fina station on Right)Go 3.3 miles on Chamberlain Rd to Crockford-Pigeon Wildlife Area sign on Right – turn Right onto gravel road. Take this road approximately. 1.8 miles (as the road steepens it gets rougher, and goes up the Mt. via a series of switchbacks) Lost Wall Parking is just past the fourth switchback on the left. Continue past the Lost Wall pullout up the mountain. The road improves again once it levels off near the top of the mountain.When the road splits, take the Right fork (Rocky Road ) 1.3 miles further. Turn Left onto Rocktown Road (sign) dirt road 1/3 mile to parking area. Trailhead is @ the right corner of the parking lot, next to the information kiosk.