GEORGIA: Check Out the Drought at John’s Mountain WMA

You may hear the recreational areas not devoted to the procurement of meat at John’s Mountian Wildlife Management Area called such unpleasant things as “The Pit” or “The Pocket”. I personally kept waiting on someone to refer to it as the “pimple”. Outside of a tremendously dry Fall they are probably absolutely delightful with all the neat water features listed on the map. Right now they look a bit like a government funded commercial to encourage water rationing though!

Is it goat approved? Not if you have a big goat. The trails are tight, especially the stairs to the falls.

How you get there: Google Pocket Rd, LaFayette, GA 30728. Then, look for the icon for “John’s Mountain Look Out Tower” to the west of this road. Google doesn’t show you the full gravel road up to the look out, but trust me, it’s there. If you drive down Pocket Road from the Villanow end the turning is well marked with a big sign that says “Look Out”. For the unfortunately named Pilcher’s Pond the pull off is south of the Look Out turn off about 1/2 a mile on your left.

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Time for hike: These are short sightseeing bits, so the most you can do is 5 miles to Keown Falls and back, and not even a mile to Pilcher’s Pond round trip.

Best season to do this hike: Any season but deer season as this is a WMA. Winter would probably be better because the views are better from the ridge line without leaves. Also, winter is rainy season in Georgia, so the falls might actually exist then.

Trails to Take

KEOWN FALLS

For Keown Falls, assuming your car related assets are up to it, drive up to the overlook parking area. You will know you are there because A. Continued driving plunges you to your doom and B. There’s a nice wooden overlook platform.

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Keown Falls when dry. You can just see the overlook above.

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Mountain Overlook At Parking Area

Then, lazy people can take the 1 mile trail down to the Keown Falls Loop, which is boring. You will find it on the opposite side of the parking lot from the overlook. Or you can take the 2.5 mile trail, which takes you past and over fun rocks and will have better winter time views. This is at the opposite end of the parking lot from where you entered, behind the unused trail kiosk and just beyond the radio tower building.

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Fall’s Overlook in summer

Either way, you end up at the Keown Falls Overlook, which in dry conditions, isn’t much of a view in terms of water, but has a gorgeous view of the valley. The rocky point behind it is also wonderful for views and nice burned out rocky terrain. To visit the Falls, descend the stairs beyond the overlook, and at the bottom go RIGHT. This trail is supposed to be a loop, but I never found the whole loop…the trail petered off into sun bleached overgrowth. It looked like it would be quite a climb to go around the whole thing.

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Overlook from rocky point above falls overlook

The falls should be dropping down from the roof of the first massive grotto you walk into. If it is dry, you will instead be in a very nifty cave. After you’re done taking selfies, return the way you came. The 1 mile trail on the way back to the parking lot is almost entirely up hill. There is also a side trail to nowhere that comes off of it.

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Map to Keown Falls  (not to scale)

 

PILCHER’S POND

More like Pilcher’s Puddle, this decimated body of water hosts more grasshoppers than stocked fish. However, it’s a nice little flat walk to do some exploring on. The first little pathetic pool of water is not the pond. You’re looking for the sort of pond that features on the bleak advertisements where the state government is trying to guilt trip you into conserving water!

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Pilcher’s dried out pond
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The man made watering hole that I guess makes up for the pond’s dryness
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Unmarked grave of a Pilcher family member at the pond
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Map to Pilcher’s Pond (not to scale)

BE WARNED

  1. The WMA hunting map is essentially useless. I have tried to mock up maps that more closely resemble the trails at the time of publication.
  2. The road to the overlook is not recommended for low ground clearance vehicles (i.e. your girl friend’s Mazda), or those with  bald tires, (your son’s second hand pickup). Or for any vehicle in heavy rain.
  3. Don’t walk up the gravel road to the overlook. The dust will suffocate you if a car comes by. Instead, take an off road trail.
  4. There are two trails to the falls. the one behind the parking lot is 1 mile one way. The one past the radio tower is 2.5 miles one way. Make your decision wisely.
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This trail system is part of the larger Pinhoti Long Distance Trail

In sum: We propose that Pilcher’s Pond be renamed “Pilcher’s Puddle” for the duration of the water rationing. Other options include “Pilcher’s Plain” or “The Disappointment of Pilcher”.

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