Pocket Loop from Hell on Crockford Pigeon Mountain

Technical Glitches – I keep uploading pics & Posterous eats them. I’ll try again soon.

The Pocket Loop trail is next to the Estelle Mine Trail that I enjoyed so much 2 weeks ago. It’s near LaFayette, Georgia on Crockford Pigeon Mountain WMA, I was aware of the elevation and length of the Pocket Loop Trail, so I decided to start early. Weather reports indicated a front coming through, with high winds & lows in the 20’s, so I wanted to make sure I had plenty of wiggle room before dark.

The trail starts off with interesting rock formations to the leftWith a double waterfall on the right. Great picture opportunities. Even though most streams were dried, still had a lovely double falls.The double waterfall as trail progresses

An old stacked stone wall

An interesting rock – layers like a biscuit!

Then I approached an open field, which is just beyond the falls. It is a “designated campsite”. I didn’t see any fire rings, but I didn’t go very far into the area. It is perfect for star-gazing with the sound of falls as background. It is not car-accessible, but a fairly easy hike of less than 1/2 mile from parking area.

I couldn’t find a lot of information about the trail, other than the elevation, views & wildlife one may encounter. Turns out, it’s A LOT easier if you do NOT go ‘the south loop’ aka counterclockwise around loop. It’s considerably less ‘all uphill’. (Of course I went the south loop.)

I crossed the stream and noticed old pavers. I went upstream a bit to find a place to cross without getting wet. Even though there hadn’t been a significant amount of rain recently, the water was ‘above boot height’ as far as I explored. Many of the rocks were very slimy, poles would be a help to make it across safely.

The trail markers are ridiculously inconsistent, often faded, and sometimes non-existant. You’ll have to squint to actually see the blue paint on the trees, then a rare instance, there are two freshly-paiinted markers close together in a section of trail where there really isn’t a question of where to go. Imagine trying to see this “marker” from 50+ feet away. (I have 20/20 vision).

Beside the “blazes” there were occasional trail markers – the distance on them was inconsistent, even from one side to another.

On a positive note, along the way, these were various things that caught my eye – from a blue bicycle chained to a tree a few miles into the hike, to an oddly-placed cairn & a sinkhole.

Some neat tree and rock formations…

I thought this was a stretcher leaning against the rock at first (look closer). I was ready for one.

These are various views along the trail. It went from being overcast to raining quite hard to the skies clearing but very strong winds. I had several large branches falling nearby, it got a bit scary not knowing if I’d be clubbed by a tree. Quite a change in 6 hours.
Pics are in order from approaching trail from South… first section is uphill with views thru the trees: Often this section was is in streambeds – squishy mud with horse poop.The at the ridgeline. It was lovely but REALLY windy, so I didn’t venture out too far to take pictures. There were some lovely large rocks that would be ideal / picturesque for a picnic, rest.The the beginning of the descent, where I got lost and there were lots of fallen trees.
 
The trail itself varies significantly – from standard fairly even ground, to squishy mud covered with leaves where you can sink down to your ankles. Since the path allows horses, there was plenty of poop to avoid. A good portion of the trail is in stream beds, which was quite slippery with leaves and mud. On top, the trail has a lot of slippery/slimy rocks. Be careful walking on them. There was a segment where the trail continues on a gravel road. I crossed at least 5 dry streams that may require some hopping if there is a good rain. The trip down (counterclockwise, past 3miles remaining marker) involved a lot of climbing over trees. The trail was significantly less maintained in this section. The trail markers were practically non-existent, but one could follow the horse trail most of the time.
I encountered this rockpile just past 3.1 mile remaining marker. I assume it was the remains of a hiker who died on the trail. (half-kidding… keep reading)
A little while after I passed a trail marker indicating I had 3.1 miles to go, the blazes disappeared. There were a lot of trees down and the routes around them became more confusing. I tracked back to the last blaze I saw, looking for any sort of path. The trail map was no help because it was weaving back and forth with no distinct points to reference.
 
After 30 minutes of earnestly looking for the path, I had to decide if I should turn back & cross 6+ miles that took me 5 hours to do, or use my Garmin to guide me back to the trailhead. It was after 3pm, I had no cell service & wasn’t prepared to camp out that night.
 
My hike off-trail was downright scary. I climbed down rock and slid down steep hills of more than 1000 feet in an hour per my gps. I was scared I’d break/twist an ankle or end up hiking a long way to a cliff with no way down. I had my headlamp & flashlight, but no cold weather gear. I wouldn’t allow myself to look at my watch, knowing dark was coming. I wanted to stay calm and focus on moving safely and quickly.
 
I didn’t take many pics but when I was closing in on the trailhead, I took a couple of shots of where I climbed – from a distance. I scaled down that rock face. I stay pretty calm, but I admit, I was nervous. I was afraid I might fall, break a leg or ankle, get bitten by a snake, and be stuck with no supplies to weather a very cold night. 
I ended up exiting via the Estelle Mine Trail around 4:30. Exhausted & relieved.
 
Working on uploading my gpx files. If anyone can help me convert my gbd to upload to Google Maps, I’d much appreciate it. My cell phone gps is far from reliable as you can see below. Been trying to use GPSbabel and gpsies to convert and compress. (Need to reduce KMZ or KML file size)
 
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