Trail Master Guy usually picks our path on Monday for our Thursday hike. This week he selected Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, and all Trailheads said they were in. But come Thursday morning, all hell broke loose.
Elvis went online, moving the mouse and banging the keyboard with his front paws. He found some enticing porn sites, then realized he'd been fixed. He cried and continued exploring the web. The curious canine investigated our scheduled hiking trail and discovered a startling piece of news: "NO DOGS!"
Like Lassie alerting adults that Timmy fell in the well, Elvis ran to Brad and began barking.
"What is it, boy?" his master asked. "Is something wrong?"
"Ruff ruff ruff!" Elvis woofed.
“Ruff ruff ruffity ruff ruff!”
"The trail doesn't allow dogs?!"
"Yes, Brad," Elvis spoke in a low sarcastic voice with a slight English accent. "Must I spell it out for you?"
"You can speak English!" Brad said, startled.
"Of course, I speak English. I'm not an idiot. Read my lips––the trail says, 'No dogs!' Screw that. I'm not going anywhere that I'm not wanted. I have my pride!"
Brad was slack-jawed. He alerted fellow Trailheads that Elvis was tapping-out. He didn't tell us his dog could speak, but we knew that already––Elvis talks smack about Brad behind his back.
Guy got on AllTrails and selected a new hiking site: Big Creek Greenway Trail: Roswell to Alpharetta. Elvis and Fio were happy. Dogs are allowed. Roy was concerned––there are 15.8 miles of trails. Was the Trail Master leading us on a death hike (something we'd suspected since the tragedy at Chigger Holler)? Guy assured us we wouldn't cover all the territory.
"Yeah, right," we heard Elvis say under his breath to Fio. "I'm not so sure I'd trust a guy who couldn't read 'NO DOGS' in the trail description."
Elvis is a saucy lad, and Fio tittered.
We had the entire cast of Trailheads assembled (Roy, George, Steve, Brad, Guy, and Patrick) with a special guest-- Jason, George's son, visiting from a city up north called Manhattan. We walked down the wide cement path, wooden walkways, and bridges through the lush green woods. We began our journey in Roswell (not the one Martians invaded in 1947), and soon we walked into Alpharetta. There was no magical "Wizard of Oz" transformation… we were here... then we were there. No passports or dead witches were necessary.
The group came upon a baby copperhead snake on the path. The viper was maybe 8" long—a short lock on Medusa's head. iPhones with macro lenses snapped photos making the wee wisp of an asp look like an anaconda. Guy showed it the bottom of his hiking boot and left the snake for dead, saving future hikers from its potentially dangerous adult life. Mother Nature is cruel, but Trail Master Guy is crueler. Small children were on a trail field trip with their teachers, and Trailheads vow to look out for kids and dogs. But would snake slayin' Guy snap?!
Big Creek Greenway Trail is very nice. Paths are well-maintained and popular with walkers of all ages. We traveled by swampy areas and a running creek calling Elvis to play. The big dog got into the water but couldn't get out. Brad and Jason had to yank him up the bank as Mr. Sassy Mouth Elvis kept his yap shut, shamed by the seductive creek.
Guy laughed at the lovely clean bridges and took us off the path and into muddy trails, so we could say it was a rugged hike. We had to negotiate our steps carefully over the exposed roots, and we felt outdoorsy–– then we backtracked to the smooth paths and worked our way back to the parking lot. We were off for our reward: Smokejack BBQ, 16 minutes up the road in Alpharetta Square.
Smokejack BBQ, established in 2004, has a nice welcome mat: the aroma of wood smoke in the air as one approaches. The restaurant is beautiful, with a full bar and a carryout area on one side and plenty of seats on the other. There is also a roofed patio in the back with seating and some tables out front facing bustling streets Alpharetta Square.
Trailheads always eat outdoors if possible since Elvis and Fio love to join us. They lapped from a large water bowl as we waited for our grub. A very nice young fellow took care of our orders through a window open to the sidewalk.
The restaurant has an extensive menu with all our barbecue favorites: brisket, burnt ends, chicken, smoked wings, smoked turkey, pulled pork, ribs, burgers, and sausages. Trailheads sampled a good portion of the offerings.
Steve gave the pulled pork sandwich high marks (the Smokejack logo is a pig–that should have been a tip-off). He said the meat had a good flavor. Patrick got the chopped brisket sandwich—served on toasted slabs of bread, not as thick as Texas Toast, but close. Maybe this was Oklahoma Toast. If so, we prefer Oklahoma Toast to Texas. It makes us wonder about New Mexico Toast. Is it hand-rubbed with Hatch Chilies? The barbecue sauce kicked up the flavor of the meats, but we could have stood more heat. But the heat was coming.
Jason, George, and Brad all sampled sausages accompanied by peppers that were plenty hot––Satan's ass hot. The sausageers liked their links, savoring the meaty flavor and avoiding the burnt tongue policy of the hot peppers.
Roy had the Alabama Chicken Sandwich. Being a native Alabaman, he said the white sauce was good but had too much mayo, not enough vinegar, and lacked the black peppery goodness of an authentic Alabama White Sauce. The grilled chicken was good and hit the spot.
Patrick got some smoked chicken wings to share. These babies were the ticket–– mighty tasty wings infused with a sweet smokey flavor. Memorable wings.
The Brunswick Stew was mild, made with chicken instead of pork, lots of potatoes and lima beans, and a smattering of corn kernels. A lengthy discussion ensued regarding the need for potatoes or lima beans in the stew. Our group prefers neither, but the veggies disappeared anyway. Brad liked his collard greens, and Jason was a fan of his side of corn pudding and grilled vegetables. Everyone enjoyed the fresh slaw with its light sauce and good crunch.
We ate and cleared out because the parking lot was soon closing for The Taste of Alpharetta, and we had to skedaddle back home. Elvis said he wanted to get back to surfing the web. He had bookmarked quite a few sites this morning.
Trailheads suggest you give Smokejack BBQ a try if you're in the area. They also have some good-looking swag, and so do we.
Rating: Four Ribs*
29 South Main St.
Alpharetta GA 30009
*About Our Barbecue Rating System
Trailheads do not claim to be food experts, epicureans, or sophisticated palettes. We are hungry hikers who attack a selected barbecue venue and ravage our way through whatever smoked fare and fixings they're dishing.
Our reviews feature what we believe are the highlights of the menu we sampled. So our intent is not to trash talk the saintly folks who tend to smoldering smokers on hot, humid summer days. They are sacrificing themselves in the noble art of smoking meats and feeding the drooling masses. Many are independent entrepreneurs who are the backbone of this humming American economy.
Now that you know our standards, you may wonder why every barbecue place gets a four ribs rating. The answer is easy: our group has acclaimed designers, and they think the ribs graphic looks cool.
Who are we to argue? Enjoy.