Trailheads clear our schedules (such as they are) for Thursdays, our time for trudging on dirt and pretending we're rugged outdoorsmen. Nature has served rainy Thursdays the last couple of weeks, turning the barbecue boys into sushi nibblers. The early week weather forecast showed another rainy hike day but a beautiful Wednesday.
Trail Master Guy suggested hiking then. Brad said he couldn't because he had something called a "business meeting." George declined because he's producing his magnum opus, a documentary with a budget bigger than "Avatar," more action than "Top Gun: Maverick," and more fingers than "The Banshees of Inisherin."
On Wednesday morning, Steve was laid-up in bed, having had a bad allergic reaction to the blizzard of tree pollen unleashed this week. Patrick was congested, achy, tired, and feared he had Covid (he dined with a friend who tested positive). He took an at-home covid test (which had expired). The test was inconclusive (it had expired, fool), so he went to CVS for a test. Cue the dramatic music: da-da-da-daaaah! Even though Patrick is vaccinated AF, and had original-strength covid, plus new flavor Omicron, he has it again. When will his body get off its lazy ass, get into the weight room and build some antibodies!
Guy, Roy, and Fio canceled the Wednesday hike, looked at the forecast, and saw a dry Thursday morning. They would hike then.
Steve couldn't make it because he had rescheduled meetings, George was busy in movieland, and Patrick was quarantined. But Brad and Elvis joined Guy, Roy, and Fio at the Bob Callan Trail. Game on, sports fans.
We started with the usual dog greetings. Elvis and Fio met other pups assembled at the trailhead and did what dogs naturally do when they gather––played poker (pooches are bad bluffers, their wagging tails are a tell).
The humans were bored as the dogs gambled, but they eventually hit the trails. A pregnant woman began her hike led by a frisky dog. Trailheads let them have a head start hoping they wouldn't need to help with her delivery. We're fine performing minor surgeries on the trail, but OB-GYN duties make us nervous.
Bob Callan Trail follows the Chattahoochee River -- which was raging. Guy and Brad re-lived their glory days of floating down the hooch in tubes trailed by inner tubes stocked with mass quantities of booze. They also had fond memories of moss fights, which sounded environmentally unsound and disgusting to Roy, who began giving the dogs some poker tips.
Guy led his crew deeper into the woods and places began to look familiar. Was it deja vu (first reported by explorers Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in 1970), or had we entered a forestry time/space warp? (Note: If you're a fan of these intrepid explorers you can purchase this very cool outtake photo from Morrison Hotel Gallery.)
Perhaps pollen had taken over our brains? We soon discovered this trail connects with a West Palisades trail we've hiked a few times before. We saw the rock where Guy had nearly cracked his skull. Our money's on Guy's knucklehead breaking the stone.
We encountered an older couple (they were probably our age or younger, but we see ourselves as carefree thirtysomethings––do we have dementia, or are we willfully delusional?). The friendly couple had a Beagle-ish dog. The woman began speculating on Elvis's family tree: "He's definitely got Lab," she said. "Maybe some Bassett Hound because his back paws point out, but his ears look, the ears look–" Brad cut to the chase and told her Elvis is a black Lab-Bassett and Coon Hound mix. Sounds like Elvis' parents were swingers.
She nodded, like a detective who had solved an impossible case, and jabbed a finger toward her husband and dog. "That one's a rescue," she said. "He was a handful, but he's settled down." We assumed she had her husband fixed and feared our wives would do the same. She told us that "her fellow" – the dog, not her husband – once peed in a suitcase she was packing for a trip. "He didn't want me to leave."
We smiled but suspected the dog did it as revenge for getting him fixed. We supportively nodded at the little fellow.
Bob Callan Trail is a mix of lovely wooded hills, rocky outcroppings, river vistas, and massive overpass superstructures. There are occasional stretches of paved paths with people pushing baby buggies (when will babies learn to drive themselves?). Bikes are also available for rent at the trailhead if you want to peddle the path.
We had a few wildlife sightings. Elvis spotted a couple of deer across the river, winding their way along a ridge. And we came upon a beautiful Blue Heron that took off looking something like a Cessna with its huge wingspread.
As we kept walking, Brad and Roy started grumbling like their stomachs. As they bellyached about it being close to lunchtime, Guy said he needed a yellow and red card system to keep us in line. Roy pointed out he was contractually obligated to gripe, bitch and moan along the trail. It's in his website bio and clearly stated in his Trailhead employment contract (a $284 million deal for ten years––like he'll ever see a penny of it).
Eventually, Guy relented, and we headed back. Barbecue options in this Hootch neighborhood are limited, so we went to a favorite, Heirloom Market BBQ––Jiyeon Lee and Cody Taylor were recently named James Beard Award Finalists for Best Chef; Southeast. Read about a previous visit here.
We ordered food online and grabbed drinks at the nearby convenience store. The proprietor is a nice guy, and we like giving him business. He chased us out with a broom, got to love his spunk! Our lunches were ready at Heirloom, and we grabbed our bags of goodness heading to the Cochran Shoals Trailhead, a half-mile away. We secured our usual riverside table with a view and proceeded to picnic.
Guy had the daily special of Korean Fried Chicken. The bird is crispy, crunchy, and perfect for handheld dining. He paired his cluck with a side of Brunswick Stew. "Delicious!" he exclaimed. He was a happy Trail Master.
Brad went for the ribs, and there was nothing baby back about these babies. Heirloom serves big boy spareribs, Fred Flintstone-sized. They are meaty, moist, and full of smoky flavor. He accompanied his meat sticks with rich, tasty collard greens. Elvis was happy because he got lots of meat scraps.
Roy ordered the North Carolina sandwich. This culinary wonder is smoked pulled pork on a bun, topped with coleslaw in a tangy vinegar-based sauce. North Carolina and Roy's home country of North Alabama both share this love of the melding of pig with cabbage. Because Roy is a cabbage head, he also had a side order of slaw.
The rainy weather front started to slide in as we finished our meals. The temperature dipped, the wind picked up, a little girl ran by screaming, "Auntie Em, Auntie Em!" Soon, the sky began to spit. Yes, we had another rainy Thursday, but got our barbecue with a side of hike.
Would Trailheads have a full crew next week? Stay tuned, and place bets on the no-shows.
Rating: Four Ribs*
Heirloom Market BBQ
2243 Akers Mill RD
Atlanta GA 30339
*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.