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Substitute Trail Master Tries to Get The Gang Lost, They Find Themselves at Ford’s BBQ.

Right now, 31 GPS satellites are orbiting Earth. If you have a smartphone and a signal, it’s almost impossible to get lost. But Patrick did his best to do just that acting as Trail Master for this week’s hiking adventure.

Our regular Trail Master Guy was with his extended family preparing for his lovely daughter Allie’s wedding to Josh in Asheville. Congratulations to those goo-goo-eyed, crazy-in-love kids. You’d naturally think Guy would forego the ceremony to be with his beloved Trailhead brothers, but no, he flew the coop, leaving us in the lurch.

Patrick stepped forward in a coup-like power move and said he would lead the gang. He selected an easy hike to appease his lazy followers, Atlanta’s South Peachtree Creek Path Trail between N. Druid Hills and N. Decatur. It is a long stretch of wide boardwalk cutting through Medlock Park, with natural paths jutting off the wooden trail.

This hike offers the best of both worlds––easy walking on wood planks and more challenging hiking through woods. He told his troops they didn’t even need their boots. Comfy shoes would do. Rejoicing and happy dancing ensued.

However, George was a no-show. He was busy working on his ‘96 Atlanta Olympics documentary. We imagine our friend chomping a cigar, tugging at an Old Forester Bourbon bottle, barking commands to a frustrated editor and snapping his fingers to signal the perfect edit point.

“Lose two frames off that shot,” George shouts. “And give me a star wipe edit to the next shot. Beautiful, classy. Now, I want to hear some trumpet fanfare there. More, give me more horns! Louder!!! Ah, that’s the stuff! And where the hell is my Vanilla-Nutmeg-Smoked Paprika Latte!!!” We wish the movie mogul the best and send our sympathies to his frazzled editor.

With two Trailheads out, the other four rallied in the trail parking lot, which also accommodates tennis and pickleball courts. Steve, Brad, and Roy looked at Patrick and asked, “Which way, Trail Master?”

The acting leader looked left, then right, up and down, then shrugged. “I dunno. Let’s try this one. Maybe.” He began walking, and Brad said, “No. I think it’s the other way.” The confused Trail Master turned, and off they went. With a promising start like that, you may wonder if the Trailheads would ever be seen again. We did.

It was a gorgeous day, warm but not hot, with a sky as clear as God’s conscious. The boardwalk had a steady traffic of walkers, joggers, and people leashed to their dogs. Elvis was happy to see his kind. The dogs were probably conspiring on an upcoming revolution over their demanding humans. South Peachtree Creek Path Trail is an impressive boardwalk that winds in and around the trees. The trees must look down on their fallen brethren and wonder if someday they’d be sawed into a footpath. You could sense their sadness. Or perhaps it was just a breeze.

We hiked above Burnt Fork Creek, winding its way through the forest. 70% of the boardwalk is under a lush canopy of trees, but then the trees retreated as the evil sun lay in wait, preparing to attack the pasty-faced walkers. Across Atlanta, dermatologists greedily rubbed their hands in anticipation of upcoming Mohs surgeries––they were in cahoots with the ultimate solar power.

The boardwalk transitioned to a wide sidewalk, and suddenly, we came upon a busy road. “Does the path continue across the street?” Steve asked Trail Master Doofus.

He opened the AllTrails app, looking at his iPhone like a chimp gazing at the controls of the Space Station, and said, “I guess so. I don’t see why not. Sure. Maybe.”

31 GPS Satellites giggled. “Not even we can help that pathetic fool,” they said in computer code. They were becoming sentient like SkyNet in “The Terminator.”

The Trailheads crossed the street and walked down a stretch of sidewalk into a pretty neighborhood. “I don’t think this is the trail,” Roy said. “I think it’s that angry lady’s backyard.”

We heard a shotgun being pumped in the distance.

“Roger that. Let’s backtrack,” Trail Master Patrick said, as if this diversion was part of his plan to explore off-trails-Atlanta.

We doubled back and saw a natural trail offshoot. “Let’s do this,” Patrick said. His bandmates began to sweat––their “Trail Master” got lost on a boardwalk with rails; what would happen with him leading the babes into the woods?

Brad surveyed a trail sign and consulted with Steve. One path was labeled easy, and the other more scenic, but it looked like a stroll onto a chigger buffet table. We took the easy route.

Soon, we came to some railroad tracks. Photo op. Getting mowed down by a freight train while taking a selfie would be an embarrassing way to bite the dust. Steve put his ear to the rail to listen for approaching trains.

He picked this up from his time as a scout in the old West. The rail had been baking in full sun, and Steve unfortunately fried his ear like an egg. We snapped some quick pics and continued on.

We saw graffiti under a bridge—a photo op. The craftsmanship and typography skills were excellent. Brad was critical of the font and letter kerning.

We found water. Elvis went for a dip and a drink, and we had another photo op. While our phones were useless for reading GPS, they made excellent cameras. Elvis managed to slime the entire crew as he shook off. He loves doing that.

Once again, we were back at the boardwalk, but somehow, it was where we had begun, which made no sense to us. Had we stepped through a portal? Had the Trailheads finally broken the time-space continuum (we’ve been working on that chestnut for years)? Perhaps.

As we walked, we wondered what year it was. We hoped it wasn’t 1864 because if we had stepped into The Civil War, we’d surely catch hot lead. If it was 1999, we could party like it’s 1999 and relive the Y2K crisis. Good times, good new millennium times.

But no. It was still 2024. We saw a boardwalk map sign.

“Which way should we go to get back to our cars?” Brad asked Patrick.

“I think it’s this way,” he said, bluffing.

Fortunately, some people were coming down the boardwalk. We asked them for directions to the parking lot, and they pointed in the opposite direction from the one the alleged Trail Master picked. We wisely followed the strangers’ advice. Hopefully, the portal had not shifted the parking lot to a different location, but it didn’t. We returned.

Roy thought it would be a good idea to get a picture of us by the pickleball courts to cheese off Trail Master Guy, who hates our never-ending pickleball talk. Roy opened his trunk, revealing his collection of 116 pickleball paddles. We grabbed our dinking weapons and went to pose. Photo op!

For lunch, we selected Ford’s BBQ in Oakhurst, making this an the identical hike/dining itinerary that we took in June, which Guy also missed, and Patrick again took wobbly control of trail mastering (read that funny adventure here).

We are big fans of Ford’s BBQ. The smoker here is called Mattie Ross, and she does a fantastic job. It looks like a giant iron lung, but, man, does she ever pump out the tasty smoked meats.

We talked with Pit Master and Manager Joél. This man has barbecue sauce in his veins. He was born in Texas, raised in Louisiana, and has been perfecting his meat smoking skills for ten years in Georgia.

He waxed poetic about his craft.

“Every day is different,” he said. “The wood, winds, and temperatures change. The secret is cooking low and slow. Today, I’m using pecan and oak.” The Pit Master masterfully works with Mattie Ross to produce excellent results. Joél is a smoke artist working in the medium of meats.

He told us the special today was beef ribs, but there were only three left. We asked him how he did with these whoppers. The Pit Master gave a nonchalant shrug. “I think they’re pretty good.” The four hungry men eyed each other suspiciously, looking for a weakness in each other and reaching for knives.

“I’ll just get pulled pork,” Steve said, saving a life (maybe his own). The server came, and we placed our orders.

We were impressed by the Arnold Palmers. They were incredibly refreshing, made with the real lemonade, the good tart citrus-sweet stuff, balancing unsweetened iced tea perfectly. Arnie would be proud.

The food trays arrived, and we attacked with gusto and the occasional eating utensil.

The beef rib looked like it came from a brontosaurus. Fred Flintstone would be delighted. Roy ate a tender piece of smoked beef with bark, and was instantly transformed into another dimension. His eyes rolled back in his head, and he began speaking in tongues. Roy was in love––the deep kind.

Patrick and Brad negotiated their beef ribs with equal parts infatuation and lust. Elvis looked on jealously.

Steve happily enjoyed his pulled pork sandwich. “It’s got a wonderful smoky flavor,” he said. We could barely hear him over our vicious assault on the rib bones.

Let’s get on to the sides, shall we?

Roy, Steve, and Patrick loved their vinegar slaw. The cabbage and carrots are shredded, diced into tiny pieces, and tossed with a flavorfully delicious vinegar concoction that refreshes the palate. It was the second week in a row we had mayo-less slaws. And we don’t miss the creamy stuff. We may need to be admitted to The Mayo Clinic.

Brad and Steve liked their jalapeno-creamed corn. It packs a pleasant wallop. They worked their spoons like they meant business.

Patrick was digging a hand shovel into his spicy chili. It’s Texas-style (no beans) with a twist. Rather than just beef brisket in a savory tomato base, it also has smoked pork. Two meats, one red vegetable––what’s not to like in that equation?

That leaves the fried okra, which Brad and Roy liked. Battered and fried generally ups the game on most green veggies.

With some table scraps of beef ribs— a little meat and gristle, Elvis finally got to taste what all the commotion was about. He loved it and eyed the rib bones, but Brad knew the big dog wouldn’t gnaw on them. He would shatter them like glass and swallow them, which is not good for Elvis's stomach.

To end our meal, we had one last photo op. Brad was modeling a new Trailheads shirt design. If you’d like to buy one, please drop us a note in the comments. We hope to have it on the swag site soon (shop here).

Brad held up two beef rib bones as Elvis looked on. The poor pup was going cuckoo. “Why are you taunting me with these gigantic bones, Father?” Elvis also wondered where all the tasty meat had gone.

Silly dog, you don’t need GPS satellites for that. Look no further than our full bellies. Make tracks to Ford’s BBQ, and tell Pit Master Joél Trailheads sent you.

Rating: Four Ribs*

Ford’s BBQ - Oakhurst

350 Mead Road, Decatur, GA 30030

404 254-2846


*About Our Barbecue Rating System

Trailheads do not claim to be food experts, epicureans, or sophisticated palates. We are hungry hikers who attack a selected barbecue venue and ravage our way through whatever smoked fare and fixings they're dishing out. 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.

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  • North Georgia BBQ

  • Pierre de Coubertin Medal

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