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Three Trailheads, Three Guests. Three Dogs, And One Mission: Smoked Meats (and a salad).

Once again, this week found the Trailheads scattered. George was in Bend, OR, and Patrick was in Dallas, TX. And Steve… well, Steve continued to have his boots in mothballs due to a damaged heel that became a foot issue suddenly caused by his hip, with a spleen connection and an overall frozen fascia. (Have you tried frozen fascia with caramel sauce? It's to die for.)

We hope to have Steve on his feet sometime this decade following his regimen of dry needling, wet needling, and sewing needling. But just in case, we have designed a three-dog cart to pull him around. Mush!

This week, we had three delightful guests: Brad's wife, Barbara, his sister Lynne, and her husband, Louis. They were visiting from Raleigh and wanted to see what this Trailheads thing was all about and if an intervention was necessary. Lynne even wore her new Power Of Pink limited edition Trailheads t-shirt (get your cool gear here––you’ll be helping Mother Nature because ALL profits go to Chattahoochee National Park Conservancy).

Trail Master Guy selected the Sope Creek Loop From Paper Mill Road Trail for our hiking journey. We hadn’t done this route in a while, and the weather looked promising.

Roy had high hopes for a rainout. He planned a massive sushi lunch of sashimi, nigiri, and rolls. But the rains pushed south (curses!), and we had a perfectly dry, if a bit muddy, day.

We were greeted by two giant buses when we gathered at the trailhead. Were greeters being brought in? Or, were these tour buses for The Rolling Stones, and we were about to enjoy a private concert? Or maybe the National Association of Hikers Convention was in town?

As we were pinging ideas, a Park Ranger strolled up. "I’m glad to see you have those pups on leashes," she said. "Didn't want to have to take you nice folks in." Luckily, the dogs saw her coming and quickly helped each other leash up. Then Callie, the social media wizard with our friends at the Chattahoochee Conservancy, came along and said, “Hey, I know you guys. You’re the Trailheads."

We get that a lot, a phenomenon called “Trailheadmania.” It's like Beatlemania but without all the fantastic music and adoring screaming fans. Our sudden fame happened after the AJC feature story on us appeared (thanks, Olivia and Nick!). But in Callie's case, she just likes us and what we do to help the Conservancy.

The hike was a perfect way to get to know our new friends from Raleigh. Lynne and Louis were charming and tolerated our motley crew. We covered a lot of ground and topics. Trailheads even said nice things about Brad so his sister would think we liked him (Barb knows better). Lynne used to be a big tennis player and now is an avid pickleballer. We compared notes on spins, dinks, and drop shots. She knows her stuff and probably wields a mean paddle.

As we strolled, someone mentioned that the length of Steve's text messages had increased during his physical inactivity. He was giving his texting digits a real workout. We discussed limiting his daily character count to optimize his rants and raves.

Back to those buses full of school kids released into the woods. Teachers and parents accompanied them acting as handlers so the little ones weren't foraging alone. We ran into one group standing on a dock learning about the fragile ecosystem of pond wildlife. One kid appeared to be stuffing frogs under his sweatshirt, which meant a surprisingly fun ride back to school.

Another group of youngsters was transfixed as a guide showed them something furry. "This is a beaver pelt," the proud guide told them. "Where's the beaver?" a shocked kid asked. The adult explained this was a "preserved" beaver pelt, but that answer did not satisfy the curious child.

He continued to ask where the beaver was. If the curious kid continued this line of questioning, we imagined he’d end up wherever the beaver did. We moved along.

Then, we found a third group of children doing scientific research on the riverbank. They pulled mulch from along the river’s edge and laid it on screens to sort through. What they were looking for escaped us. It looked like rotted leaves and mud to our untrained eyes. Maybe the adults were using energetic kids to dredge the river (smart––cheap labor). It looked like nasty business. We left them to their dirty work.

We had recently read that a sheriff's office reported 30 sightings of alligators in the Chattahoochee. One sighting was as far up as Athens. So we kept moving with pace.

Roy's wife had an upcoming eye doctor appointment, and he planned to drive her home in case they dilated her eyes or did some threatened minor surgery. After walking for an hour, he asked Trail Master Guy where we were and discovered they were only halfway along the trail. That meant Roy had to get back to the car in half the time it took to get there. He bade his farewells and took off like a superhero…but much, much slower than superheroes do.

Fio ran after Roy twice to check on him but finally gave up, assuming he would find his way. He relied on his trusty AllTrails app for a safe return. Thank you, AllTrails. By the way, Roy got home in the nick of time to act as a heroic seeing-eye husband.

The rest of the crew completed the Paper Mill mission, said goodbye to the kids, and returned to their cars. Steve was finishing a project so he would meet the crew for lunch at one of our favorite spots, City Barbecue (read a recent review here).

Many of the trails near the perimeter are close to City B. or Heirloom Barbecue. We picked City because their food is always on point, the pulled pork is consistently tasty (you can rely on Steve to order it), and there's a great patio where the dogs can mingle and talk trash about “lazy two-leggers.”

City Barbecue also knows its way around the deep frier. The fried okra is top-notch, and the hush puppies are crispy balls of sweet corn love. The puppy eaters cooed like pigeons who had won the lottery. Lucky stiffs!

The slaw is creamy and crunchy. Bite and smile, babe.

And the ribs fell off the bone. They’re tender and well-smoked. Sauce ‘em and go.

And the brisket, chicken, and collards met their usual high standards. They disappeared fast.

Barb's green salad was fresh, crisp, and crunchy with plump little tomatoes and shredded cheese—perfect fare for a nonbarbecue eater.

Secretly, we're sure everyone wanted a salad (provided the City Barbecue cooks battered it and gave the greens a dunk in the frier first). But Trailheads caved to peer pressure and stuffed barbecue into their yaps.

On the way home, Brad had a surprise encounter with the Sandy Springs police, who noticed his license plate tag. The sticker had expired four months ago on Brad’s birthday. The Po-po gave him a ticket. It must have been their belated present to the birthday boy. Elvis was so embarrassed. Bad boy! Bad boy!!!

Guy went through the Sandy Springs Citizens Police Academy (making him a junior honorary Sandy Springs Police cadet we assume). He proudly displays a sticker on his Jeep's back window to prove it. The Jr. Copper should have noticed Brad’s infraction and issued a citation earlier. We don't think he's going to make detective.

The Trailheads loved having special family guests and can't wait to get back out. Maybe we’ll find that beaver missing its pelt. Or an alligator will find us.

Rating: Four Ribs*

City Barbecue

6649 Roswell Rd NE

Sandy Springs, GA 30328

*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.

  • barbecue

  • AtlantaBarbecue

  • bbqsauce

  • brisket

  • Brisket

  • ChattahoocheeChallenge

  • Chiggers

  • Elvis Loves Fio

  • hikingforfood

  • HikingGeorgia

  • hiking

  • North Georgia BBQ

  • Pierre de Coubertin Medal

  • Pulled Pork

  • quicksand

  • Ribs

  • Trailheads

  • Trailheads Approved

  • Whitesauce

  • TrailheadsHike

  • City BBQ

  • Summit Coffee

  • Okra

  • AJC

  • Olivia

  • Glacier National Park

  • Island Ford Trail

  • Pulitzer

  • Chattahoochee National Park Conservancy

  • Atlanta Journal-Constitution


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