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Trail Master Substitute Loses The Trail But Finds The New Home Of Herb’s Rib Shack.

Updated: Mar 19

This week, the Trailheads were down two members. Steve was sick (maybe he had a touch of bubonic plague), and Trail Master Guy had a conflict (perhaps he was mall walking with an Auntie Anne’s pretzel in each hand). Patrick offered to act as Trail Master, and Guy, unwilling to relinquish his leadership position–and not trusting Patrick’s trail smarts–suggested the Heritage Park Trail near Mableton. It is classified as "easy." That sounds about right. Game on.


Since we had our writers on this hike, we would give AI the boot. But thanks to hi-tech for picking up the writing chores last week (read its pitiful attempt here). Call us AI… when your algorithms learn to hike and eat barbecue.


Patrick, Roy, Brad, and George gathered in the trail parking lot. Although none of us remembered hiking Heritage Park Trail before, Patrick did recall the parking lot (he has a fetish for quality parking on Grade A asphalt with straight perpendicular lines apportioning neat and orderly spaces). The gang asked the parking lot freak/acting Trail Master where the trailhead was, and he looked puzzled. How can a Trailhead not know what a trailhead is? Pathetic.


“Um-uh,” Patrick stammered, shrugging. We went to the nearby lookout area for a selfie pic. Trail Master Guy is also a master selfie taker, so his melon head dominates the frames of our portrait pictures.

As Patrick fumbled with his camera, Roy noticed it was in video mode. Scrambling for the iPhone photo setting, the acting TM finally took an acceptable group selfie. Then George spotted the nearby trailhead, and we marched back through the parking lot to descend the trail and head across a boardwalk over swampy lands.

We were on high alert for dangerous swamp creatures like alligators, venomous snakes, and D.C. political lobbyists armed with Platinum Amex cards. The waters could contain many potential dangers. Who knows, there might even be a creature from the Black Lagoon confused about the definition of a lagoon and hopelessly out of place in these ominous reflective Georgia waters.

Roy was a big fan of all the monster movies growing up. He knew everything about the Creature From The Black Lagoon. When he was a lad, he even assembled a plastic model of the dangerous beast. Roy confirmed that anything was possible with that sneaky bugger. 


However, there were no worries since Roy and Patrick had their trusty walking sticks outfitted with hidden stiletto blades and guns firing small-caliber bullets. These hiking weapons (and licenses to kill) are sold on Amazon, with free shipping for Prime Members.

We made our safe passage across the boardwalk. Brad and George were trembling from fear but eventually calmed down after Elvis baptized them across their faces with a string of dog drool. That gets your attention toot sweet.


It was a beautiful spring morning with temperatures in the low 60s. The sky was peppered with fluffy clouds, as happy birds sang covers of classic '60s rock songs. We held Bic lighters and requested “Free Bird,” but the birds ignored us and played a Who medley instead. We suspect the British invasion influenced them heavily.


All four of us were chatterboxes discussing the Oscars, the nominated films, house-hunting, and various medical ailments we’ve suffered. Patrick had his annual dermatologist visit recently, undergoing two biopsies and four skin freezes. Unfortunately, one of the biopsies tested positive for basal cell carcinoma, and Patrick will undergo Mohs surgery next week.

The afflicted area is on his nose, so post-surgery, he’ll probably look like Jake Gittes in “Chinatown.” He suspects that swampy water is being hoarded in Mableton to provide desert-quenching irrigation for farms near LA. He said those croplands would probably have excellent FREE parking available. We wondered if the medics had already given him a pre-sedative.


Patrick will join Guy and Roy in the recent Mohs Surgery Recovery Club. Those fellows had the tops of their noggins cut and stitched. (Hot tip from the Trailheads: Do not Google "Mohs surgery" if you're about to get Mohs surgery.) Since we support dermatologists, we ask them to help us support Chattahoochee National Park Conservancy by purchasing quality Trailheads merchandise here. The skin mavens can feel generous knowing that ALL profits from our sales benefit CNPC. Anyone can help nature by buying genuine Trailheads gear.


Since we’ve suffered Mohs surgeries on our heads, perhaps we should introduce a Trailheads-branded helmet-ski mask contraption. We’ll ask our design team to begin mockups immediately.


We hiked along Nickajack Creek and came upon the ruins of Concord Woolen Mills, which opened in 1847 and was one of the first industrial employers in the country. Learn more about its illustrious history here in the notes from our previous forgotten hike in February 2022. This riveting historical story has everything you love: wars, fires, and jeans.


Brad and George said they had afternoon appointments and wanted to double back for lunch. If Trail Master Guy were in command, he would have argued and forced us to trudge ever onward, cracking his bullwhip over our heads and whining that we were just there for the food and not the relaxing sauntering in nature’s wonders. But Patrick, on hearing the request to return, folded like Phil Hellmuth, dealt an 8 of clubs and 2 of diamonds hole cards with an A-K-10 of spades flop.

“Sounds good,” said the feckless acting Trail Master. “Food is yum, yum, goodie-goodie! Eat now!!! Food, umm.” 


We ware going to try a new barbecue spot Roy read about, but when we looked at its website, we saw the place was only open four days a week and not for lunch on Thursdays. Disgraceful! Did these posers think people don't want a heavy meal of smoked meats and dense sides at noon? Fortunately, we were not far from one of our favorite joints, Herb’s Rib Shack.


Herb recently moved his smoking operation from Windy Hill Road in Marietta to Veterans Memorial Highway in Mableton. His old place served some of the best ribs we’ve ever picked clean, but would his delectable flavor transfer across town? We drove to the new address, parked, and inspected the grounds. Yes, the parking is plentiful and spacious.


Out front, the familiar Herb’s Rib Shack black smokers perfumed the sky with a seductive aroma of slow-burning hardwoods. Pit Master Keith stood tending to his children while they smoked, as good fathers do. Keith is a nice guy and welcomed us to his new home. He said Herb was working in the kitchen.

We entered and a friendly woman offered us a rib tip, just like they did at the old joint. She had us at free food. “Umm,” we cooed in delight. “Smokylicious.” We can testify that the smoke traveled with the crew. We don't know how Keith coaxes so much smokey flavor into the meats. The Mableton Fire Department must be getting false alarms left and right.


The new restaurant was still being decorated, and framed pictures were spread across a table, waiting to be hung. We stepped to the counter and placed our orders–-ribs—lots and lots of ribs, please.


There was a condiments table. We love Herb’s barbecue sauces because they are bold and beautiful. Go on, babes, and paint your ribs with turbo-boosting flavor. We dressed our food like it was going out to eat. There was a sign suggesting you should check your order because once you sauced it, you bought it.


There were a couple of tables inside, but just like at Herb’s old joint, most people got their food to go. While the previous place had one outdoor table, this operation had none. (Note to Herb: Please add some outdoor seating with shade. We are pasty-faced panty wastes. Thanks!)

Because Elvis was with us and had atrocious table manners, we needed to find an outdoor spot to feast. We grabbed our food bags and drove to Mableton Town Square Park.


We sat at a table under a naked tree, exposing our combustible skin to the blazing sun. Somewhere, dermatologists smiled, rubbing their hands together greedily. Opening our containers, we put our mouths to good work.


We eyed the nearby jungle gym contraption. While we considered going there to play, we blew that off to stuff our faces, curious about how the new Herb's Rib Shack would fare.

We’re happy to report Herb succeeded. The ribs were the same as they ever were––delicious. No one infuses more delectable smokiness into meat than Pit Master Keith. One bite, and you’re in a forest fire of flavor. Surrender.


While we generally prefer baby back ribs, no one was bellyaching about Herb’s St. Louis-style spareribs. The rub is not shy on black pepper, and with a glaze of tangy barbecue sauce, you’ll go straight to Flavortown and punch Guy Fieri in the mouth, declaring there’s a new mayor and his name is Herb.


Brad had some sausage with his ribs but was underwhelmed. He felt Herb could pump up the volume on the links. We reminded him the place wasn’t called Herb’s Sausage Shack. Lesson learned––when in Rome or Mableton, get the ribs. Always get the ribs.


Roy wanted coleslaw, but they didn’t have any. So, he got the potato salad instead and ate happily. It was better than his grandmother's. What was that last little zing of flavor? Pimento? He wasn’t sure, but the tater salad wasn’t bland.


Patrick had the corn, and it was fine—after all, he was in Cobb County. He will pay for that wordplay in the afterlife. The corn was a sweet resting spot in between bites of savory ribs.


The half-rack rib order is six bones and 12 rib tips, so we had leftovers, some of which made it on the drive back. Trailheads were happy with Herb’s Rib Shack’s new home, and we drove home to slip into meat comas.


It was a grand day, and we look forward to Trail Master Guy, Fio, and Steve's return. Make a trip to Mableton and welcome Herb to his new smoking joint.





Rating: Four Ribs*

Herb’s Rib Shack

1420 Veterans Memorial Hwy SW

Mableton, GA 30126


*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.

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