Updated: Oct 29
There were grumbles in Trailheads Nation. "What's with those guys," the scuttlebutt said. "Do they ever hike, or are they has-beens?" True, there had not been an official hike since mid-October.
So, what has the crew been doing? Playing hooky and eating fancy food (here's the skinny on that), talking to a Garden Club like they're hiking hotshots (click to read about it), and playing poker after feasting on Brad's incredible baby back ribs dressed with Roy's delicious barbecue sauce (the recipe's here).
In other words, they had ignored their sacred mission of being "On the path to truth and barbecue" (here is the origin story). But this week, the guys got back to work. Finally!
Four Trailheads (Guy, Brad, Roy, and Patrick) dutifully punched in with the dogs Elvis, Nilla, and Fio for a work shift hiking Sope Creek via Cochran Shoals. George planned to join us, but duty called––such is the hectic life of a documentary filmmaker. Steve wanted to hike also, but his doctor said no.
Such is the subservient life of an obedient patient. But what the heck do docs know anyway? We told Steve to ignore the medical advice and do whatever he wanted. If you're wrong, that's why they invented ambulances and Medevac helicopters. Roll the dice.
Brad was excited to test his new "two extendable leashes" technique walking the dogs. He would keep Elvis and Nilla on short leashes on the trail and let the dogs play in the water as the leashes extended to their full 3.2-mile length. Okay, maybe not quite that long, but the leashes do give the dogs room to roam, which is good since Nilla is a free spirit who, without restraint, might surface on the shores of England. Maybe Brad needs to rename her Dory.
Trail Master positioned his troops on the small deck overlooking the Hooch for our obligatory selfie profile shot. Appropriate to the season, Guy's pumpkin head dominated the frame. Spooky. In the background, geese were playing in the water. We surmised they were probably migrating to their condos in Miami. The geese looked tired. They had a long journey ahead and were pounding 5-Hour Energy Drinks and double expressos.
Cochran Shoals is a popular trail along the Chattahoochee, and on this beautiful autumn day, there were many people and dogs. That meant there was a lot of stopping and people talking about their canine breeds as mutts got to know each other (you know, sniffing personal areas and such). If humans did what dogs do to get familiar, there would be fights and arrests. We know, we've tried it.
We even had an encounter with the popular dog of the moment. A black French Bulldog stopped and gave our three pups the eye. She pointed out that she cost more than Patrick's first car and only considers commands in French. Our dogs don't know a second language, so they were way out of the loop. C'est la vie!
We went off the beaten path and saw a deer, who looked at us, was repulsed, and walked away. Roy took his iPhone and tracked the critter without telling us. We thought he might have quit our club and wandered into the woods to live a hermit's life off the grid.
But then we realized we were talking about Roy––and in the wilderness, he can't play his 82,312 vinyl albums or drink cappuccinos. The wandering man got his deer shot, the young buck was a willing model who said, "Be sure to get my good side." Roy came crashing out of the woods with the pictures to prove the macho hunter shot a deer.
Fallen leaves littered the trail, and the breeze brought more of them, gliding like snow gently to the ground. Patrick said he'd come back later with a rake and tidy up the trail, but he says a lot of stuff he never does-- like his promise to remove the oil spills on 285 and "give it a good scrubbing."
Trail Master led us off the main trail and onto a narrow path into the woods so the dogs could frolic in Sope Creek. The dogs opened their dictionaries and looked up the word "frolic." They were open to the idea.
We found a good entry point, and Brad unwound his leashes, so Elvis and Nilla could play with Fio in the water. The dogs enjoyed themselves, and Brad got caught in a web of leashes wrapping around his legs. He untangled himself, and our roaring bellies told us it was time to double back for lunch.
Since there were four of us, we sang barbershop quartets on our return trip to the parking lot. Hikers coming the other way covered their ears and looked pained. We wondered if gnats were attacking them. We sang sweet, semi-melodic, almost on-key renditions of "Hello My Baby," "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," and "By The Light of The Silvery Moon" as people and animals ran away, terrified. They must have been in a hurry to get somewhere.
Once we returned to the beginning of the trail, we ordered our lunches online at Heirloom Market BBQ, which is nearby and always good (read about our last visit here). This joint has a fascinating history. Co-Chefs Cody Taylor, born in Texas and raised in Tennessee, and his wife Jiyeon Lee, a South Korean ex-pat, combined their cooking passions and skills for fusion barbecue fare, earning them James Beard Award recognition.
Recently, they got more hosannas when the Atlanta Michelin Guide gave Heirloom a Bib Gourmand recognition. All these accolades were good for them but did nothing to fill our empty bellies. We needed fed, stat!
Guy, Steve and Roy picked up our food orders. Cars packed Heirloom's parking lot, and a crowd gathered, waiting for their to-go orders. You might think this popularity was because the BBQ joint received the prestigious Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand recognition, but it's always like this.
You're probably wondering what the "Bib" in Bib Gourmand refers to. The tire manufacturer's mascot is Bibendum, and he's widely known as the "Michelin Man," he has been the bulbous face and body of the Michelin brand since 1898. We make fascinating dinner conversation partners (if you can keep your eyes open).
Enough history. Let's talk food. Brad and Guy split a full rack of Heirloom's St. Louis-style ribs, and they moaned in ecstasy as they ate. "These are perfection," said Brad. "Amazing ribs! So moist and meaty!" said Guy. The bones kept falling to the foil as they scarfed the smokey meat. The dogs looked on, knowing there'd be no scraps left. They tried downloading the Heirloom app for themselves, but had trouble working the phone screen. When is someone going to invent a dog smartphone? Apple iBark?
Disabled list Steve joined us for lunch. He ordered the North Carolina Sandwich, a bun loaded with smoked chopped pork, a mound of slaw, and Settler BBQ sauce. The grub was just what the doctor ordered for injured Steve––he ate and smiled. The patient was in pig heaven.
Patrick and Roy decided to give the brisket a whirl. They'd only had the smoked pork before. After one bite, they were blown away by how incredible Heirloom's Chopped Brisket Sandwich is. The meat was tender, smokey, and dum-diddly-icious (as Ned Flanders would say). The sweet BBQ sauce enhanced the flavor perfectly. Patrick's only beef with the brisket sammy was the bun not being toasted. He likes his bread toasted like Elwood J. Blues of The Blues Brothers. Roy had jumped in so hard he wasn't aware a bun stood between him and the savory brisket. Those were the main events. Let's chat sides.
Brad raved about the baked beans. "These beans might be the best I've had." Okay, we get it––you like the beans. He said his collards were "okay." He pondered thoughtfully. "I like them, but I'm not sure they're in the top tier." The man is known for being a harsh collard greens critic.
Steve loved his Brunswick Stew. "This is really tasty," he said, scooping his spoon into the chunky concoction and shoveling it into his eager yap. At least over the satisfied slurps, we think that's what he said.
Patrick and coleslaw expert Roy gave big thumbs up for the crispy cabbage. "It's not too creamy," Patrick said. "Great flavor," said Roy. And this was the regular slaw. Not the fancy fusion Kimchi slaw. They almost opted for the green tomato kimchi. However you slaw it at Heirloom, you'll be happy.
And Guy made short work of his Mac And Cheese. "I like the fancy macaroni shells," he said. "The shape holds more cheesy goodness." And no doubt the Michelin judges appreciated the elevated pasta offering.
He also gave props to the Cucumber Radish Salad. "I like the Korean spices. It's a nice palate cleanser." Interesting––some Trailheads use Soft Scrub and a wire brush for palate cleansing.
We finished our tasty French-rated Texas-Korean barbecue fusion lunches and punched out. We had a good hike and excellent feed, and it was time to go to Napland, where everyone is tired and loves our barbershop singing.
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.
Elvis Loves Fio
North Georgia BBQ
Pierre de Coubertin Medal
Glacier National Park
Island Ford Trail
Chattahoochee National Park Conservancy