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Trailheads Flirt With The Law, Spread Cheer Along The Trail, Then Attend Art Show And Feast At Socks' Love Barbecue.

If cat herders were looking for a real challenge, they would try their hand at herding Trailheads. We are an elusive bunch. Last week, only Brad, Patrick, and Guy were hiking. This week, it was just Guy and Brad again, but instead of Patrick, Roy hiked. Next week, who knows? Maybe it will just be the dogs.


Patrick was jetting to a holiday in the US Virgin Islands like one of the swells. Most likely, as we rugged men took to the trail, he was sipping a Bahama Mama, twirling a tiny paper umbrella with his pinkie pointing northwards.

George was taking in a little R&R in Paris on his way home from a big business trip. He did sample some Barbecue à la francaise; it looked “trés” tasty. At least eating 'cue was Trailhead-y.

While Steve and his wife were driving their son's car to him in DC. They will either fly back or stay and become part of the evil Big Barbecue lobby, fixing meat and sauce prices.


That left Guy, Roy, Brad, Fio, and Elvis to hike Laurel Ridge Trail next to Buford Dam Park in Cumming. All of us were looking forward to the views of Lake Lanier, but as we pulled into the parking lot, there was a "NO PETS" sign.

We slowed to a crawl and considered this for a minute. Taken at face value, this meant Fio and Elvis were not welcome here. After dog-cussing whoever was responsible for this sign, we went next door to the Bowmans Island Trail. 


As we pulled up, we saw another "NO PETS" sign. What was going on? This is a Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area trail, and we've hiked it several times, always with dogs. We're not above being outlaws, so we began thinking like lawyers, slicing and dicing to determine the sign's “true” meaning.


It did not say “no dogs,” “no cats,” or “no pandas.” It said "no pets." We looked at the pups' crestfallen faces, knowing in our hearts these were no "pets"––they were our family. And more. They were Trailheads, dammit! Now, if someone came by with a guinea pig on a leash, a cockatoo on their shoulder, or a clam in a Ziplock bag, well then, yeah, those are pets. 

But not our dogs. Case closed. We charged ahead. But if we had bothered to read the AllTrails write-up, we would have learned that pets or dogs are allowed and encouraged, except for in the lower pool area by the dam, where we weren't going. Stupid literacy always gets us.


So off we went. As we charged ahead at full speed, Brad realized he had not hung his parking tag on his mirror. Not wanting to get a ticket or a boot on his fancy new Fisker, he hurried back, leaving Roy holding Elvis. The black horse-of-a-dog looked at Roy. Roy looked at Elvis. Both knew this was wrong. Roy is not a dog person. And Elvis is not a Roy person. They waited quietly for Brad, each glancing away from the other. 


After Brad's return, we immediately began trashing the three Trailheads who were absent. It's a tradition and is expected. You will get slammed if you're rude enough not to hike. It’s in our bylaws. And we trashed them mightily. 


The ears of the missing Trailheads must have burned to ashes, and they began texting us. "Miss me?" "I’ll bet it's no fun without us." We sent them photos of attractive young women skinny dipping pulled from Google with the message, “You’re missing a pretty good hike.” We cackled. Radio silence followed.


As it turned out, almost everyone on the trail had a dog or was heading to a fishing hole. We first encountered a woman with a tiny, curly, frisky white dog. We enjoyed watching it play with Elvis and Fio until we realized the white dog would not leave.

The woman started walking away, and we yelled, "Wait, don’t forget your dog!" She laughed and kept walking, and said,"Oh, he'll be fine." We got the distinct vibe she was dumping her overly gregarious pup on us-- and Fio or Elvis were about to get a brother. Finally, we were able to send the white dog down the path after its owner. And when they reunited, we bolted.


Soon after, we ran into two young women named Jaiden and Christie, wearing University of Georgia gear. That was an invitation for Guy to engage in his never-ending blabber about the Georgia Bulldogs. The women gave our dogs a lot of attention (even though they’re not bulldogs).

Jaiden is studying Public Health, as is Guy's daughter, so they chatted about this. Feeling left out, Roy made the insightful comment, “I think public health is good.” Silence hung in the air as a tumbleweed gently rolled past. We had subjected these young women to enough of our foolishness, and gave them a sticker, took a photo, and said our goodbyes.


Next up was Mary. It was like we were in a receiving line on the trail today—meeting an endless stream of friendly people. Mary had a little light-colored Something-Doodle. Fio comes from the Doodle-verse, and there were now two varieties––large and small. Once again, this little dog was a handful and ran circles around Elvis and Fio.

The pup wanted to play. Fio had played enough and went full Greta Garbo: "I want to be alone," she said, with world-weariness. Mary was charming. She's an avid hiker and still has the luxuriant locks that earned her the title "Best Hair" in the high school yearbook. Roy mentioned he, too, still had his high school hair––in a box in his closet.


After all this socializing, we found ourselves at the trail's end. It was time to go to Socks' Love Barbecue. Socks is the reason we headed up to Cumming. Steven Hartsock ("Socks") has become our favorite pit master in our travels.

He not only tolerates our presence, but we haven't found a better brisket anywhere. His homemade sausages are incredible, and his ribs are easily in our top three. 


Socks catered Roy's recent 70th birthday party, and the food was a big hit with everyone. 


When we last visited Socks, Steven said he wanted Roy to do a cartoon for him like his funny "Roy Tumbles" cartoons, found here. Roy was honored but didn't know what to do for him because Roy only draws Roy. But he gave it a shot. Once finished, he framed his drawing, and we presented the cartoon titled "Trailheads Love Socks" to Steven, who liked it – we think.

Kea, the lovely woman who was taking orders at the counter, took one look and said, "Big Head!" That's an attribute Steven admits to. It was a fun moment with our friend. We hope he enjoys it.


Kea explained her cool name. No, she's not named after the car, which is spelled differently. She's named after the Kea – a large alpine parrot species found in New Zealand. Its nickname is “the naughty alpine parrot." Kea did not elaborate on that.


Now, you don't go to the best brisket joint in town and not get brisket. We all ordered brisket and man, it was good. Steven uses a simple salt and pepper rub on prime-grade beef and lets it bask for hours in the wood smoker. The results are stunning. Brad and Roy also had a Cheddar jalapeno sausage. These huge links are packed with delectable flavor. Amazing.


They loved their sausages so much that Brad and Roy ordered a few of them to go. When Guy asked Kea for a sausage, she said they were sold out. “Your friends just bought them all.”

Guy began sobbing and asked what she recommended for him instead. Without a beat, Kea said, "Ribs." Socks used to only smoke ribs on weekends, but he's doing more racks now. Guy jumped at the offer.


Before the food arrived, Steven brought each of us a rib right off the smoker to sample. They were thick, meaty meals on a stick. These babies are smack your Mama good (and don’t be surprised if she grounds you afterward).


We mixed up our side dishes.


Guy and Brad's okra was, as always, the perfect way to eat your vegetables––breaded and fried. That's the recipe for making healthy food tasty.


The Cowboy Beans were a baked mixture of different beans with a little kick and a lot of flavor. Brad described it as a cross between baked beans and Brunswick Stew. He was smitten, and guarded his bowl from intruding spoons.


The slaw is clean, crisp, and fresh. Just what you need to pair with the strength of the meats.


The Collard Greens were another healthy-ish alternative. After weighing in at his physical this week, Roy decided to take a week off of fried food. But these tasty greens were no sacrifice. However, he wondered how they’d be battered and fried crisp.


After eating, we had a nice long visit with Steven. He’s such a nice and talented fellow. Not everyone discovers their passion and purpose in life, but he’s found it-- and scores of hungry barbecue fans appreciate his gift. Go see these folks. But please don't bogart the sausages.




Rating: Four Ribs*

Socks' Love Barbecue

1050 Buford Hwy.

Cumming, GA 30041

(470) 302-8383


*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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