top of page

Trailheads Hike The Gold Branch Trail, Take Olympic Gold, And Celebrate A Platinum Anniversary.

This week the Trailheads had two major milestones. Trailheader George Hirthler, who wrote the bid book that brought the 1996 Summer Olympic Games to Atlanta, received one of the highest honors given by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) — the Pierre de Coubertin Medal — in a ceremony in Lausanne, Switzerland. He and fellow Trailhead Brad Copeland have made the Olympics a passion and a mission for nearly 30 years. George's dedication to telling Baron Coubertin's story has led him down many paths. He is recognized as one of the world's leading experts on Coubertin's contributions to creating the modern Olympic Games. We are proud to know him, and can't wait to see his fancy medal on our next hike.

The other major milestone was the celebration of Brad's 70th birthday. While Brad did not receive a medal for his day of birth, he did get a very special gift from Guy. A CD by the Auburn University Marching Band (2007-2008), and on the cover, they're spelling out "Elvis." If you follow us, you know that Elvis is the big black Lab/Hound mix who joins us on every hike and is Fio's sometime boyfriend. Brad and Roy both graduated from Auburn, so it was a perfect present.

As George was away climbing the medal stand, and Patrick was touring the Midwest, we invited our longtime friend and Auburn (looks like we need three CDS!) graduate, advertising legend BA Albert to hike the Gold Branch Trail near Roswell. We’re always on our best behavior when BA joins us. Admittedly, that is a low bar. The ugly rumor that the BA variant of COVID was named after her are absolutely false. At least as far as we know. She is a delight.

The heat was in the mid 90s. The humidity was stifling near the river. The trail was narrow and rooty by the water. And seemingly uphill everywhere else. Not sure if that was the elevation or the heat. Roy being the great indoorsman of the group was lighter-headed than normal. Out of the safety of air-conditioning, Roy is subject to hallucinations and visions. We don’t know what he saw or who he was talking to, but it sounded fascinating.

Elvis and Fio never missed an opportunity for a cooling dip in the murky Chattahoochee waters. And as always, they quickly came ashore to shake and share that murk all over us. Elvis lived up to his namesake’s “Roustabout” character. Instead of being a hot-headed, singing biker who womanizes and gets in fights, our Elvis was caught by a Forest Ranger sashaying along the trail off his leash. She was stern (but forgiving), and let us and Elvis go along our merry way. This time.

After nearly four miles of listening to Roy’s whining and bitching, the group had a decision to make. We could leave him along the trail to become someone else’s problem, or we could head out for the birthday barbecue celebration. Lucky for Roy, everyone was hungry.

We piled in our vehicles and set out for Slopes BBQ in Sandy Springs. We had been here before, and knew they had outdoor seating. Since Elvis and Fio have not gotten their service animal certifications yet, they can’t come inside for table service. Fio honestly only wants to go to white tablecloth, upscale places anyway. She’s a bit of a snob.

As we rolled up, we saw a large banner covering the Slopes sign. Had this joint become a bubble tea emporium? A sugar waxing parlor? No, they just changed their name. A fellow in the long line said it was a family thing. Slopes is now known as McDaniel’s QN2.

One of the McDaniel brothers was there with a small crew working at a feverish pace to keep up with the never-ending line. Sandy Springs obviously likes the place! There were self-serve fried pork rinds on the counter to get you ready for your meal and keep you going as you waited. The entire crew was upbeat, helpful, and efficient.

We gathered at our shaded tables as our birthday boy regaled us with story after story from his many, many years in the design world (he does have a lot of years now). We also wondered if George was walking around Lausanne with his medal draped on his chest, telling everyone what it was and how important he is in the US and around the world. Patrick sent greetings as he teed off, wondering which fairway he’d hit this time.

We began gnawing away.

The meal was terrific. The brisket was excellent. The pulled pork was a big hit. Everyone was very happy.

BA and Roy being from Decatur AL, put their slaw on their pork sandwich and used the vinegar sauce. That’s North Alabama-style, folks. The lima beans, okra and greens were top notch. The Brunswick Stew looked great. But everyone seems to have their own idea about what Brunswick Stew is or should be.

We finished off with a candle-studded serving of banana pudding. Even this many candles down the road, Brad was able to blow them all out in one poof.

So, after scarfing down the pudding, we ended our celebratory day of awards, friendship, and anniversaries of birth, and headed off in search of air-conditioning.

Rating: Four Ribs*

McDaniel's QN2

(Formerly Slopes BBQ Sandy Springs)

200 Johnson Ferry Road

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.


bottom of page