On a glorious and cool-by-Atlanta-standards morning in early August, Guy, Steve, Roy, and Patrick gathered in the West Palisades Trail parking lot, perched high above the snaking Chattahoochee River. George was babysitting his adorable granddaughter Bella, and Brad was visiting in-laws on the road in Wisconsin.
West Palisades Trail was the site of the legendary Massacre at Chigger Holler almost one year earlier––August 12, 2021, for you history buffs. Please read all about it here, or wait for the new edition of American History books, provided they don't whitewash this tragic event. The event was even commemorated as a limited edition, collectable, highly sought after t-shirt on TrailheadsHike.com.
When Trail Master Guy selected the trail this time (even though he is in the pocket of Big Chigger), he promised no visits to chigger holler or cliff walking (Yes, there are some steep stones one can try his luck on. Think Cliff Diving on ABC's Wide World Of Sports. Same thing). Patrick, who was fortunate not to have been a victim of the Chigger Holler Massacre, assumed this meant the hike would be a leisurely walk through the woods. He was wrong.
The Trailheads set off on the trail and began descending toward the river. The hill got steeper and steeper, and at one point, we were walking at an almost 90-degree angle, battling gravity. And gravity is a powerful thing. Fio, missing Elvis, weaved in and out of the hikers leading the laggards to safety. At the bottom, we hiked the trail along the river.
Someone heard rumors people were swimming naked in the Chattahoochee this morning. If so, they must have been underwater. We saw no signs of nudity. Just in case, Steve brought a pair of binoculars rivaling the James Webb Space Telescope.
And thankfully, being more than a little self-aware of our bodies, none of us stripped down. Not even chiggers want to see that. Today the only naked Trailhead going for a swim was Fio.
West Palisades is one of the most beautiful Chattahoochee River Trails, offering views of a wooded island, ducks and waterfowl, some churning rapids betraying strong currents, and ribbons of reflective waters stretching off to the horizon. There were many paths before us, and we took them all.
Walking the river trails minding our steps as there were sections where nature's potholes stood at the ready to eat unsuspecting feet, and through tall grasses, up more hills, and along craggy rock formations. After a couple of hours, we decided to tap out for lunch.
We began climbing a hill back toward the parking lot. And then another hill, and yet another. "How is this possible?" some Trailheads whined (Roy). Others panted (everyone), wiping their brows, wringing their drenched tee shirts. Guy began singing "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and continued leading our death march high into the sky under a green canopy of trees.
Once we scaled the hill posing as a mountain, we saddled up our cars and headed to Heirloom Market BBQ, one of our favorite joints (read our earlier review here).
There is no seating at Heirloom. There are standing tables, but we were in no mood to stand. We picked up our food and headed to some picnic tables a mile or so away by the river. Guy ordered one of the daily specials, Korean Fried Chicken (or KFC to intimidate Col. Sanders).
The chicken was crunchy and delicious, but he didn't detect a unique Korean flavor. We pointed out the spicy sauce may have been in the container Guy didn't open. Patrick and Roy did, and it was great on their meals. We can only imagine what its sweet, sparkly heat would have done for Guy's mound of crispy, crunchy fried chicken. He missed out.
He also ordered Korean-style potato chips––thin spud slices, flash fried, then doused with a sweet, spicy sauce. They were good, but we thought they would have been better fried crispier. But then, isn't everything?
Roy opted for the other daily special, a couple of hot dogs described by Heirloom as two Frippers all-beef hot dogs with American Mustard & Korean Relish. The long wieners exceeded their buns by an inch at either end. While Roy loves a good hot dog, he pined for Heirloom's Korean barbecue. After all, Trailheads are on the path to truth and barbecue––not truth and hot dogs.
Steve and Patrick went for the pulled pork sandwiches with sides of Brunswick Stew. Heirloom's pulled pork is excellent––smoky, tender, and covered by a flavorful bark. We think their Brunswick Stew is one of the best in Atlanta. It's a hearty stew loaded with tasty pulled pork, studded with sweet corn kernels, swimming in a rich sauce with a nice spicy pop on the back end.
This isn't your Grandpa Earl's Brunswick Stew, but we bet the old codger would dance a jig after one spoonful of Heirloom's flavor-filled concoction. And he'd probably throw out his hip. Again. Get that bum hip replaced, Earl. Patrick’s had that operation performed four times!
It was a strenuous hike, but an Heirloom lunch made it worthwhile. Get going there if you have never had the merger of traditional Southern barbecue with a zingy Korean spin. And if you can do it without scaling an endless hill, you're living the good life. Even better if you saw nudists swimming. (If not, pull out your copy of the Woodstock album and take in the skinny dipping photos and a little Alvin Lee and Ten Years After.)
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.