With Christmas in the rearview mirror, having left souvenirs of extra holiday tonnage slathered on our waistlines, Trailheads gathered for their last hike of 2022.
Steve was AWOL, enjoying a family vacation in Paris. Yes, we were offended that a European trip seemed more fun and culturally rewarding than a walk in the woods with his trail mates––but to each his own. We secretly longed to be in Steve's family. Not forever, just a week or so. Trailheads love them some French fried taters.
Like Steve's Parisian holiday, this hike was a family affair. Brad and his lovely wife Barb had daughter Erin, son-in-law Jon, granddaughters Carys and Rowan visiting from Austin, plus daughter Cooper and partner John visiting from Los Angeles. It was more like The Copeland Holiday Hike with special guests.
George was with his beautiful bride Carole, and Patrick hiked with his wonderful wife Donna, sporting brand spanking new Merrill MOAB 2 hiking boots. The Dick's Sporting Goods salesman told her MOAB was an acronym for "Mother Of All Boots." Was this a slick sales spiel?
Some people say Moab, Utah, is the inspiration for the name. Either way, two Trailheads, Steve and Patrick, wear MOAB boots exclusively and are big fans. Are they corporate stooges under contract? They’re not talking, they’re walking--while hauling heavy sacks of cash.
It must have been new boots day. George wore a fresh pair of bright orange HOKA Speedgoats, and Roy was sporting pristine electric lime green Adidas Terrex Free Hiker 2s with Gore-Tex. Trailheads would be making bold fashion statements as they walked the runway paths on this fine, cool winter morning.
Brad had requested a hike in the Cumming area so we could lunch at one of our favorite smoked meat joints, Socks' Love Barbecue. Trail Master Guy, sporting a handsome black arm sling, having recently undergone rotator cuff surgery, selected the Haw Creek Trail. Nothing would keep our dedicated leader from his appointed rounds. The one-armed man led his gang into the woods with Fio and Elvis protecting our flanks.
Haw Creek Trail is for both hikers and bikers. The trail markers indicate which direction each activity should go on which day, and in his typical way, Guy shunned the rules and followed his heart––wherever the hell that would take us. The bikers did not. They obey rules.
With fifteen of us marching, corralled by two dogs, we were a force to be reckoned with, but fortunately, the trail wasn't crowded. We encountered a few bikers and some fellow hikers, usually heading toward us and not attacking from behind. Everyone we met was friendly, so we suspected none had traveled by Southwest Airlines.
AllTrails lists this route as being easy, and we would agree. There are some elevations and a smattering of exposed roots and rocks to contend with, but nothing that would take you down (if you watch your step). Haw Creek Trail meanders about, one can see a warehouse structure in the distance, and there are peeks at the parking lot, but you can log some steps here if you like.
We saw lots of deer. A couple of them appeared to be in a fenced area helping someone tend their garden by removing vegetation. Aww! Deer seem to be friendly creatures, but Elvis gave them a good barking anyway. That's his thing, it’s in the dog union contract.
We crossed a sturdy little wooden plank bridge and saw the mysterious Sasquatch in the distance. The enormous hairy beast froze in stride. Did he think we couldn't see him if he didn't move? Silly Sasquatch. We could not tell what kind of footwear Sassy sported––MOAB 2s? Speedgoats? Adidas? Nike Trail Kicker Dust Up 6000s? Sketcher Big Boy Stompers?
Cripes, was the mythical Sasquatch even real?
This thought led us to ponder much bigger questions:
Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide.
No escape from reality.
We saw a little silhouetto of a man–
Will you do the fandango?!
There were thunderbolts and lightening,
It was very, very frightening
Then, a couple of hikers named Galileo and Figaro saved us. They said we looked famished and advised our group to get some lunch. We headed back on the trail and came upon a woman walking her dog. Guy asked if he could pet her pet, and she declined his request. There was a long, awkward moment where he mulled over asking her again, but thankfully his stomach took control, and we moved on before she called the cops on the needy stranger with the grabby mitts. We headed for the parking lot, with a good hike and Sasquatch sighting behind us, and drove into the heart of the Cumming strip and Socks' Love Barbecue.
It was our third visit, and we wanted to see if the place was as good as our tastebuds remembered. We were also curious to hear how this strip center barbecue joint would rate on the expert palates of visitors from the smoked meat mecca of Austin, Texas.
The answer is Socks' blew their socks off.
As we entered, we ran into Socks himself. Steven "Socks" greeted the Trailheads and families with a big smile and proudly posted one of our Trailheads stickers in a prominent location in the restaurant.
We believe this talented pit master serves what could be the best beef brisket we’ve had in our travels. That is a tall claim, we know, but after three samplings (read about previous visits here and here) we believe he deserves the praise. Socks' delivers prime-grade beef smoked to perfection with a beautiful bark, producing incredible flavor. If you want to crank up the flavor, dress the tender meat with peppery barbecue sauce. We're talking savory deliciousness, folks. Brisket is the star of the show here.
A few people had the chicken, which they said was good, but they expected their poultry to be pulled, not sliced. Both the chicken and turkey slices had a nice, smokey flavor. Socks' is an artist with hickory wood smoke, working in the medium of delectable meats.
Those who ordered the sausage raved about their links of love. The meaty tubes, packed with pickled pepper and white cheddar cheese, are fantastic. Brad exclaimed (as he does when discussing barbecue), "These babies are better than Franklin's!"
Trailheads sampled Franklin's sausage shipped from Austin at our holiday party. Aaron Franklin is the pit master godfather of Texas barbecue. Brad's claim was bold, and he may wake up next to a smoked horse's head, but even the visiting Austinites agreed that Socks serves a tastier link. Is your mouth watering yet?
The brisket chili is Texas-style, with no beans in sight. It's a simple thick, spicy chili you can eat with a fork that will leave a satisfied smile on your kisser. The fried okra was crispy, and we assumed healthy because there was a green veggie tucked somewhere inside the brown batter-fried morsels. And the fries were fried potatoes. Simple, and satisfying. But were they Parisian? We'll have to ask Steve when he returns.
The folks who got sides of beans enjoyed their spicy, flavorful mixed legume concoction. And the collard greens are packed with meaty pork goodness. These are not the leafy greens for vegetarians unless they want to stray far off their garden path. The OMG mac 'n cheese garnered some worthy praise, as did the cool crispy country coleslaw and the sweet, tasty corn.
The Texans and Californians were impressed by Socks' Love Barbecue, and the Georgians were stuffed and suffering meat comas. After a good day's work hiking and eating, we bid our farewells and headed south to lattes and Nap Land, wondering if, through the magic powers of brisket, we had maybe lost some of our holiday weight.
Rating: Four Ribs*
Socks' Love Barbecue
1050 Buford Hwy.
Cumming, GA 30041
*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.