Updated: Nov 3
Trailhead Nation was on pins and needles (which is not nearly as comfy as a La-Z-Boy Recliner), worried sick about the gang's whereabouts. Three long weeks ago was the last dispatch on trailheadshike.com –what happened to America's favorite hiking and barbecue crew?
There was much wild speculation:
After being written up in the AJC, the fame went to their heads, and the band of brothers toured Europe, Johannesburg, and Buffalo hiking and scarfing barbecue for their fans
Trailheads were on strike, showing solidarity with The Writers Guild of America, SAG-AFTRA, and the UAW.
The crew was on the lam from the law, desperados on the run after robbing an eye bank (ironically, there were no eyewitnesses)
But none of those rumors were true. On Sept. 14, two Trailheads did hike (Guy and Patrick), a minor event deemed not ink-worthy. On Sept. 21, we couldn't rally a hiking quorum, so four Trailheads met for a Japanese food lunch, bringing us to this week.
Trail Master Guy was helping his son Evan move from Boulder to California. Steve is still on the DL, and George tapped out after a grueling few days of production on his Atlanta Olympics '96 documentary film.
That meant going to the bullpen for Trail Master Patrick, with Roy, Brad, Elvis, and Nilla to fly the Trailheads' flag. Our destination was Powers Island Loop Trail, a Hooch trail we hadn't hiked in almost two years.
We gathered in the parking lot on a cool morning. Has summer punched out and gone home? Or is she just teasing us? A Park Ranger was waiting for us in the parking lot. What had we done this time? Are we on the National Parks' watch list? It turned out the ranger was covering the graffiti sprayed on a light pole––cut that out, hooligans (unless you're Banksy).
Roy sported the hip Rock Star Circle Hike The Hootch tee with a classic Trailheads logo cap, Brad dressed in a Hooch Hiker tee with a hot-off-the-presses matching HH mesh hat, and Patrick was modeling the new Think Pink Trailheads tee with a Hike The Hooch cap. Such a stylish crew!
Good gravy, grab some branded gear here and help us support Chattahoochee National Park Conservancy (they receive ALL profits from our merch sales.) You'll look even more attractive. Okay, perhaps we were a bit over-logo'd, but we were compensating for the three missing Heads.
And so, three true Trailheads and two dogs began their journey on the Powers Island Loop Trail and immediately remarked we had no memory of hiking it before. If not for the blog post of our previous hike (read it here), we would have never known. We do these writeups for entertainment and as memory cues. We're creative people with short attention spans. What were we saying?
Powers Island Loop is a beautiful trail, narrow in spots, winding through wooded areas and along the banks of The Hooch. Over the summer, the grasses had grown up and out into the path. We hoped the chiggers that had undoubtedly been residing there had moved on to Palm Springs for the season. Do chiggers have to go through TSA security?
On this crisp, cool morning, we had the trail to ourselves. It's a short hike, shy of two miles, but it has some sweet elevations. You can extend your journey by backtracking a little and alternate routing. Those are made-up trail terms, by the way. Mind your step, though. Roots and rocks are there for the tripping.
Roy Tumbles and Patrick are stick hikers, determined to stay on their feet. Brad defies gravity, using his keen sense of balance, athleticism, and a couple of leashed dogs to remain on the righteous path. You can guess where this is going, right?
As we hiked, Brad told us about his new dieting app, called Noom. He has become a big fan of it. You set your target weight goal, track your food intake, feed the app your daily exercise, and whiz-bang technology figures out motivating ways to gamify dieting. Roy and Patrick listened patiently, eating a bucket of KFC and slurping milkshakes. "Fascinating." They both commented (wishing they had ordered mashed taters and gravy).
There were fallen trees cut and cleared like someone was operating a mobile lumber mill out in the woods. We came upon a tree trunk sprouting a beautiful crop of mushrooms. Oh, Mother Nature, you are generous with your bounty. The shrooms were chewy but not bad. Where's a pizza when you need it?
Along the Hooch, we saw many large critter holes. We were concerned since Roy had just mentioned a news story he saw about a rabid otter attacking a fellow in Florida - biting him 41 times. Would Noom protect us from rabid otters?
How many calories would we burn fighting the foaming-mouthed bugger? How many calories are in an otter (breaded and fried, please)? Is contracting rabies an effective dieting strategy? Trailheads were on high alert.
We discussed Brad and Roy's hatred of commas. Patrick, Mr. Writer Boy, insists we have commas when we do our "Happy Trails" social media posts for the dearly departed. A case in point is our "Happy Trails, Brooks" for the GOAT Orioles third baseman.
It seems the design crew doesn't like the look of an "ugly comma," but Patrick fears getting exclamation point-whipped by the Grammar Police. To spite him, the design boys refused to add a period. Patrick became a little queasy at that and insisted that no one would know the headline had ended without a period, and besides, the three words were not a complete sentence because they didn't have a verb, so it didn't require ending punctuation. Roy and Brad walked as fast as they could to escape.
Then we had a spirited discussion of Wes Anderson's new movie "Asteroid City"–– and how one is either all into the Wes sensibility or not. Writer Boy is not enamored (often finding his films to be style over substance). Still, the two designers drool over Anderson's pristine cinematic palate, clean design, and flat line deliveries from his company of all-star players. Did fisticuffs ensue? No. We Trailheads are a civilized people (although Roy did fashion a shiv from a tree branch, and Patrick kept a watchful eye).
Brad walked along the trail and suddenly started waving his arms wildly– he had hiked into a spider's web. We did a full body inspection and found no spiders (the web was probably meticulously constructed and intricate enough to be in a Wes Anderson film). Brad, the web wrecker, continued on the path to truth and barbecue. The hero marched on.
It was getting to be our feeding time, and we called Steve to let him know we were lunching at an old favorite, City Barbecue in Sandy Springs. It's close by and has a perfect patio for the pups. Steve said he'd meet us there. We came to the trail parking lot, and sweet irony struck––HARD.
Nilla managed to trip Brad with her leash, and he took a tumble to the asphalt. It was a slow, well-executed drop and roll. Was he vying to become Brad Tumbles, the tripping brother of Roy Tumbles (see those funny cartoons here)? Roy reminded Brad that he had trademarked Tumbles™. He would have to find his own nickname or face legal action. At the mention of lawyers, our journey was officially complete.
We were last at City Barbecue in July, following our hike with Olivia Wakim from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She was doing a feature article on us, and we did our best to be newsworthy (read about that hike here). We are fans of this barbecue joint because the service people are always friendly and helpful (Roy downloaded the City app and saved $3 on his grub), the food's consistently terrific, and the atmosphere is comfortable.
We bellied up to the counter and placed our orders, then prepared our drinks, grabbed some barbecue sauces (there's an excellent variety), and watched with hungry eyes as our lunches were expertly prepared. Grabbing our trays, we headed to the patio, where the dogs played a quick hand of Texas Hold'em.
Steve had the pulled pork sandwich––always a go-to pick, as City Barbecue knows how to smoke a pig to perfection. The meat is tender and flavorful, served in a generous mound on a toasted bun that stands up to a good saucing. Um-um, now you're eating.
He had slaw and cornbread for his sides. The slaw is crispy, not sloppy, and eats like a dream. The small cornbread loaf is sweet and tasty, a can't-go-wrong way to curb a ravenous appetite. We suspect a bun and a cornbread loaf would probably cause Brad's Noom app to melt down. Steve, however, was feeling much better after his feed.
Roy had his pulled pork sandwich topped with a heaping serving of crisp slaw and fried okra. Everyone raves about City's okra's exceptional flavor. It's slap-your-grandma-good (if you do that, don't expect any money in your birthday card from granny). This fried okra is the real deal and worth every calorie. (Fried okra is in the "Red Zone" on Brad's app, but we waited until after we ate to check on that.)
Patrick went for the brisket sandwich with a side of fries custom-cooked extra crispy. He was happy to see packets of Heinz malt vinegar and ketchup. Vinegar and potatoes belong together, dusted with salt, it's a killer combo that makes taste buds stand at attention.
It reminded the Midwesterner of the greasy fries served with white vinegar at carnivals, where men with more tattoos than teeth operated amusement rides that had boxes of spare parts (the carnies weren't sure of their purpose) hidden beneath the barker's podium. Oh, yeah, and the brisket is a solid choice. It's tender, but the beef could use a bit smokier flavor. Carnies and Patrick are picky.
Brad arrived at the table with a plate – excuse us, a platter – of Noom dieting delights: barbecue chicken, pulled pork, Texas Toast, fries, fried okra, and baked beans. Spider webs and parking lot tumbles can work up a guy's appetite. He dove in and showered his plate with props galore.
He said the chicken was incredibly flavorful–– "That's a rarity with poultry." He loved his pork and ran the bases with his sides, cleaning them up like Brooks Robinson with grounders at the hot corner. (Too bad the third baseman didn't snag that ugly comma.)
Did Brad lie to himself or the app about quantities on the platter of smoked delights? Only he and his app know for sure, and the app ain't talking.
The dogs enjoyed our table scraps, and we sat and chewed the fat. Spread the word-- the boys are back in town, and maybe someday soon, all six Trailheads will rally together again. Stay tuned, Trailheads Nation, mind those pins and needles.
Rating: Four Ribs*
6649 Roswell Rd NE
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.
Elvis Loves Fio
North Georgia BBQ
Pierre de Coubertin Medal
Glacier National Park
Island Ford Trail
Chattahoochee National Park Conservancy