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Trailheads Trek A Forbidden Trail, Make New Friends, Go To Brisket Heaven.

Updated: Sep 4, 2023

Our universe is a weird place, but finding another universe with an affordable vacancy is challenging. So, for now, we're stuck in The Milky Way (it’s a good candy bar, but hard to beat an Almond Joy or Snickers).

Here on Earth, the planet most of us call home (and some call "flat"), we experienced two nights of what brainiacs with telescopes label a "Super Blue Moon." NASA says what we saw in the night skies on August 30-31, 2023, was a full moon, a supermoon, and a blue moon.

So, if you bet the trifecta, congratulations, you won (lucky stiff). The moon looked 14% bigger and brighter because it was closer to Earth. You could almost smell the moon cheese. Getting two Super Blue Moons is rare. Drinking six of them is much more common.

We will see this universal treat again in January and March of 2037. Here is some interesting trivia: Werewolf eyes appear blue during Super Blue Moons, even if they're brown. You'll win bar bets with that gem.

What's an astronomy report doing in this hiking and barbecue post? It's color commentary for the fact we have been having intense summer storms, and maybe the evil moon is to blame. While we are not conspiracy theorists, it is a proven fact that lunar cycles control the Federal Reserve, pork belly futures, and the Cleveland Browns' field goal percentage. At least, that's what we believe.

Four Trailheads-- Trail Master Guy, Brad, Roy, and Patrick-- assembled at Charleston Park Trail near Cumming, GA. Once again, George was working on his Olympics '96 documentary, and Steve was on the injured reserve list (but able to meet us for lunch). You know what they say: "Starve a fever and feed an injured foot."

The hiking crew rebranded itself "The Fab Four Trailheads" and were confident Trailheadmania would soon sweep the world. We labeled the other two missing lollygaggers as "alternates." They’re like “session hikers."

But Patrick felt compassionate and made a tearful plea "to forgive our brothers who are gone, but not– what's that word again––you know, it means to not remember something––oh, the stupid word's right on the tip of my--what's the word for that thing in your mouth, it begins with a 'T'..." He continued babbling as the other three left him in the parking lot. They had a new name: "Three Dog Trailheads."

When Patrick caught up with the gang, he saw Guy lifting a plastic "caution" tape––was the warning because of storm damage? Thanks, Super Blue Moons. Skittish Trailheads followed their disobedient Trail Master, expressing a fear of breaking the rules. Guy snapped.

"Come on, you cowardly altar boys,” he barked. “Get moving! The tape says 'caution.' That's like running a yellow light."

We got him to agree that we'd head back if we encountered fallen trees blocking the trails.

Our itinerary was a repeat of a hike and barbecue feast we did in April 2022 (read about it here). Charleston Park Trail is an excellent hike, with twists, turns, switchbacks, elevations, and scenic views of Lake Lanier. We saw a lot of tree damage and assumed lumberjack elves cut the fallen timber and cleared the paths for us.

But had a mighty tree fallen on The Fab Four Trailheads, they would only have themselves to blame (Trail Master Guy mostly), and it would be ironic justice. Our Trailheads alternates would be forced into pallbearer duties.

We can imagine their snide remarks:

"Why did they have to eat so much barbecue?"

"There's a ton of pulled pork in this take-out box."

"Did these guys ever hear of green salads?"

While the trails were damp but clear, we saw many potential dangers. Roy could have sworn he saw a murder hornet nest. A few steps later, he spied a cicada wasp nest. We suspect he imagines a lot of this stuff. Then we noticed his beard was covered in bees and hoped he’d share some beard honey with us.

Patrick came upon a web with a large spooky spider lying in wait.

“Hey,” he said. “Do you think if I let the spider bite me, I might turn into Spiderman and get an eight-picture deal?”

“Sure,” his bandmates said. “Have at it, champ.”

When Patrick turned back to the web, the spider was gone. Perhaps he was in the Screen Actors Guild and on strike. The Hollywood wannabe hiker had blown his big break!

As we continued our journey, we encountered a woman walking her dog.

"Are your dogs friendly?" she shouted to us.

Elvis, Fio, and Nilla wagged their tails enthusiastically and put on happy faces as Roy gave a low guttural rumble, hunched his shoulders, and bared his sharp teeth.

"Yes, our dogs are very friendly," Guy yelled.

"Heal, Roy," Brad commanded. "Down, boy! Down." He tugged at his leash as Roy continued snarling. His eyes turned blue, and we hoped he could maintain his human form. Things could get ugly.

Guy took the dogs down the hill for an introduction, and we soon became fast friends with the friendly woman. Her name is Margaret, and her pup is Chloe. Margaret lives on the lake and hikes these trails often, so she was our guide as we explored the paths together. We sensed Guy felt upstaged, so he kept close to her, no doubt fearing for his trail master job. All Trailheads are susceptible to receiving das boot at any moment. We’re quite an elite unit, you know.

We hiked for a long stretch. Brad, Roy, and Patrick talked about "The Offer" on Paramount+, a captivating series about the making of "The Godfather" movie. Brad and Patrick loved it.

And Roy gave a mild recco for "Dobie Gillis" because he’s a sucker for anything with a beatnik who trades in his bongos to become the first mate on a tour boat that gets shipwrecked on a desert island with a millionaire (and his wife), a movie star, The Professor, and Mary Ann.

Margaret explained that a powerful weather event or space landing had decimated the forest a few weeks back. It's in much better shape now. Then, there was rowing talk. Margaret was a crew rower, and her daughter now rows on a competitive team. Guy's daughter rowed in high school and college. They had a long discussion about regional rowing facilities.

The rest of us had nothing to contribute except stupid questions like, "Do you need water to row?" and "Can you get automatic oars?" So, we continued our TV discussion with an in-depth analysis of the accuracy of the "Antiques Roadshow" estimates. They're bunk!

Then, the ground began to tremble. Was this an earthquake? Curse you, Super Blue Moon! No, it was our stomachs rumbling, demanding their barbecue feeding––the official signal it was time for us to backtrack for lunch. We bid farewell to our newfound friends, thanked Margaret and Chloe for their guidance, and began our journey back to the parking lot.

Now comes our confession, Father, for we have sinned. Usually, Trail Master selects our weekly adventures by picking the trail first, and then we choose a barbecue place. But this time, that order was reversed. We craved Socks' Love Barbecue, and Charleston Park Trail is only 15 minutes away. This would be our fourth visit to Socks’, and for this barbecue joint, "injured reserve Steve" happily drove 30 minutes to join us. Consider Trailheads officially fanboys.

To find Socks' Love Barbecue in Cumming, think of home remodeling. Socks’ is in the strip center next to the big Floor & Décor Store on Buford Highway, by the Benjamin Moore Paint and the Flooring store. Step inside the restaurant, inhale the irresistible aroma, and prepare to decorate your innards with some delectable Socks' smokey love.

“Socks” is the family nickname of owner Steve Hartsock. He started his barbecue career by creating a killer spice rub, then became a caterer, and perfected his meat-smoking skills with a smoker he borrowed from Johnathan Fox (of the legendary Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q). Bada bing, bada bang, Socks decided to give a barbecue joint a go. Crowds have been flocking here since.

Along the way, Socks has garnered flocks of fans for his fare, having been selected as the best barbecue in Georgia by Yelpers and named the Best Barbecue in an AJC's reader poll. Let's check under the hood of the smoker and see what's what.

Most of us came for Socks' brisket. Patrick, who once lived in Texas, is cautious about ordering brisket. He believes pulled pork is usually a safer bet in the southeast because the pit masters know how to smoke pigs. It's almost foolproof. But beef brisket? This is the canvas upon which smoked meat artists must prove themselves. And Socks (like the Brothers Fox) knows how to smoke a brisket to perfection.

He uses premium-grade beef, applies salt and pepper, and lets time and hickory wood smoke do their magic in his big black smoker. The result is an impeccable bark, tender meat, and an incredible smokey flavor, even after being dressed with Socks' savory barbecue sauce. If you want some toe-curling action, kick it up with the spicy sauce version. Brad loves Socks' brisket, and will order one for our December holiday party. But you don't have to wait that long. Come by any day and make it a holiday. And maybe get some Socks' Love for your seasonal guests.

We placed our orders. We've always been impressed by the caliber of people working here. They are friendly, helpful, and quick and easy with their smiles. At most places, we get chased out of the back door by an angry person with a broom, waving a fist and telling us never to return (we think they might be kidding around until we hear buckshot whizzing by our heads).

While waiting for our grub, Steve (Mr. Socks himself!) greeted us. He once gave us a tour of his kitchen and is a wonderful guy who follows our silly antics and reads our asinine claptrap. Hello, Socks! We told him we were selling Trailheads merchandise and donating ALL profits to Chattahoochee National Park Conservancy (get your stylish swag here). He approved of our do-goodery and wished us well. Socks is a very community-minded guy, always looking out for his neighbors. He's a good egg.

Grabbing our trays, we headed outdoors, where the dogs were waiting in the shade of a picnic table, eager for scraps. Roy dug into his brisket, cooing like a pigeon on a tall building ledge––the picture of contentment. He's a bark boy, and Socks definitely delivers the goods. He ordered fried okra––crispy morsels of "hide the healthy stuff in deep-fried batter." Those suckers are tasty. And Roy enjoyed crisp country coleslaw, shredded cabbage, and carrots in a tangy sauce.

Brisket Brad gave his tray goo-goo eyes. The bearded man was smitten. We expected him to take a knee and propose to his gorgeous lunch. He ordered the sliced brisket with a smoked sausage link peppered with jalapenos and gooey cheese and- for good measure- an order of the OMG Mac & Cheese with a side of Cowboy Beans.

Saddle up and dig in, cowpoke! Brad commanded his eating utensils to "giddy up" and went to town on his tray. Since the sausage oozed creamy cheese instead of fat, we believe it is a dietetic and healthy alternative.

Guy had the chopped brisket (served in tasty Socks' barbecue sauce), OMG Mac & Cheese, and coleslaw. He's watching his figure, don't you know. Trail Master was a happy man. He needs fuel to power being a desperado.

“Injured reserve” Steve opted for the healing powers of a pulled pork sandwich and a jalapeño and cheese sausage. As you probably guessed, Socks' pork is banging. Both smoked meats were gone in no time. But Steve regaled us with his teary-eyed reminiscing about his sausage's magnificence.

And because Patrick loves a good beef brisket, he doubled down on it by getting a brisket sandwich with a side of brisket chili Frito pie (a Texas treat where the bag is your bowl!). Socks’ make sandwiches with potato rolls that can take a generous mound of delectable smoked meat. The sandwich handles like a dream in your hands, taking sharp corners to your mouth and parking.

We looked up, and there was Socks with a check in hand. Steve Hartsock is a prince of a guy. He wanted to donate to Chattahoochee National Park Conservancy. The generous barbecue man gave $100 to this great cause. His kind gesture stoked us, and we gave him a groovy, full-color Rock Star (sorry, Ozzy) "Hike The Hooch" hippy shirt. You can get the same far-out tee shirt in our Swag Store online.

Or maybe snag one of our Summer of Pink Trailheads tee shirts, available for a limited time here, in kid's, women's, and adult sizes. Get in on this fashion craze, and remember, all profits go to CNPC. You'll look super stylish while supporting Mother Nature for all she does. She's the best!

We thanked Socks for his generous support and his excellent cooking. And we rode off into the afternoon sun. It was nap time after a strenuous hike and our delicious barbecue lunches. We may sleep until the next Super Blue Moon––if we still reside in the Milky Way.

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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