Care Bear and Growler’s Excellent AdventureIn 2008, two recent college grads who had never been backpacking attempted to thru-hike the A.T. Brandon “Care Bear” Winters and Drew “Growler” Alexander spent 97 days in the wilderness, made it all the way from Georgia to Vermont, and hiked more than 1,600 miles before an injury and hiking ennui took them off the trail. Not bad for a couple of newbies. Here are the highlights of their epic adventure, as told to BRO by Winters:

We started telling our friends and family about our plans to hike the A.T. a year before we graduated. They just kind of laughed. A lot of friends made fun of us and called it the sequel to Brokeback Mountain. But when we started purchasing gear, not applying for jobs, and saying our goodbyes, everyone knew it was for real.

We had never backpacked before and we had no clue what it took to have all of our belongings strapped to our back. We definitely were amateurs. Here’s what stands out from our A.T. journey:

  • Seeing a bear on our first night at the next shelter.
  • Meeting a homeless guy at the Springer Shelter our first night out, being freaked out, and deciding to hike another two miles because we didn’t want to spend the night with him.
  • Almost passing out from exhaustion/dehydration because we were stupid on our second day.
  • The shitty morning inside Shenandoah National Park with 10 of us in the shelter.  It had rained all night long and was very foggy.  All of our gear was soaking wet and no one was really getting out of bed. We all just sat huddled around the picnic table in the dampness laughing and telling stories about our experiences so far.  A couple that was hiking with us at the time carried a guitar. We sat there for hours singing along to songs, sharing food, telling stories, and laughing. It wasn’t a spectacular view, or a physically cool place along the trail that made it memorable. What made it special were the people I was with and the feelings that I shared with all of them that morning.
  • Getting picked up by Ron Haven in Franklin, Tenn., spending the night in one of his hotels, and eating at an all you can eat Mexican buffet for lunch where we had to ask them to restock the food because we ate it all.
  • The views from the balds like Max Patch, and the string of them past Roan High Knob.
  • Drew waking up in the middle of the night once hearing ‘something’ in the woods.  He had to wake me up too because he was too scared to look.  He swore it was a bear or a wild boar or a T. Rex.  But it ended up just being a deer that walked through our site.
  • Our night at the NOC where we got hammered at the bar and then snuck into one of the bunk houses to sleep in some guy’s room that we had just met at the bar.  We ended up hiking the next 1,000 miles with him.  His name was MacGyver Megatramp.
  • Freezing in the Wayah Shelter, laughing our asses off at how stupid it was to be out there that night.

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