Standing Bear

About a week ago I wrote a very vague post regarding my stay at a very popular hostel on the Appalachian Trail. However, I feel like it may be time to get a little more detailed.

I’m not doing this to get anyone in trouble, I don’t want to get anyone fired, I don’t want to get the place shut down, I’m just genuinely concerned about the safety of the hostels employees and customers.

Standing Bear Farm is the place in question.

We stayed the night there before starting our section hike. We arrived around 4:00, parked the car, and got to talking with one of the guys who work there. A guy named Gator.

Gator was clearly drunk when we got there. Within 20 minutes of talking to him he was telling us about a bad acid trip and the last time he’d done mushrooms. He detailed how he gets his weed delivered from the west coast and within an hour he’d had another couple of beers.

Then Gator disappears for a minute. He comes back and announces that there is a cancer benefit in town for a friend of his and if anyone wants to come, it’s 5.00 for all you can eat soup and the van is leaving in 20 minutes.

So my friend and I follow along in his car, behind the van, along with 2 other hikers who didn’t want to get a ride with Gator.

Gator takes us down these steep, rutted, windy back dirt roads. He’s fishtailing, and speeding, the van is bouncing and the passengers were getting tossed around a bit. The van window opens and Gator pours out the foam of another beer.

A few more tight turns later, Gator’s dodging oncoming traffic, these roads are pretty narrow with steep cliff on one side and a ditch and high wall on the other. Gator swerves to avoid a car and gets stuck in the ditch, van pitched at about a 40 degree angle. Several minutes of squealing, smoking tires later, Gator finally manages to maneuver the van back on to the road. He would later deny getting stuck because “I got it back out didn’t I?”

After more speeding and fishtailing and drifting around corners, we lose the van for a minute. When we catch up, it’s parked in the middle of the road. For a split second we thought maybe Gator was just waiting for us. He had said to keep close after all. But no, Gator had just gotten out to pee.

Eventually, close to 30 minutes later, we make it to town, park the car near the van and watch as just about everyone gets out visibly shaking.

Then we get to where the soup is. We weren’t there long, maybe an hour and a half. Gator runs and gets a 6 pack from the gas station across the street, he has another one while he’s talking to us, he goes outside for a while, comes back in 3 more beers short (I am 90% sure he shared some of the 6 pack with someone outside) and then has another beer at our table. At this point I have seen him drink 5 in the space of about 3 hours.

Then the pot cookies get passed around. He takes one, looks at it, says “they’re small” and takes another.

Gator is drunk at this point. Super drunk. He’s having a hard time walking straight, he slurring his words pretty bad, I offered to drive the van back to the farm for him but he just gave me an offended look and said he was fine.

When it was time to go, one of the vans passengers got in my friends car with us, another got a ride with the woman who owns the farm (she looked disappointed in Gator but made no attempt to stop him from driving back) and a third had another ride with someone else.

We wanted to follow the van back to the farm just in case something happened but it took off while we were getting gas. So we took the highway back to Standing Bear and it took us 5 minutes.

Gator finally rolls back in several hours later, yelling about everyone being too afraid to get back in the van with him.


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Comments 32

  • Jeremy Morris : Mar 31st

    But how was the soup!

  • TBR : Mar 31st

    Sheesh! Scary.

  • timmy : Mar 31st

    You should take this down. You could make a post that says don’t drink and drive, or don’t ride with a drunk driver…..but these details are unnecessary. If you wanted to do something when the incident was happening you could have called the police or you could have told someone to hide the keys. To post something online after you watched it, for what sounds like a good amount of time and did nothing, is cowardly.

    • Maria Guzman : Jun 10th

      I was there (at the benefit). Why did nobody mention to me what was happening so I could have dealt with it? Is that too much to ask? I do the best I can, but we could all use a bit of help when we see something melting down, instead of ignoring it & then this. Gator was hired for a gardener; he was not my regular shuttle driver. He’s been gone for months. I sincerely apologize for this happening and would never have allowed this had I known. Next time you see something bad happening, how ’bout stepping up? Shame on me for not knowing, shame on Gator, shame on you. I’m glad we could provide you with such a colorful adventure to write about from the security of your desk chair.
      Maria of Standing Bear Hostel

  • Donald : Apr 5th

    I agree with Timmy. This is not a great story. Simply an example of failing to “do the right thing.” The author and his or her friends conspired to endanger the lives of others.

    • MartyMcFly : Apr 6th

      WOW! Shaming the author for documenting their experience and then referencing cyber bullying. PC bigotry at its finest. Yes, there are more tactful ways the author could handle this, and less as well. I think they went above and beyond by offering to drive the van home for gator. They are under no obligation to physically stop every drunk driver they encounter as they will most likely end in a fight. Round 1: Gator Vs Kelly, who are you betting on?

      I am curious what the response would be if the entire evening was captured on a Youtube vlog? Would we shame the person recording, everyone in the video, or just Gators driving line before entering the ditch?

      But seriously, how was the soup?

      • Maria Guzman : Jun 10th

        The soups were amazing & around $2000.00 was raised to help a Stage 4 cancer victim. At least something good happened of this.

  • Big Play Ray : Apr 5th

    A redirect to anyone interested… last year my son and I spent a night at SBF, were shuttled north the next morning and hiked back a few days later to retreive our vehicle. The folks at SBF, Lumpy & Morgan, were indeed unique personalities but were great and provided exactly what we needed. Once we hiked back to SB the hot shower was a God-send and the cold drinks & candy bars from the small resupply store were rejuvenating. Of all I have heard about SBF there have been a few downers but most experiences are similar to ours–positive. I would recommend them.

  • Slack Packhiker : Apr 5th

    You’re discredited immediately by getting in the car with the the person in question. You’re 27 years old. Additionally, before you ‘out’ a business or person in a public venue, check with your attorney first. I suggest ATrials do the same before providing a platform.

    • Miranda : Apr 6th

      She didn’t get in the car with him…

      • Slack Packhiker : Apr 7th

        Your right Miranda, thanks for the correction.

  • Miranda : Apr 6th

    This isn’t a review of the hostel, it’s a story of one individual making poor choices. Seems unfair to call it anything else or even rate an entire place based on the actions of a single person.

  • James : Apr 6th

    Thanks for the heads up Kelly!

  • Shane : Apr 6th


    Suck it up, you are always going to be a victim if grow up and smarten up.

    SB is a unique spot providing as good of a service as they can. Curtis is clearly being missed. RIP Devil Dog. His wife is doing her best. Maybe instead of smearing the farms name, why not talk to someone and find out whats going on?

    • Parks : Apr 8th

      Are you really trying to slam someone for outing a drunk driver? A drunk driver providing a shuttle service for a business no less! And really, what is to suck up? She didn’t get in the vehicle and her friend even brought the other hikers back the hostel in a safe way. Taking lesser used dirt roads is a common tactic among alcoholics. While I don’t know, it certainly suggests gator is a habitual drunk driver. In which case he is operating with SBF’s tacit approval.

      As for smearing the Farm’s name? You’ve got to be kidding. SBF has such a reputation as a drug and party hangout I was hearing about it before I left GA. A little research on White Blaze or 5 minutes of Googling and you’ll see this is not a recent problem.

  • Mountain Goat : Apr 6th

    This is wrong on so many levels. You should change your trail name to Drama Queen.

  • Mellissa A.Q. Kennedy : Apr 6th

    Clearly, the business that hired this individual needs to re-evaluate his character /business safety reliability/employment; to knowingly put the safety and well being of individuals(and yes, they too, in part, have a responsibility in the secondary choices, ie; ride with an intoxicated driver) at risk, by his actions, jeopardizes future business and potential lives if this fellas behavioral choices are ignored. I will say, that he should have been reported to the local Sheriff and /or State Trooper Dept. and the business at that time, as he was openly displaying markedly drunk driving/substance violations of law. As to providing good service for others , does that outweigh the clear violation of the law, professional standard and safety in this case, NO. Thankfully, no one was hurt during this. For those who may participate in excusing this guy’s actions as, ‘it’s all part of the experience, grow up’, or trying to shame/embarrass this hiker, it’s that attitude , which give Eco-tourism and like businesses , a bad name/reputation. SMH !

  • Tom : Apr 6th

    To all the people slamming the author: Get off your high horses. If you haven’t noticed, they all have broken legs.

  • Ana : Apr 6th

    Gator is a terrible person and I really hope that anyone who cares about maria would go and get him away from her. He has assaulted women on the trail and is known for drug use. Please don’t discredit what Kelly has to say. I’m just happy she got out of there before she saw the real gregg chambers.

  • Lori : Apr 6th

    Thanks for the heads up and I hope the owner got rid of Gator.

  • Erica : Apr 6th

    I have also heard about gregg chambers violence on the trail. He is not a hiker he is a criminal using the trail and the kindness of other people.

  • Joe : Apr 6th

    This should be taken down, all we need is people to draw unnecessary attention to some really great hostels. Keep this up and before to long Your going to have a lot of unnecessary rules and regulations concerning hostels, if there isn’t enough “bad thru hiker ” attention and regulations trying to be placed already. This can be dealt with in several different ways, outside of putting a place and person that has helped several thru hikers over the years on blast for all the world to see. Although I don’t promote driving under the influence I feel Appalachian trials dropped the ball on this one…. Sorry guys.

  • tom that made no sense : Apr 6th

    Cyber shaming and cyber bullying is wrong. What do the shrooms and bad trips have to do with besides trying to make them look worse in your hit piece? If you werent in the van how do you know passengers are getting tossed around quite a bit or that it wasnt do to mountain road conditions. If it was so bad how come no actions were taken at the time?

    • Blue : Apr 6th

      2 or 3 years ago he had a bad trip and beat up a female. If he is doing drugs or drinking he is violent.

  • Tom you made sense, this guy above me is dumb : Apr 6th

    Hasn’t anyone heard of “yelp”? It’s an entire website devoted to reviewing businesses. This jack off is committing CRIMES as an employee, the author has every right to talk about that. If you want to run a business, you’d better have your shit right. I’m tired of hearing everyone defend this guy after he put lives in danger. I think the author has a lot of courage to stand up and call these people on the carpet instead of sweeping it under the rug in the name of hiker culture.

  • Jim : Apr 6th

    I appreciate your information Kelly. I think you did the right thing by informing all of us about this character, If I ever find myself at this hostel I will keep a lookout for Gator.
    Keep up the good work Kelly.

  • Ray : Apr 7th

    Wow all the people in these comments looking to kiss up to SBF, they have been known to have questionable people there beyond just this story. You dont look super cool just because you are defending what is clearly a less than safe hostel. If the people working there are unsafe and dangerous, thats something that should be known.

  • Kira Thornley : Apr 8th

    Thanks for sharing!

  • James : Apr 8th

    I had a female hiker friend that asked about available rooms there and the response was “it’s free if you sleep in my bed.” It was a different employee than anyone mentioned yet. Nice offer though!

  • Travis Walker : Apr 21st

    I was one of the passengers in that van. I’ve never more scared in my life. I will be forever grateful for the ride back to the hostel.

  • super tom : Oct 11th

    Based on these reviews I can’t wait to visit there in 2 weeks. I hope someone can reenact the van ride for me. I’d pay double!

  • Concerned Citizen : Apr 15th

    As a person who has been around Standing Bear long enough to see the full scope of the nightmare it is to run it, I’ll say this. It is never ok to ride with someone who has been drinking. Maria (the owner) does the best she can with the place and tries to get the best staff available. That being said, having this guy as part of our crew was obviously a terrible mistake, but on the other hand all it would have taken was one call to Maria to stop this from happening ever again. Maria is not a fan of drinking, nor would she ever support drunk or otherwise inebriated driving of any kind. Since finding out about his true character, Gator is no longer a part of our staff here, but be assured when I tell you that had we been aware of his issues we would never have allowed him to work or be any part of our guests experiences here ever again. Here at Standing Bear, we start every day with one foot in front of the other. This year we have an excellent staff that doesn’t drink or party and are genuinely really great individuals. We consider ourselves as we always have as an asset to the trail and a central resource for the hiking community. I think the best thing that can be learned from this post is when to speak up. Anyways, we love our hiking friends and family here at Standing Bear and we hope you all will give us a chance if you ever hike through and see for yourself how good we can be.
    Best wishes,


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