The trek of their lives

They had no training in how to survive in the wilderness — they had never even gone camping — but that didn't stop Michael Ross, George Crawford and Drew Babcock from walking across the United States.

Ross and Crawford started the journey in April near Danbury, Conn.

After nearly 300 days of toughing out the elements, the two — as well as Babock, who joined the trek in Chicago — marked the end of their journey Feb. 10 in Huntington Beach.

With their camping packs on their backs, Ross and Babcock, both, 19, dipped their feet in the cold Pacific Ocean to commemorate their accomplishment. Crawford, 20, took the celebration a step further, diving into the water.

"This place is very iconic for me," said Crawford, whose mother and grandfather grew up in Huntington. "I've been here before, and I figured it'd just be a great ending."

The trio, who grew up together in Danbury, watched the sun set as they walked the length of the pier and were met by Crawford's grandfather, Paul Gilmartin, who drove out from Desert Hot Springs.

Gilmartin, 76, said he was truly impressed.

"They left Connecticut as boys, but now I consider them men," Gilmartin said. "Now they have something to look back on."

Their roughly 3,500-mile trek was an effort to raise money for the Livestrong Cancer Foundation. Each of them had someone in their lives affected by cancer.

"We all just saw what it did to them and how terrible of a disease it is," Ross said. "When we decided to do this walk, we looked through a bunch of different cancer organizations, found Livestrong and fell in love with them immediately."

The crew set off on their campaign from Connecticut with a goal of raising $20,000.

Crawford said they raised only about half that.

"At the end of the day, we can't be too disappointed because we raised $10,000 for a cancer organization and we raised a ton of awareness," he said. "A lot of people didn't even know about Livestrong, so I consider [this] a huge achievement."

The time on the road doubled as an opportunity for the three to do some soul searching.

Ross said none of them were at a happy point in life or had a particular goal after graduating from high school in 2012.

He and Crawford decided to enlist in the Marines. The two had six months before they had to show up at a recruiting depot in Paris Island, S.C., and figured walking across the country would be good training.

But Ross and Crawford recently chose not to pursue military careers.

"It's not that we don't support the military or love it," Crawford said. "We decided it's not for us. It's not what I really love or want to do. And I haven't agreed with this country's wars for a long time, come to think about it. That's my only qualm about joining."

Instead, they decided to move to Los Angeles for about a year and eventually apply to San Francisco State University. Crawford wants to study Japanese and one day teach English in Japan. Ross plans to study audio engineering.

Babcock said he's considering joining the Air Force or going to college in Connecticut to become a computer technician.

"This definitely gave me the confidence I need to go about my future, to accomplish what I want to do," he said. "I can't tell myself I can't do it, because now I pretty much know I can."

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