By Dedra Cordle
It was March 26, 2015 and Greg Cramer was set to begin his quest to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail.
He started the day in Georgia, full of hope and excitement for the more than 2,000 mile journey that lay before him. It was to be a 40-year dream realized.
As a child growing up in Ridgeway, Ohio, Cramer often found himself navigating the woods nearby, a pre-preparation course for a trail he had not yet discovered.
A love of those woods and nature in general led him to the Boys Scouts where he eventually became a Scout Master in 1973.
At the age of 21, he took his troop to a jamboree where something caught his eye.
“They had this booth set up with literature about all kinds of places you could camp and hike throughout the country,” he said.
As he was thumbing through the various brochures, he came across the Appalachian Trail, a 2,189.2-mile trail that traditionally begins on Springer Mountain, GA and ends on Mount Katahdin in Maine.
He says he wasn’t quite sure what clicked in his mind about this particular trail, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that hiking it was something he had to do.
As the years passed, the chef would use his vacation time or leisure time while living in Tennessee to hike the AT in sections because he never believed he would get the opportunity to thru-hike the entire distance.
“I didn’t think it was in the cards,” he said.
After a divorce, a fire that took his belongings and the occasional stretch of unemployment, Cramer found himself back in Ohio looking for work. With little success, he decided to retire.
Having never been a sedentary person, Cramer thought he could use the time to get fully ensconced into the hiking scene and maybe even attempt a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.
After many months of planning and preparation, Cramer made his way to Georgia to realize his dream of becoming an AT thru-hiker.
Things started off well, but nearly a hundred miles into his journey is when the trouble began.
For a few days, Cramer fought what he thought was just a stomach bug.
He decided to push through the discomfort, but things came to a head on April 3 in the mountains near the Georgia/North Carolina line.
Around 5:30 a.m., a nearly delirious Cramer sent a prayer to the heavens when he got a phone signal that enabled him to call for help.
“I was so sick and knew there was no way I was getting off that mountain by myself,” he said.
When the paramedics arrived via ATV, they covered his cold and weak body with a blanket to keep to keep him from getting scratched up by trees and shrubs during the descent. It did little to help.
“It was a rough ride down,” he said with a laugh.
Upon arriving at the hospital, it was discovered that he had contracted the norovirus and had to extend his stay at the hospital.
Nearly a week later, Cramer was released and gave serious thought to ending his thru-hike attempt. He decided to stick with his original plan.
“I was a little weak but I did OK,” he said.
It was the bubble, he said, that did him in.
“The bubble,” Cramer explained, “is a group of hikers who are usually younger that hike major miles at a faster pace.”
He said he tried to keep up with them, and in doing so did major damage to his right knee.
In Pearisburg, VA, Cramer decided to call it an attempt and try again when his knee was better. Months later, he travelled to Maine to thru-hike southbouth but he slipped on rocks and did damage to his left knee.
At that point, Cramer was done with hiking for a while.
“I said I would try it again another year,” he said. “I mean, it’s not like it’s going anywhere.”
Well, now he has decided that next year will be his year.
In April of 2018 – possibly earlier if there is decent weather – Cramer will be making his second attempt to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail.
He said he knows most people might think he is strange for doing so, but added that the feeling of hiking and being out and experiencing the world means everything.
“I’ve seen views on this trail that many people will never get to see in their entire lives.”
He said that alone is worth the months planning, preparation, exertion and occasional rehabilitation from injury.
To fund his thru-hike next year, Cramer is planning a series of fundraisers in the upcoming months with local business establishments and his church group. Those interested in either donating in the future or conversing with the avid hiker can do so via his Facebook page or Trail Journal. The web addresses to each site as are follows: www.facebook.com/greg.cramer.9674 and www.trailjournals.com/gorpgobbler. Donations can also be made at Cramer’s Go Fund Me page, www.gofundme.com/28swcj3q.