As Colorado residents, Steve and Kathi are outdoor people, a passion conveyed to their son. “We’re runners, we golf and ski, and we camped when we were younger,” they explain. But it was Danny who caught the hiking bug, ultimately inspiring his parents’ goal to “walk in some of the places he walked” across all 14 Trail states. To this end, one of Danny’s fellow thru-hikers, Gingersnap, provided a “greatest hits” list of three- to six-mile day hikes. Springer Mountain, Fontana Dam, Max Patch, Mount Rogers, Delaware Gap, Mount Greylock, Norwich-Hanover, and many other sites provided “a glimpse of the wonderful experience the Trail was [for Danny],” the Cramers say. An email to friends describes their last hike: “Today’s Trail experience was truly magical; the scenery absolutely gorgeous! We made it to within five miles of Katahdin’s summit. We could go no further because the A.T. has not yet opened for the season…We feel a great sense of accomplishment at a beautiful place by a pond (a large lake by our standards) knowing that Danny would have enjoyed the serenity and peace.”
In the tradition of Earl Shaffer, whose inaugural thru-hike walked off the psychic distress of World War II, Danny had decided to thru-hike after a serious bout of depression during his junior year at Swarthmore College. Afterward, he returned for his senior year to graduate Phi Beta Kappa, on time, and “on budget” to quote his grateful parents. Because he had just begun work as an ATC ridgerunner, he attended his graduation wearing his ridgerunner uniform underneath his robe. He returned to Swarthmore for a teaching certificate in 2012, followed by a second season as a ridgerunner. He then joined the faculty of the New Jersey School of Conservation, where he taught middle and high school students one- to two-week custom curricula — mastering a menu of 50 topics ranging from rock climbing to history and maple sugaring, Danny received rave reviews from students and supervisors alike. He had just bested a field of more experienced candidates for a full-time teaching position at his alma mater, Denver Jewish Day School, when a final bout of depression took its toll.