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Sebastopol couple hiking 5,057-mile American Discovery Trail

  • Karen and Jerry Bowerman

Their first date was a backpacking trip, so after three decades of marriage, hiking across the United States may not be such a stretch for Jerry Bowerman and Karen Clark.

The Sebastopol couple is on a 5,057-mile odyssey, walking across the country on the American Discovery Trail through through cities, forests, mountains and deserts in 15 states, from Delaware to California. They blog almost daily about their travels at www.trailjournals.com/KarenandJerry.

At a time of life when a motorhome would seem a more likely choice for the journey, the couple said their enthusiasm for hiking has endured — along with their knees.

"When you retire, you don't have to sit back in a warm chair and say it's the end of your life. You can actually do stuff," said Bowerman, 62, who in January ended a 31-year career as a landscape contractor. "It takes you out of your everyday comfort zone. It's challenging, but rewarding."

"It keeps you young," said Clark, 61, a retired nurse with the Sonoma County Public Health department.

They began Feb. 25 on the eastern shores of Delaware, in the wind and snow of late winter. As of Wednesday, they had logged more than 279 miles and were preparing to hike across a third state, West Virginia.

The first question everyone asks about their transcontinental trek is, "How long will it take?"

"It depends on how fast we move," Clark said by phone last week, on a rest day in the historic town of Harper's Ferry, W. Va.. "Some days will be faster, some days will be slower, and some days we'll stay and appreciate."

They don't have a pat answer because it's more about enjoying the journey than sticking to a game plan. They're hiking for their own pleasure and to meet people.

Their highest daily mileage so far has been 16.8 miles.


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