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A Sebastopol couple are about to resume their coast-to-coast hike after making it from the Atlantic Ocean to the Continental Divide.

The Rocky Mountains and an early snowstorm proved too daunting for Jerry Bowerman and Karen Clark, who took a break last September from their epic backpacking trip.

Following an eight-month hiatus and a return home, they are making plans to set off this weekend for Grand Junction, Colo., to pick up somewhat west of where they left off on the transcontinental American Discovery Trail.

They've logged 2,857 miles since they set out walking in early 2010 from the eastern shores of Delaware, making it all the way to Copper Mountain, Colo.

They have about 1,800 miles more to walk before they see the Pacific Ocean at the terminus of their journey, Point Reyes National Seashore.

In a sense, they've done the easy part, because now they plan to traverse the remote canyons and mesas of Utah and the mountain ranges and deserts of Nevada. They have to leave water supplies in strategic spots ahead of time so they won't run dry.

"We will be caching water through Utah. We will hide, or bury 46 gallons of water to stay hydrated," Bowerman said. "Hydration is good."

"It's more mental. Now it will be even more remote," Clark said of what lies ahead.

Married more than three decades, Clark, 63, a retired nurse, and Bowerman, 64, a retired landscaper, have always been avid hikers. One of their first dates was a three-day backpacking trip.

They live in a West County home on 1.4 acres where most couples at their age would be happily rooted by the bay window, gazing at the vineyards and an expansive view of the Santa Rosa Plain and mountains in the background.

Despite some foot troubles, such as plantar fasciitis, and suffocating heat and humidity that at times weakened their resolve, the couple still plan to complete the full journey from East to West Coast, possibly by October.

More than a dozen couples and a few individuals have made the complete cross-country trek, according to the American Discovery Trail website, www.discoverytrail.org.

The route, described as the first coast-to-coast, non-motorized trail, was established in 2000. It runs through public lands, takes in forests, historic canal routes and even major metropolitan areas.

Bowerman and Clark hope to raise awareness about the American Discovery Trail and efforts to make it part of a new category of long-distance trails.

They aren't trying to best the record held by Ken and Marsha Powers, who did the entire length in just under 10 months in 2005.

"We tend to be lollygaggers. We get to see inns, talk to people, go to restaurants. It's a really neat way to see the country," Bowerman said.

Their first year, they made it to Kansas City before taking a break. Last year, they continued on to Colorado.

So far, they've hoofed through 11 states and the District of Columbia with 30-pound packs on their backs with GPS, turn-by-turn directions, map and old-fashioned compass for back-up.

Their daughter mails them food resupply packages. For the next leg of the journey, they are making arrangements to pick up food supplies at remote motels, stores and residences.

The scenery and the history are engrossing, but the people they encounter along the way are the biggest part of the experience.

They've met trappers, coal miners, cowboys, doctors, judges, and ranchers.

People are curious about them, offer them meals and a place to stay.

"Without fail, people are willing to talk about what's important to them," Bowerman said. "You get under the political connection and what you see on TV and get the human connection."

They laugh about some of the travails and obstacles along the way, like navigating through sticky nettles and green briars, or having the trail constantly peter out in Ohio.

"We're supposed to be walking cross-country and here we are, bushwhacking though the woods," Bowerman said.

One of the scariest parts was the white-out conditions they experienced in Colorado at 12,000 feet, when the trail disappeared in front of them.

"I can't say we were lost. There was always a way back," Bowerman said.

In the sparse parts of Utah and Nevada deserts, they will be alone much of the time.

"There won't be people this time," Clark said. "We won't pass houses or that many towns. There will be more scenery, rocks and mountains."

But they expect to come across some people on all-terrain vehicles.

Karen takes copious notes and will post on the couples' blog, at www.trailjournals.com/karenandjerry2012.

Sparse cellphone service may result in gaps in postings. And as a fail-safe they have a system that can alert authorities to their location in the event of a dire emergency.

"When we get to Carson City, we'll be practically home, we know the area so well," Bowerman said.

Of course they'll have another 450 miles or so to go. But with the friends and well-wishers they expect to join them along the way, they might have a bounce in their step.

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com

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