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Mancos couple tell about John Muir Trail adventure

‘Life Is an Adventure’ series spotlights John Muir Trail
Peter Robinson demonstrates some of the equipment he and his wife, Deb Gardner, brought on their monthlong backpacking trip in 2016.

The latest presentation in Mancos Public Library’s “Life Is an Adventure” series took the audience on a 210-mile journey through the Sierra Nevada.

Mancos residents Peter Robinson and Deb Gardner – or “Paco” and “Dory,” their trail nicknames – spoke to about 20 people about their 26-day backpacking trip through the John Muir Trail in California last year. They showed a slideshow of some of the more spectacular sights and answered questions about how to plan a successful backpacking trip. The free event was part of an ongoing lecture series hosted at the library.

The couple spent much of their lecture talking about the beauty of the John Muir Trail, which passes through several national parks between Yosemite Valley and Mount Whitney.

“Instead of a lot of the trails around here that are old mining trails and whatnot ... this trail was actually built with the purpose of recreation,” Robinson said. “One of the amazing things about its 210-mile length is how well it’s constructed.”

That doesn’t mean the trail is easy, though. Robinson and Gardner described cold nights and grueling hikes throughout the trip, and said they both lost several pounds by the end. But both were experienced backpackers to begin with, and Robinson said they tried to keep things leisurely by trimming their pack weights down to about 20 pounds and limiting themselves to 10 miles of hiking per day.

Prospective hikers need permits in order to hike the trail, and Robinson said they can be hard to acquire, but the trail was still crowded throughout the couple’s trip. Robinson said hikers without wilderness experience have caused litter and other problems along some parts of the trail.

After the slideshow, several audience members asked for advice about their own backpacking plans. Gardner and Robinson showed off some of the equipment that served them on the 2016 trip, such as a bear-proof sack, water filtration drops and inflatable pillows. They also mentioned some mistakes to avoid, like wearing only heavy boots, which can lead to blisters, or leaving too late in the year.

The couple plan to return to the trail this August, although this time they’ll start at Mount Whitney instead of Yosemite, as they did last year.

“It’s so beautiful,” Gardner said. “It’s an amazing place. It’s iconic in so many ways.”

The next free adult event at the library will be a workshop on “Stitching as Mark-Making,” scheduled for Saturday, July 22.

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