RENO, Nev. (AP) -- After 16 months on the road, a couple are tackling the toughest part of a 4,800-mile trek from coast to coast: the Nevada desert.
Joyce and Pete Cottrell of Whitefield, N.H., completed Utah last week and now are facing daytime highs in the 90s as they hoof it over a series of high ranges and valleys in Nevada.
They have about 600 miles to go in their bid to become the first people to backpack the entire official route of the transcontinental American Discovery Trail.
"They're in good spirits and looking forward to doing the next stretch," said trail spokesman Dick Bratton. "They know the goal is within reach. That's got them excited."
After Nevada, the Cottrells face a relatively easy 380-mile stretch in California. They hope to reach the Pacific Ocean by Aug. 21, Bratton said.
The trail passes through 15 states from Cape Henlopen in Delaware to Point Reyes in California.
Last year, the Cottrells left the Atlantic Ocean on March 5 and tramped to Grand Junction, Colo., before spending the winter in Pueblo, Colo. They resumed the hike March 1, but skipped snow-covered stretches in Utah and Nevada before reaching Virginia City, 20 miles southeast of Reno, in mid-April.
Early this month, Pete Cottrell, 55, and his 51-year-old wife returned to Utah to hike a 300-mile-plus section from Canyonlands National Park to Beaver.
After reaching Beaver, they headed west for a 225-mile stretch over central Nevada's 10,000-foot Hot Creek, Monitor, Toquima and Toiyabe ranges.
They left the Ely area near the Utah border on Saturday and are expected to reach the mining ghost town of Ione by July 16.
"They have a little trepidation that Nevada will be tough," Bratton said. "But they have such fierce determination. Nothing will deter them from their goal."
To be credited as the first to hike the trail, the Cottrells would have to complete its entire length, though they can hike segments out of sequence.
Eric Seaborg, president of the American Discovery Trail Society, said central Nevada is the most challenging part of the entire trail because of its dryness and remoteness.
Bratton and trail official Harv Hisgen made water drops for the Cottrells in both Utah and Nevada.
Seaborg also is lending support to the couple on their hike across central Nevada.