Couple Finds Love on the Trail

by Teri Vance


One of the first things Johanna Foster did when moving back to Carson City to take care of her mother after retiring as an ecology professor in the Midwest was to join Muscle Powered, the advocacy group to create a more walkable and bikeable community. Specifically, she attended every guided hike on Thursday evenings. She so enjoyed the hikes that she hardly noticed when a stranger showed up in February. Larry Marinel, 65, had just lost his wife the prior month and was looking for a way to get active and meet new people at the same time.

As the two continued to show up every week, they started to take note of one another. “Jo would always stop and identify the local plants that were growing by the trail,” he said. “I would stop and listen to what she had to say.” Jo, 61, remembers it the same way. “Bless his heart, I would say, ”˜Look, here’s an aster,’” she recalled. “He would stop to take a picture when everyone else would just kind of walk on.”

But his kindness wasn’t all that caught her eye.


“He looked pretty cute,” she said. “I like the hat he wears when he’s hiking.” While Larry valued his growing friendship with Jo, his feelings started to change as they spent more time together. That June, they attended a few events off trail. They took a CPR class, went to a meeting of the Leisure Hour Club. When she invited him to attend a Contra dance class with her, he felt something new.

“That was the moment for me,” Larry said. “Just the look in her eyes when she was dancing. It definitely elevated her from friend status. I knew I was very interested.” It had been nearly 20 years since Jo’s divorce and 40 years since Larry had been on a date. Neither one was comfortable making the first move. “Figuratively, we were orbiting each other for a while,” Jo explained.  “Being polite.” In late June, Larry finally asked her out. He invited her to an outdoor summer concert in downtown Carson City.


“When I hung up, I thought, I can’t believe it,” Jo said. “A man asked me out on a date. I hadn’t been on a date in a long time. I thought Larry was pretty special, but I just couldn’t believe he asked me out on a date.” For Jo, the attraction had built slowly over time. “It wasn’t just a moment,” she said. “By the time I asked him to go to the Contra dance, I knew I was interested. Whenever we were on the hikes, wherever he was is where I wanted to be.”

They made sure they would always be at one another’s sides when they married Oct. 21, 2017, in a backyard ceremony. As a wedding gift, trail builder Jeff Potter and his wife, Amy, gave the couple each a McLeod tool used for building trails, as they train to become certified crew leaders. Muscle Powered presented them the sign-in log from that first hike. Their names are right next to each other.

For More Information

Learn more about Muscle Powered and the schedule of guided walks, hikes and bike rides at musclepowered.org.