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AT Hikers

Profile: Up & Down
By Ken Anderson
Sep 22, 2004 - 3:07:00 PM

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Up & Down came into the Magic City Morning Star & Hard Drive Cafe just before closing time on September 21, directly after completing the climb to Mount Katahdin, ending an experience that began on Springer Mountain, Georgia five months and eleven days ago.

After getting some sleep at the AT Cafe, they returned on the 22nd, and were kind enough to talk to me. As they were traveling together, and having been together for years before taking on the rigors of the trail, they wanted trail names that matched one to the other. Since everything they read in preparation for the Appalachian Trail spoke of it in terms of ups and downs, emotionally as well as physically, they chose Up and Down, trail names that were particularly suitable, given differences in their heights.

Parker Richardson, also known as Up; and Celeste Pasquale, known as Down on the trail, are from Austin, Texas. Before settling into a life of school, work, and possibly children, they decided to take on the challenges of the Appalachian Trail. While they both were active people, enjoying kayaking, bicycling, and other rigorous outdoor activities, neither of them had done any hiking prior to the AT. Other than one four-day trip to test out their equipment, they did nothing in particular to prepare themselves physically for the AT hike.

"We're just pretty adventurous, you know," said Down.

They started out light, with Up carrying 28 pounds of equipment and supplies, while Down carried 22 pounds. But they picked things up along the way, such as post cards, shot glasses, and other souvenirs that they had to carry until they could ship them home at a mail drop.

They opted to carry a tarp and a bug bivy rather than depend on the shelters. In fact, she said they usually hiked past the shelters after refilling their water containers, camping out a mile or two past, so as to find solitude.

Leaving Georgia on April 10th, she said that there a lot of other people on the trail, but many of them dropped off along the way. She estimated that about 50 percent of those who begin the hike drop off before reaching Harper's Ferry, which she described as the mental halfway point. Up and Down guessed that money was the biggest problem for those who were unable to continue the trip, but injuries, illnesses, and family emergencies also brought ends to the journeys of many of those who started out in Georgia.

The pair agreed that while there were parts of the southern portion that were nice, even beautiful, the first part of the trail didn't compare to the northern half of the AT. While it was sometimes convenient, they said that the trail ran too close to towns and other populated places. There were too many people, not only those who started but were unable to complete the trip, but also weekenders and others who were mostly interested in partying.

Down suggested that it is much better to do a northbound hike because everything gets prettier as you go further north. Maine was her favorite part of the trek, although it was also the most disheartening in some ways. For so much of the trip, they were looking at Maine as the final destination; yet when they arrived in Maine, they had to deal with the fact that they still had 282 miles to go.

"You've spent months thinking of Maine as the end of the trip, then when you get there you realize that you still have almost three hundred miles to go." She said the first part of Maine was the hardest.

"It's all mental," she said, explaining that it was a matter of perception. "it's a beautiful hike, it's a great hike, but it's still a hike."

Still, both Up and Down agreed that while it may have been the most difficult in some ways, Maine was also one of the best parts of the hike.

"New Hampshire was nice too," said Up. "The Presidentials were great."

Down said that, despite the rigors, she really appreciated the beauty of the portion of the Appalachian Trail that went through Maine, especially the 100 Mile Wilderness, and the climb to Mount Katahdin. "It was hard, especially when you're emotionally drained and you have to climb," she added.

As a tip to future northbounders, "Don't go back down the Knife Edge," they said.

Down worried, unnecessarily, that she wasn't making a lot of sense. "I'm still trying to adjust to being off the trail," she explained. She described the past few months as a tremendous experience.

"Nothing will be the same again," she said.

Parker Richardson (Up) and Celeste Pasquale (Down)

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