'95 HIKE on the A T
First Day with Polish Traveler and Strings
Times Free Press
March 8, 1995
Hike along Appalachian Trail
nets pledges of $1600
by Kate Walsh
PEPPERELL - Nearly 100 people attended last month's ``kick-
off'' for Woodrow Murphy as he prepared to embark upon a hike
of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. Leaving
Friday, March 10, the per mile pledges he received will net
some $1600 for the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans
with the hike expected to take more than six months.
Murphy will travel to Georgia by train with the route
passing through the Appalachian Mountains and along the
trails he intends to walk. He expects to begin the 2100 mile
trek at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 11.
During last minute preparations this week, Murphy spoke
enthusiastically of his upcoming journey. A man comfortable
with solitude, he spoke of his plans to keep a journal,
noting his experiences and thoughts during the long, solitary
trip. He also agreed to send back progress reports which will
appear on these pages.Times Free Press
April 12, 1995
Hiking the Appalachian Trail
Woodrow's journal: Part I
by Kate Walsh
PEPPERELL - The heavily forested and rugged terrain of the
Appalachian Mountains contains a footpath for hikers
extending some 2200 miles from Georgia to Maine. Constructed
from 1921 to 1937, it is the longest marked, continuous
footpath in the world and is the site of a walk for homeless
veterans by Pepperell veteran and resident, Woodrow Murphy.
On March 11, Murphy, 41, began the trek at the trail's
beginning on Springer Mountain in Georgia. He intends to
complete the entire 2200 mile length in a walk estimated to
take six or seven months. The proceeds from `per mile
completed' pledges will be donated to the New England Shelter
for Homeless Veterans, 17 Court Street, Boston.
Intending to keep a journal along the way, Murphy agreed to
send `journal entries' back home to provide a chronologue of
his trip. To date, two entries have been received.
``Today is the sixth day,'' Murphy wrote, ``and I have gone
30.7 miles. I started out weighing 350 pounds and wearing a
pack that weighs 85 pounds. It almost killed me.(over four hours
with the sweat coming out like bullets) Now I have
taken four inches off my waist and have really started to
Daily progress increased markedly as the first week passed.
With just over one mile completed the first day, that number
had increased to seven and eight miles per day by week's end.
``No rain,'' Murphy wrote. ``Downright beautiful this week.
Short sleeve shirt, shorts.''
With shelters located at various sites along the trail,
Murphy told of a visitor to the Blood Mountain shelter. ``It
was a spotted skunk walking right over us during the night,
looking for food which we had hung from the ceiling. At
sunrise he left, without the food.''
In the second entry in Woodrow's `hometown journal,' some
three weeks and 66 miles had passed. The night before, he had
experienced his first rain. ``I have no tent,'' he wrote. ``I
could not believe how much water a sleeping bag could hold.''
``Sunday was a little hard,'' Murphy continued. ``My
purifier handle broke off with no water for 9.9 miles, I
wrenched my bad knee, bent one ski pole, and lost the ring on
Thanks to a kind passerby and a car phone, Woodrow called
L.L. Bean, ``then I saw a can of coke, two cookies, and a
banana (My first trail angel!). My heart soared.''
``Now I'm at the Blueberry Patch at Hiawasee, Georgia, with
a lot of great people who are also hikers. Can't wait for
breakfast tomorrow. Blueberry Pancakes!''
Signing off, Woodrow wrote, ``Now I see the secret of the
making of the best persons. It is to grow in the open air and
eat and sleep with the earth (Walt Whitman). Peace.''
Times Free Press
July 26, 1995
`Are you Beorn?'...
as Murphy comes home
by Kate Walsh
PEPPERELL - At six foot two, 297 pounds, Woodrow ``Beorn''
Murphy is the largest man hiking the 2,158 mile Appalachian
Trail. Due to his size, tenacity, and not inconsiderable
charm, his trail name, ``Beorn,'' has become well known.
Stories about him have spread for hundreds of miles,
prompting strangers on the trail to approach the big man with
the two walking sticks and ask, ``Are you Beorn?''...``Yes,''
he answers. They smile.
Murphy is back now, for a two week rest. Starting his trek
in Georgia March 11, he had walked some 1600 miles, reaching
Lee, Massachusetts, July 23. At the urging of friends at
Pepperell's VFW Post 3291, he came `home,' planning to return
Murphy was dubbed ``Beorn'' by one time member of Post
3291, Chet Richards. In a Fort Devens Special Forces unit at
the time, Richards considered Murphy a warrior, like
Beorn, a character who turns into a bear at night, in ``The
Hobbit'' and who, in the end, wins the battle...``I FEEL like
Uncle Buck,'' said Murphy, ``but Chet gave me the trail name,
The hiker's visit home was supposed to be a surprise for
his mother, June. But word leaked out, and perhaps just as
well, since a writer and photographer from ``Outside
Magazine'' called June looking for Beorn. ``How will we know
him,'' they asked as she directed them to Lee. ``You'll know
him,'' she answered.
``When Murphy arrived in Lee, and after he knelt and kissed
the ground, they met him, fed him (four lobsters, salad,
fries, three beers) and spent two days with him. Beorn will
grace the cover of the magazine in May, 1996. The legend of
Beorn has also spread to newspapers in Louisiana, North
Carolina, California, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Connecticut,
Very happy to be home, to visit with friends and family,
Murphy will be happy, as well, to return to the trail. ``I'm
home on the trail,'' he said, ``the sights, the
fragrances...they fill the soul. The trick is, especially
when you climb a mountain, to do it without effort. Every
step you take should be a unique experience, not a means to
Though Murphy has experienced difficulties on the trail -
soreness, injury, heat, bugs, and, at times, lack of food and
water - the good has far outweighed the bad, he said, ``many,
many times over.'' The through hikers are a tight community,
seeming to share a common bond, with some on the trail for
years. They are honest and determined, each with their own
reason for being there. With some theft experienced on the
trail, its because of outsiders who appear, said Murphy, and
disappear, along with whatever they could find to take.
``It's difficult coming back to civilization,'' Murphy
noted, ``to see the sins against nature. People speeding by,
the exhaust, the trash, it's like a thorn in your side.''
A lot of people previously on the trail, are not there
anymore. Reasons are varied, Murphy stated, but include
broken bones, excessive weight loss, homesickness, bugs,
feet `chewed up,' heat, drought (``It's hard to hike without
water.''), illness, sick of hiking or too much macaroni and
``The trail is never easy,'' said Murphy. ``Everybody falls
and gets injured. Bill Erwin, ``Orient Express,'' is blind
and he used to fall 15 times a day when he walked the trail.
I took my first `header' in the Shenandoah Mountains. I
landed on my head, but luckily, in sand...The number one
subject on the trail is food.''
``Ninety percent or more of the people who start the
trail,'' said Murphy, ``never finish. I'll finish, twice (up
and back) because it's there and because I said I would. A
lot of people know me,'' he added, ``because I just keep
For now, Murphy will ride his bike 10 miles a day to keep
his heart rate up. In an ongoing effort to lighten his pack,
he will toss what he can and drill holes in some of the
things he must keep, such as the handle of his tooth brush.
``Even an extra pound, depletes performance,'' he noted.
A visit to the doctor is also in order for a checkup on an
ankle. Problems Murphy has experienced on the trail with
knees and ankles are partially the result, he said, of an
automobile accident in June of 1977. ``It happened on River
Road. A tree jumped out in front of me. They took my
Challenger Trans Am away in three pieces. I was broken in
over 50 places. Bill Bosley and Carl Shattuck were the first
ones there...It taught me that you can't die from pain.''
With few days remaining before he returns to the trail,
Murphy was asked if he will ever come home to stay. ``I'm
always home,'' he said, ``wherever I am. I don't understand
why someone wouldn't always be happy. All the thousands of
years below ground, and so few above. Why wouldn't I enjoy
``The UN did a study on how to save the world. The answer
was to listen to the indians. All the animals tell you
everything. I don't miss civilization...Maybe I was born too
late or maybe I was born in time, as a speaker of the wild.''
``The Appalachian Trail is a living organism. It changes
every year. You cannot dictate to it; it won't listen...`Ho,
Hum, Who Cares,' is the song of the trail.''
``What's important is that I'm on it. When you're moving,
there's no pain...I jumped a bit to get up here, because of
injuries. I'll have to fill in the gaps on the way back. I
have to walk every inch, and I'll do it.''
Murphy has pledges totalling one dollar for every mile he
completes to be donated to the New England Shelter for
Homeless Veterans, 17 Court Street, Boston. Contributions may
be sent to VFW Post 3291, Leighton Street, Pepperell, with
checks payable to the shelter.
Times Free Press
After a visit to Pepperell
Murphy's glad to be `home'
by Kate Walsh
PEPPERELL - As much as Woodrow Murphy likes to return to
Pepperell, it is the trail, with all the best Mother Nature
has to offer, that beckons him `home.' As he returned to the
Appalachian Trail August 7, summer temperatures were
beginning to cool with thoughts of autumn and the winter's
cold seeping through his Appalachian bliss.
After returning to `home and hearth' for a two week
respite, Murphy returned to Lee, Massachusetts, and found
himself at a Pizza Hut autographing a story about him that
appeared in the Boston Globe. His trail exploits were also
highlighted in the North Adams Dispatch and on Boston radio
stations. ``It's unbelievable,'' he said.
Resting at the October Mountain leanto, Murphy said, ``It's
nice to be back on the trail,'' in one of three audio tapes
he has since sent back to Pepperell. Signs warning of `moose
crossing' have become prevalent on the trail to Vermont as
he talks of the serenity of the trail and the breeze through
the trees that sounds like the soft patter of lightly falling
On August 8, the barbecue Woodrow ``Beorn'' Murphy had
so looked forward to was apparently all he hoped it would be.
Barbecued chicken and ribs and beans were heartily enjoyed as
was the next day's breakfast of French toast, sausages, milk,
orange juice, coffee, blueberries, bananas, and yogurt on
granola. ``Food is the number one subject on the trail.''
On Eph's Lookout in the early morning hours of August 10,
not a soul was in sight. At less than a mile from Vermont,
he was 146 miles from New Hampshire.
``There will be a lot of macaroni and cheese and rice for
awhile anyway,'' said Murphy as he embarked upon the
wilderness trail. ``I'm now in Vermont on the Long Trail,
completed in 1931. It was the nation's first long distance
trail. Two trails share the same treadway for about 100
miles, mostly completed in 1921, when the Appalachian Trail
was proposed...Two cups of dehydrated chili and a cup of rice
``I'm laying in my tent by a beaver pond. Breakfast was
more chili and rice.'' Later in the day, the heat of the
trail is quelled by a dip in a cold mountain stream. ``It
takes your breath away at first. I'm not hot anymore. Days
like these, I don't want to go back to civilization. I feel
so good, like my first day on the trail. I'm so excited and
happy, time floats like the shadow of a cloud over the
In the Nausheim Shelter in Bennington, Vermont, on August
13, Beorn tells of the Battle of Bennington where Colonel
Seth Warner and his men drove the British clear to the New
York border. ``It's raining hard, but I'm out of the
weather...The shelter register says, `Any place is within
walking distance if give enough time.' I hiked 14 miles
Four days later, Murphy was at the bottom of Stratten
Mountain, ``the probable birthplace of the Appalachian Trail
since Benton McKay first thought about an eastern continental
trail while sitting here in a tree.'' He later published his
idea, firing the imaginations of many dedicated volunteers
who created the 2158 mile footpath. ``I hiked until 1:30 a.m.
I'm going into town tomorrow to do some laundry, find a hot
bath. This is the nicest trail. Perfect weather.''
August 18 found Murphy at the top of Bromley Mountain in
Manchester, Vermont. With a 360 degree view of five states,
``it's a good climb, right beside the chair lift. There's no
mountain ridge anymore. Just up and down. The spirit of the
trail is so enriching; so many people have it. It was so hot
this morning at the base of the mountain, but it's so cool up
here. One hundred miles a week was pretty easy but I'm in the
mountains now and the miles are coming harder.''
Standing on Mad Tom Road, which connected Peru and East
Orset until the latter end was closed by a 1927 flood, Murphy
faced the Peru Peak Wilderness, one of six in the Green
Mountain National Forest. ``I met a father and son team
yesterday...and an 18 year old sophomore in college who came
out here to find himself. I hope it helps...(Augest 19)Today is my
brother George's birthday. He taught me a long time ago when
my birthday was, it was always tomorrow...As I sit on this
mountain I see blue sky, cumulus clouds far in the distance,
and a small lake down in the valley, and it's all for me.''
``Had my first mouse attack last night (August 20). They
got into my candy...It's a beautiful day, not a cloud in the
sky, a beautiful day for my birthday.'' Later, ``I'm out of
water, been out for a few hours now with another three miles
to go...Happy now, I found water. With all this sweating, if
you get lost without water, that's when you get into
trouble...I'm in a lot happier mood now, I just found a patch
On top of Killington Mountain, the 90 degree temperatures
at the base of the mountain are not felt at its summit. ``I
need a sweater,'' Murphy said, ``but I don't have one. I ran
out of money. I'll have to go get re-supplied.'' Later that
day, a thru-hiker writing in a shelter register asks for
listings of ``trail magic and favorite dreams.'' To the
former, Murphy writes, ``being served four lobsters with
beer, being taken to Erwin and KFC. But my first was in
Georgia when there was a bag with `For Beorn' written on it.
Inside was a can of Coke, two cookies, and a banana...My
favorite dream - I'm living it!''
Later that day, the rains came. As he sat in a shelter, he
began thinking, he said, ``Boy, my feet hurt, my knees hurt,
my ankles hurt, the soles of my feet hurt. I just hope the
pain goes away when I'm done with this trail.''
The low moment passed and the next day dawned beautifully
with a spectacle of mountain stacked upon mountain spread out
before him. ``In a couple of hours a cold front is coming in.
It will change everything. When you're wearing a t-shirt and
shorts, and the weather changes, it gets very uncomfortable.
I wonder how the winter will hit me...``It's time to take a
picture. I'm totally spellbound and I still have the `Whites'
ahead of me...This is surely the land of plenty.''
(Anyone wishing to donate to Murphy's cause, the New
England Shelter for Homeless Veterans, is asked to send a
check or money order to 17 Court Street, Boston.)
As good as his word, Woodrow
Murphy completed his trek of the Appalachian trail, on October
13th. Though he started the journey with the intentions of
walking back to Georgia, worn out gear and the finanical strains
of the trip have cause him to return to Pepperell to plan and
prepare for another journey to begin March.
the trek March 11th. Weighing 350 pounds, his goals were to
lose weight and raise money for the New England Shelter for
homeless Vets the in Boston. Lose weight he did, now weighing
260 lbs. raise money, he did as well, expecting to turn over a
check for fourteen hundred dollars.
from the beginning,
Murphy shared his experiences through a series of letters, audio
tapes, and photographs sent home. His last tapes, recorded in
the forest and mountains of Maine, impart the beauty of the
cloudless skies, gently rolling hills, and inland ponds. They
tell of sheer rocks cliffs, crawls through narrow rock crevices,
and the small agonies of pain, aching muscles, and a head cold.
As weeks passed, temperatures fell to below freezing, chilling
faces and hands left outside sleepig bags at night.
until the final few weeks, the intent to return to Georgia
remained. Beorn's (Murphy's trail name) child like wonder at
his natural surroundings never abated. Even the 100 mi. per
hour the winds as he climbed over the boulders of goose eye
mountain did not daunt Murphy, who called the experience
"exhilarating...I'm impressed," he said.
the Kenebeck river September 25. The next night it rained,
soaking everything. "Can't afford to get wet this time of year,
" he said. Gettng closer to the end of the trail, "The trip's
nearly done for many. They're the so excited. For me, it's
not half done... there are a lot of good people out here. The
trail is hard. People are changed mentally and physically by it.
Some break under it. Sometimes its over bearing and you want
to stop right then and there. But the feeling passes and the
wonder of the trail takes over again."
he burned his socks
that night. Burning clothing no longer serviceable is a ritual
of the trail, Beorn explained. "You have To burn the
clothes that have served you well."
after the campfire of
the night before, September 27 found Beorn nostalgic and
beginning to face an emerging reality. "Trails getting old right
now, "he said. "I have of kind of the blahs. The changing
colors of the season are beautiful, but my clothes are wearing out, my backpack is wearing out, and my tent has holes in it." Mother nature appeared to regained control, once again, in spite of falls and wrenching back spasms, the beauty of it all took precedence. "I'm tired. My body's aching, the the sun feels so good... I'm in constant motion. This body is really shrinking but I'm still huge. You don't see hikers like me up here."
"I'm gonna get lonely out here; seeing all the people. " I'll get what I wanted-- but may be I don't want it... May be, I'll have to change my name from Beorn to Woodrow... "
" this is the end of my trip for this time, Beorn announced September 30. "May be it was just a warm-up to see what I'm getting into walking the trail. I have seen the worst, I have seen the boring, and I haven't seen the full glory yet... but it's time to go home. Time to work out and prepare for next time. Seven months on the trail is to long to walk just one way. There was a lot of downtime. The trail isn't always well marked. Sometimes you walk for miles before you figure out where you are. But life on my trail has been good."
he saw his first moose October 1; a big bull who seemed to suddenly appear some 30 ft. away. Beorn, who had 6 ft. was dwarfed by the animal, felt a little nervous. "It's mating season," he said. But after a snort, the moose seemed to prance a way, gracefull, in spite of his size. Beorn stocked up that day for the coming ten day wilderness trek to the end of the trail. 3 lbs. of roast beef, 3 lbs. of maple ham, 2 lbs. of cheese, ten Apples, boxes of nutri grain bars...
nearing the end of the first week in October, some "good falls" while climbing over huge boulders increased the pain. Still envious of life on the trail, "only a few days left. I can't enjoy any spot now. I have to heal... I'm aching. No more night hiking and I don't have to worry about the dark gloomy days of December." A little later, "a back attack came severely awhile ago. ' Maine Rose' was worried about getting me off the mountain. Nobody's taking me off this mountain but me... there have been a lot of laughs on the trail. The one who don't laugh, don't make it."
mailed tapes ended then. After Woodrow arrived home, he explained that hurricane opal had soaked everything. The tape player never recovered. In describing his last day, he spoke of running up to the sign marking the end of the trail, in Millinocket, Maine. "I kissed it, hugged it, yelled my head off. It meant I could take an official break." The ritual is to do the last mile naked, he added, "but it was too cold. The worst day on the trail, Murphy said, was May 2 on mount Rogers, Va. wearing only a T-shirt, shorts, and sandals, the sudden dip to 20 degrees, a fierce 80 mph wind, and driving rain caused considerable suffering in the 5,400 ft. above sea level shelter." If caught me that time, "he said. The best day? Almost every day. Every step of the way as its own little charm."
asked If he had learned a single, outstanding lessen on the trail, Woodrow answered, "that you can return. The happiness you had, can come back, its a beautiful world."
Murphy is now in the process of collecting per mile pledges based on the 1500 miles offically completed. Checks should be made to VFW post 3291 or to Boston.
'95 IS DONE
'96 is starting to come
Georgia, NC state line
Maine, how life should be
speaks for itself