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'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 move out.'' 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 the other.'' 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 August 6. 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, Beorn.'' 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, and Massachusetts. 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 an end.'' 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 cheese. ``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 going.'' 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 it?'' ``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 September, 1995
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 rain. 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 for supper.'' ``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 trail.'' 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 today.'' 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 of blackberries.'' 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.

Murphy began 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.

Beorn reached 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.


'96 is starting to come
Georgia, NC state line
Maine, how life should be
speaks for itself