Linda Murphy Photo courtesy Linda Murphy

On the trail to help women escape abuse

By 
  • May 4, 2022

On May 1, mother of three Linda Murphy began a 900-kilometre hike along Ontario’s Bruce Trail to raise money for domestic violence survivors across Canada.

For the soon to be 60-year-old parishioner at St. Mary’s Church in Collingwood Ont., embarking on the eight-week trek means the retired realtor will likely spend much of Mother’s Day on Canada’s longest footpath.

But Murphy’s husband and her three daughters, all in their 20s, are her biggest supporters, she says. Married for 32 years, she has been fortunate to have never endured the pain of domestic violence, which is why she believes it’s important to help those who have.

Hoping to have company daily for the long haul that began at Queenston Heights Park in Niagara, she’s set up a live GPS location tracker on her online platform, The Healthy Hiker (thehealthyhiker.ca). People who would like to join for an hour or even a week can easily come on board. Her goal is to raise $50,000, and all funds will be donated to women’s shelters across Canada.

Murphy was first introduced to charitable organizations working with women’s shelters during her 18 years in real estate. She became more informed on the topic, attending company fundraisers and other events in support of shelters, and was touched by the stories of women who shared their testimonies. She began contributing a portion of her commissions to supporting victims of domestic violence.

Since she retired from real estate, hiking fundraisers have become Murphy’s way of continuing support for survivors. Along the Bruce Trail, to expose the reality of domestic violence and help her fellow hikers connect to the cause, she’ll be reading aloud the testimonies of women and mothers who have lived through abuse.

“I can’t even imagine tucking your child under your arms and escaping,” says Murphy, who was a teacher in the York Catholic school board for 15 years before getting into real estate. “They’ll wait until a drunk partner falls asleep and pack up the children and just go with nothing, or (leave) when he’s at work. I’ve learned through hearing their stories what these women have gone through. I’m a strong believer in mothers helping mothers and women helping women.”

No stranger to long arduous treks, she began her extreme hiking journey in 2018 when she felt called by God to hike the Pacific Crest Trail spanning the mountain ranges from California to British Columbia. Inspired by the movie Wild that starred Reese Witherspoon, Murphy looked forward for years to one day doing the trail. After the death of a close friend in 2018, whom Murphy had hoped to hike the trail with, she was struck by a realization of the brevity of life, deciding it was time.

After talking to her husband and children, who were all in full support of her venture, she left for the six-month challenge of a lifetime. Chronicling the journey on YouTube, she raised $32,000 in support of women’s shelters across Canada.  

Through the gruelling hike, her Catholic faith helped her to maintain her sanity, she says. No longer encumbered by the busyness of life, she had time to cultivate her faith and would turn to prayer particularly while climbing and during the long days walking the desert section of the trail. Her faith, and “guardian angels” in the form of emergency medical staff and friends she met along the way, got her through injuries and illnesses such as torn ligaments, stress fractures, dehydration and a parasitic stomach infection that should have ended her hike.

“When I was hiking alone on the Pacific Crest Trail, and we’re talking thousands of feet in elevation in a day, every day through desert and storm conditions and volcanic rock, I had multiple injuries and illnesses to overcome. If I didn’t have my faith through the loneliness… my relationship with God was the only one I had on the trail,” Murphy says.

“I would pray the Rosary and use my fingers on the hand grips of my poles. I would pressure whatever finger of the decade of the Hail Mary I was on to keep track, and that would help the time go. I would do pretend Mass and see how much I can say out loud to myself. We’re talking hours and hours and hours and days and weeks of solitude. So, you could go a little coocoo. Prayer really got me through.”

Making a friend along the way after 45 days of solitude gave Murphy a renewed appreciation for the importance of relationships in her life. Upon returning home, she was transformed, she says. She and her husband recommitted themselves to each other after 30 years of marriage.

With many people suffering from isolation, feelings of depression and sadness, and picking up unhealthy eating habits because of the pandemic, Murphy, through her Healthy Hiker platform, began taking groups out every Saturday to build camaraderie and inspire healthy living while raising funds for a good cause.

“I find it very rewarding to lead people to something that makes them healthy and happy,” she says. “That’s exactly what the shelters are doing. They’re trying to get people out of these unhealthy, unhappy relationships and lead them to a better, safer life, and they do.”

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