Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2015-11-18
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



HIV-positive hiker finishes famous trail
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times

facebook twitter pin it stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email

Ross Hayduk celebrated his 45th birthday Sept. 6, 2012—while 5,268 feet above ground level at the top of Mt. Katahdin, the highest mountain in Maine. It was the end of an amazing, record-setting journey that was years in the planning.

He had just finished hiking the Appalachian Trail, totaling 2,084 miles over 179 days, after starting in Georgia.

"Oddly, it wasn't as emotional as it was gratitude," he said. "It was awesome to be up there, with amazing views. I was so grateful to have identified, and then accomplished, a goal."

The Hayduk-hike story starts back in 2009, when a friend who previously had hiked the trail suggested the adventure to Hayduk, particularly for its fundraising potential.

In December 2010, Hayduk decided to give it a go, despite the odds. Only one in four who attempts the long, sometimes treacherous, sometimes boring journey actually finishes—amounting to about 500 finishers annually.

"The trail is iconic," Hayduk said. "One doesn't want to admit that, at [age] 45, this is probably mid-life. I wouldn't say [hiking the trail] was a mid-life crisis [decision] or a bucket-list thing, but rather, representing—as an HIV-positive man, and someone who has been through some health challenges—that I could take on something really daunting, endure injuries and still finish.

"I knew I was going to have to endure emotional and mental toughness to accomplish the trail, and I did."

According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Hayduk is the first HIV-positive man to join their 2,000-mile club.

"I wasn't going into the challenge to become famous; I wasn't looking for the notoriety. I really just wanted to impact one person's life," said Hayduk.

Said person's name is Zach, and he lives in North Carolina. Zach also is HIV-positive and, after reading of Hayduk's hike online, he told Hayduk that, in 2013, he too was going to do the same hike.

"I feel like we're put on earth to impact the lives of others, and that's what I try to do through my fundraising—to really help make a difference," Hayduk said. "That's incredibly fulfilling and incredibly life-affirming" to know the impact his hike had on Zach.

Hayduk, who is gay, grew up in Virginia and now lives in San Francisco. He is a two-time (2002, 2006) Gay Games participant who has won a silver (hammer throw) and gold (powerlifting) medal.

He has been HIV-positive since 2004, and also suffers bipolar disorder.

"You would think [the most memorable part of the trail] would be the plant life, the vistas, the waterfalls and things like that. But, in reality, it was the people along the way," he said. "I really enjoyed meeting the people along the way. There's a term along the trail: 'trail magic' or 'trail angels.' Those are the people who, seemingly randomly, help the hikers any number of ways, even just bringing sodas to the end of the trail.

"Those people really impacted me; they reaffirmed my belief in America."

Hayduk said the most challenging part of his hike was just getting ready to do the trail and to take on some of the more dangerous parts, such as areas of Vermont, New Hampshire and southern Maine.

Danger, in fact, hit Hayduk head-on while on the home stretch in early August. He was hiking down a steep path that overlapped with a stream, so he actually was hiking in a stream to get down a hill. The rocks in the water were slick, and his heels went out from under him. "I tried to prop myself up with my trekking poles, but the pole snapped," he said.

Hayduk injured his knee, forcing him off the trail in New Hampshire for a week.

"That was unnerving. I thought, at that point, that my hike was over and that I wouldn't be able to continue," Hayduk said. "I was in the second-to-last state [of the trail], with only a few hundred miles," until the finish.

Hayduk was able to recover, only losing 100 miles—2,084 total miles as opposed to 2,184—on his journey.

"I wish I had been able to do every single mile, but it didn't happen and that's OK," he said.

"I've always known the history of the trail. My home and my grandparents' home in southern Virginia were only a few miles from the trail," said Hayduk, who was by himself for the majority of the hike.

And yes, that did lead to boredom. So he used his alone time to think about future goals, to think about how he wanted to manage his life when he got back to San Francisco and how he was going to manage his health.

Hayduk lost 35 pounds during the hike.

"I knew, through sheer stubbornness, that I was going to finish. I just didn't expect the difficult parts of the trail to be as difficult as they were," said Hayduk, who survived on what he tagged the hikers' diet: high-fat, high-calorie foods.

He often burned 5,000 calories daily.

Hayduk, after all, was hiking while carrying a 50-pound sack, which included about 10 pounds of water and a month's supply of medications.

So what's next for the adventurous Hayduk?

"That is entirely unknown. I don't know what life has in store for me next," he said.

The 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland definitely is on his calendar, though.

Hayduk hiked to support four non-profit organizations: the National AIDS Memorial Grove, PAWS: Pets Are Wonderful Support, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. His goal was to raise $21,840.

facebook twitter pin it stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


In the Life: Jamie Fornal 2015-11-25
Couple complete marathon then get engaged 2015-11-18
AFC softball couple on relationship, work and PrEP awareness 2015-11-08
LGBT aid station serves and entertains Bank of America marathoners 2015-11-07
Proud to Run 2016 now accepting beneficiary applications 2015-11-04
VIEWS Running through cancer while helping others 2015-11-04
Indy publisher may be first gay pilot to circumnavigate globe in a DC-3 2015-10-28
Northalsted Business Alliance's Ruby Red Relay to benefit AIDS Fdn, Out in Open Sleep Out 2015-10-28
Women's National Soccer Team honored at White House; Abby Wambach retires 2015-10-28
Freeskier Kenworthy comes out as gay 2015-10-22
World news: Athlete comes out; torturers jailed; German law 2015-10-20
Cubs joy spreads across Wrigleyville and throughout Boystown 2015-10-14
Fitness convention draws hundreds 2015-10-13
NUNN ON ONE: SPORTS Hit or Bliss: Talking with football player Alli Alberts 2015-10-06
Federation of Gay Games announces 2015 Legacy Awards 2015-10-01
Thousands at Chicago AIDS Run & Walk 2015-09-26
Center on Halsted, CrossTown Fitness offer free community total body classes 2015-09-24
Yogi Berra: Athlete Ally mourns baseball pioneer and ally 2015-09-23
Upcoming: AIDS Run & Walk; Branden James; a-ha; Halloween 2015-09-23
Chicago Sky's season over 2015-09-23
Bases loaded: 1985 sports memories, locally and nationally 2015-09-23
Elena Delle Donne of the Chicago Sky 2015 WNBA MVP presented by Samsung 2015-09-16
Couple marry, then walk with LGBT running/walking group 2015-09-16
NCLR applauds USA Rugby commitment to end LGBT discrimination in the game 2015-09-15
Chicago Sky to face Indiana Fever in Eastern Conference Semifinals 2015-09-13
Chicago Sky to host game one of Eastern Conference semifinals, Sept. 17 2015-09-10
Personal trainer Lacey Stone on her new fitness program 2015-09-09
Upcoming in sports: AIDS Run & Walk; Chicago Sky; Race Judicata 2015-09-09
ESPN blogger comes out, is engaged 2015-09-04
Remembering Dick Uyvari 2015-09-03
AIDS Run & Walk Chicago continues to expand 2015-09-02
MLB inclusion ambassador talks about newly out player 2015-09-02
Rugby player makes history in England 2015-09-02
Upcoming events in sports 2015-09-02
Chicago Sky clinches 2015 playoffs berth 2015-08-29
ChicagoTEN Alumni Challenge Aug. 29 2015-08-26
BOOKS New book spotlights out high-school and college athletes 2015-08-26
Chicago 'represented pretty well' at World Series 2015-08-24
Local gay athlete excels in high school, now off to U. of I. 2015-08-19
Upcoming in local art, music, sports 2015-08-19

Copyright © 2015 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.