When his daughter planned her June 2011 wedding to be held on the summit of Camelback Mountain, Peoria teacher Steve Horvat was devastated.
Out of shape, overweight and dealing with blood pressure issues, Horvat knew he would miss the mountaintop nuptials. The couple as well as Horvat’s wife are voracious hikers, so it was no surprise that they would want to tie the knot at a place that was special to them. Yet, for Horvat, attempting the extremely difficult trail – which ascends 1,400 feet in just 1.2 miles – was untenable.
“My wife and daughter convinced me that even if I could make it up there, it would be slow and worrisome for everyone involved and detract from our daughter’s special day,” he says.
Sidelined and embarrassed, Horvat channeled his disappointment into an action plan to get in shape. With his wife’s encouragement, he began by hiking the trails of Thunderbird Conservation Park near his home – slowly, at first, then more aggressively. “As I was losing the weight, people asked what diet I was on or what gym I joined. My answer was always, ‘No special plan, just hike more and eat less.’”
The initial struggle soon turned into an obsession, and in addition to conquering Camelback, Horvat has tackled trails he never thought possible, including Groom Creek and Granite Mountain in Prescott, and Mount Elden and O’Leary Peak in Flagstaff. “Missing my daughter’s wedding and having that be a part of forcing me to transform my lifestyle has led to a stronger marriage,” he says.
Now fit and ready for anything, a wedding redemption of sorts might be on the horizon. When asked what he’d do if his younger son decided to get married on Humphreys Peak, Horvat replies, “He’ll have to get more creative to keep me away from his wedding, because I’m all in.”
Thunderbird Conservation Park
Open: Sunrise to sunset daily
Main Entrance: 59th Avenue between Deer Valley and Pinnacle Peak roads in Peoria